Richard H. Driehaus

(1942 -2021)

The philanthropist Richard H. Driehaus has passed away at the age of 78. Based in Chicago, during decades he has promoted and honoured the activity of all those who worldwide work to build a more beautiful and sustainable world.

A lover of Spanish and Portuguese heritage, thanks to his support and generosity in these last years those who practice the architecture, the urbanism and the arts and crafts of the diverse Iberian regions have been able in the last years to regain hope their knowledge and good practice can also be enjoyed by generations to come.

His dedication to the preservation of Spanish cultural heritage and traditions made him an honorary member of the Academy of Fine Arts of San Fernando in 2015. The many initiatives which thanks to him have been developed in Spain to promote and honour artisans and architects still cherishing and preserving those traditions has awarded him recognitions from institutions such as Hispania Nostra and the EU-Europa Nostra Awards. His philanthropy has been internationally awarded by institutions such as the Society of Architectural Historians, the American Institute of Architects, the Chicago Architecture Foundation, the National Trust for Historic Preservation, Landmarks Illinois and the Sir John Soane’s Museum Foundation, among many others.

To him we owe the creation in Spain of the National Directory of Traditional Building Masters, which gathers and provides visibility to the best masters of the building arts from the diverse Spanish regions that are still practicing their craft, a living heritage which conservation is severely threatened.

Also aimed at this, the Richard H. Driehaus Awards and the Donald Gray Grants for the Building Arts were created. These ones are yearly awarding the best artisans in this field and giving them support to train new apprentices who can keep their knowledge alive.

Thanks to him, those architects committed to the use of natural materials, to updating all-time solutions in order to achieve the so needed sustainability, and to drawing on the forms and techniques which preserve and give continuity to the particular character of each different place and region of our country have also received encouragement and support. These practitioners are currently recognised by the Architecture Competition which is developed with the collaboration of the Ministries of Transport, Mobility and Urban Agenda and of Culture and Sports, and by the Rafael Manzano Prize for New Traditional Architecture, addressed to those who have stood out for their lifetime achievements with those goals. It was named so after the only Spanish architect who has received the international Richard H. Driehaus Prize, the largest architecture prize existing in the US.

This continuous activity in Spain during the last decade has also included a number of other cultural projects: conferences, workshops, exhibitions, publications and other initiatives which have highlighted for both the national and international public those values which are often forgotten in the urban and cultural heritage we can find around us.

These initiatives will try to keep alive the legacy of this patron of the arts and will continue being dedicated to promote what became his passion and left his name linked to Spanish and Portuguese culture forever.


Richard H. Driehaus
A multifaceted personality
Richard H. Driehaus was born in Chicago in 1942 and was a multifaceted personality. He enjoyed great business success and earned a reputation as an extraordinary investor in the field of capital management. But beyond his business career, he put his time and energy into a series of philanthropic and community service projects.

He always valued philanthropy and advocated educational access for all. Accordingly, he gave financial support to various educational institutions throughout his life. In 2002 he donated $3.45 million to DePaul University, where he studied, to endow a new chair, and in 2012 he announced a gift of $30 million to enhance academic programmes at that university’s century-old college of commerce. He also funded scholarships for international students.

He supported other educational institutions and educationally oriented religious orders, such as the Holy Trinity High School, the Christ the King Jesuit High School, the St. Bede’s Grammar School, as well as the Loyola’s St. Joseph Seminary, the Christ the King College Preparatory School and the University of the Virgin Islands.

He always believed in the importance of giving people the opportunity to create their own way in life. And this was in appreciation of those who had given him opportunities to show his worth over his career.

The funding of such initiatives focused mainly on programmes to benefit people living in poverty. These ranged from the development of a financial literacy programme to help low-income families learn to create and preserve wealth to other initiatives launched with South Shore Bank.

In the Virgin Islands he supported the Community Foundation of the Virgin Islands in its mission to enhance the educational, physical, social, cultural and environmental well-being of local people.

He also supported the performing and visual arts in the belief that these provide a much-needed balance in our hectic lives. Thus many grants were given to support programming intended to broaden civic participation in the cultural life of Chicago.

Commitment to the preservation of cultural heritage and to continuity in traditional architecture and traditional arts and trades
He always had a strong personal interest in design excellence and the preservation of cultural heritage. His commitment to the built environment was grounded on the belief that design can strengthen a community’s sense of identity.

From the early eighties he was a firm advocate of the application of humanist values to the built environment. This led him to support an architecture respectful of place and of historical precedents.

He put these ideals into practice in the restoration of three historic buildings: the 1883 Samuel Mayo Nickerson Mansion, now the Richard H. Driehaus Museum in Chicago; the 1886 Ransom Cable Mansion, which serves as head office of his firm in Chicago; and the 1906 Georgian-style estate built by Norman W. Harris in Lake Geneva, Wisconsin.

To date, his contributions to architecture, design and the environment exceed $50 million. The beneficiaries include the Chicago Architecture Foundation, Landmarks Illinois, the Historic Chicago Bungalow Association, INTBAU, the Local Initiatives Support Corporation’s Chicago Neighborhood Development Awards, the Neighborhood Housing Services of Chicago, the Old St. Patrick’s Catholic Church, the St. Ignatius College Prep (which was his alma mater), the Millennium Park, Friends of the Parks, the Committee for the Beautification of Lake Geneva, the Community Foundation of the Virgin Islands, the Congress for the New Urbanism, the Institute of Classical Architecture and Art, the National Trust for Historic Preservation and Partners for Sacred Places, among many others.

In 2003, with the University of Notre Dame, he established the Richard H. Driehaus International Prize. This is an annual award of $200,000 to figures who have made an extraordinary contribution or achieved great success in the field of classical and traditional architecture. In conjunction with this Prize, the Henry Hope Reed Award has since 2005 been given to individuals working outside the practice of architecture who have supported the traditional city, its architecture and art through writing, planning or promotion.

His work in Spain
Of particular significance are the initiatives developed with his support in recent years in the Iberian Peninsula. He loved Spanish and Portuguese heritage and thanks to his generosity all those who practise architecture, urbanism and the crafts and trades of the Peninsula’s various regions have been able to hope again that their knowledge and expertise may be enjoyed also by future generations.

Thus in 2012, with the University of Notre Dame, he established the Rafael Manzano Award for New Traditional Architecture. Endowed with €50,000, it is intended for architecture practitioners working in Spain and Portugal and is granted in recognition of the contribution made by the awardee to the field of architecture and urbanism within a respect for traditional principles, either in the restoration of monuments, public spaces and urban environments of artistic and historical value or in the building of new structures or public spaces which, based on local tradition, are harmoniously integrated into those environments.

Since then, INTBAU (the International Network for Traditional Building, Architecture & Urbanism) has organized a series of initiatives aimed at promoting traditional architecture and urbanism, building trades and the preservation of Iberian heritage.

These include the Richard H. Driehaus Architecture Competition, unlike so many others, promotes the practice of an architecture and urbanism that preserves and gives continuity to local traditions as well as helping to generate urban structures that are more beautiful and better integrated with our architectural heritage. It also promotes the use of coherent building systems and sustainable materials, allowing quality employment to be created for local master artisans. This initiative is organised in two phases, allowing the involvement of the of the sites where the projects are carried out. In the first phase, Spanish municipalities are invited to submit proposed subjects and sites. An international jury then selects the three that best meet the competition’s aims and purposes and whose realisation is considered most feasible. The second phase consists of an international architectural design competition launched for each of the three previously selected subjects and sites. The international jury then meets again to select the winning architecture and urban design proposals.

In parallel to the competition, the Richard H. Driehaus Building Arts Awards have been bestowed since 2017 to honour and publicise outstanding masters of the building arts. Accordingly the applicant projects are divided into four categories, each rewarded with a €10,000 prize and a commemorative plaque. Moreover, in order to give continuity to the work of such master artisans, one of the four award-winners each year receives the Donald Gray Building Arts Grant. This involves support of €14,000 for the selected master craftsperson for training an apprentice over a whole year. These apprentices in turn receive support of €12,000.

The National Network of Traditional Master Builders was set up in 2016 as a national directory of the leading masters of building trades active today. A large number of these craftspeople are listed in it along with some of their most notable work, the techniques they use and their contact details. The Network of Masters makes these trades accessible to society at large, helping them to be better known and appreciated. Moreover, with the visibility given to the masters included, demand for their work is encouraged, along with transmission of their expertise. So far, more than 2,000 practitioners have been identified and studied, and after an evaluation of their work, more than 450 have been selected.

In 2019, The Richard H. Driehaus Heritage Preservation Medal was created. It is a companion award to the Manzano Prize for New Traditional Architecture which recognizes entrepreneurs, developers, heads of foundations or other institutions that are making significant contributions to preserve and build upon heritage and architectural traditions in Spain and Portugal.

This constant activity over the past decade has included many other cultural projects: congresses, exhibitions, publications and other initiatives that have brought the national and international public closer to the often overlooked qualities of the magnificent urban and cultural heritage of Spain and Portugal.

He also worked with many Spanish institutions on various projects. These notably include the Ministerio de Transportes, Movilidad y Agenda Urbana, the Ministerio de Cultura y Deporte, the Instituto del Patrimonio Cultural de España, Infraestructuras de Portugal, the Gobierno de Navarra, the Gobierno de Cantabria, the Governo dos Açores, the Real Academia de Bellas Artes de San Fernando, the Real Academia de Bellas Artes de Santa Isabel de Hungría, the Real Academia Sevillana de Buenas Letras, the Fundación Medinaceli, la Prince’s Foundation, el Smithsonian Center for Folklife and Cultural Heritage, Hispania Nostra, the Universidad de Alcalá, the Universidad Alfonso X el Sabio, the Universidad de Cantabria, the Universidad de Castilla-La Mancha, the Universidad de Navarra, the Universidad del País Vasco, the Universidad de Sevilla, the Universidad Politécnica de Madrid, the Centro de Investigación de Arquitectura Tradicional, the Universidad Politécnica de Valencia, the Escola Superior Gallaecia, the ISCTE (Instituto Universitário de Lisboa, the Universidade de Évora, CHAM Açores, the University of Notre Dame, the University of Miami, the Benedictine College, the Judson University, the Pontifical and Royal University of Santo Tomás de Manila and the Consejo Superior de Colegios de Arquitectos de España, among many others.

Awards and honours received
Daniel L. Goodwin Watchdog Award, Better Government Association, 2020
Premio Hispania Nostra a las Buenas Prácticas en la conservación del Patrimonio Cultural y Natural, Hispania Nostra, 2019
Mención Especial de los Premios de Patrimonio Europeo/Premios Europa Nostra, EU-Europa Nostra Awards, 2019
Finalista de los Premios Europeos de Intervención en el Patrimonio Arquitectónico, AADIPA 2019
Honorary Member, The Cliff Dwellers, 2018
The Founders Award, Children at the Crossroads Foundation, 2018
ACG Chicago Lifetime Achievement Award, Association for Corporate Growth, 2017
Order of Lincoln Award, The Lincoln Academy of Illinois, 2017
Award for Excellence in Architectural Stewardship, Society of Architectural Historians, 2016
Distinguished Service to the Dance Field Award, Audience Architects, 2016
Acanthus Award of Appreciation, ICAA Midwest Chapter, 2015
Académico de Honor, Real Academia de Bellas Artes de San Fernando de Madrid, 2015
Lifetime Achievement Award, American Institute of Architects, Chicago, 2015
INTBAU Visionary Supporter Award, presented by HRH Prince Charles and the International Network for Traditional Building, Architecture and Urbanism, 2015
Jerry Gleason Achievement Award, Ed Kelly Sports Program, 2015
Angel Guild Award, Historic Chicago Bungalow Association, 2013
Ambassador Award, Chicago Dramatists, 2013
Horatio Alger Award, Horatio Alger Association, 2013
Admission to the Freedom of the City of London, 2012
Inducted into The Worshipful Company of Glaziers & Painters of Glass, London, 2012
Emerald Ball Honoree, Old St. Patrick’s Church, 2011
25 @ 25, Arts & Business Council of Chicago, 2010
Norman H. Stone Award, Emergency Fund, 2010
Corporate Honoree, Youth Advocacy Awards, UCAN, 2010
Distinguished Service Honoree, Lawyers for the Creative Arts, 2009
Honorary Doctorate of Public Service, Saint Xavier University, 2009
Distinguished Philanthropist Award, Association of Fundraising Professionals, 2009
Trustee Award, Chicago Architecture Foundation, 2009
Legendary Landmark Award, Landmarks Illinois, 2009
Restore America Hero Award, National Trust for Historic Preservation, 2008
Benjamin H. Marshall Prize, Benjamin H. Marshall Society, 2008
Chicago Landmark Award for Preservation Excellence, Commission on Chicago Landmarks, City of Chicago
Soane Foundation Honor, The Sir John Soane’s Museum Foundation, 2007
AIA Presidential Citation, The American Institute of Architects, 2006
Shield of St. Xavier Award, Saint Xavier University, 2006
Jens Jensen Award, Chicago Park District, 2005
Illinois Arts Legend Award, Illinois Arts Alliance Foundation, 2005
Leadership Award, Lakefront Supportive Housing, 2004
Theodore Herzl Award, Jerusalem Fund, 2004
Man of Vision Award, Midwest Eye-Banks, 2003
Landmark Preservation Award, Landmarks Illinois, 2002
Honorary Doctorate, DePaul University, 2002
Corporate Award for Excellence in the Arts, DePaul Theatre School, 2000
Mary Potter Humanitarian Award, Little Company of Mary Hospital, 1999
Unity Award, Frank Lloyd Wright Unity Temple Restoration Foundation, 1995