Johnny "John" Eugene Zemanek, FAIA, architect, planner and professor, 94, died Monday, April 18, of kidney failure while undergoing evaluation for

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Johnny"John"EugeneZemanek,FAIA,architect,plannerandprofessor,94,
diedMonday,April18,ofkidneyfailurewhileundergoingevaluationfor
cancer.TheyoungestoftwelvechildrenofBohemianpoliticalrefugeesJan
(John)andFrantiška(Frances)MachačekZemánekofMoravia,Johnwas
borninGuy,TexasnearthebanksoftheBrazosRiver.InFortBendCounty,
heattendedBigCreek,Guy,andDamonruralschools,beforeattending
TexasA&MUniversitygraduatingwithadegreeinarchitectureandasa
memberoftheCorpofCadets.In1942,heenlistedintheArmyAirCorp
ReservesasanaviationcadetandwascalledtoactivedutyinJanuary1943.
Uponcompletionoftrainingandpromotiontosecondlieutenant,he
servedasabombardieronB-24Liberatorbombersflyingalliedmissions
outofFoggia,insouthernItaly.Duringhislastmissiononthelastdayof
theEuropeanwar,hisplanewasdisabledbyanti-aircraftfireandforcedto
makeanemergencylandingatanunmarkedairfieldbehindenemylines.All
crewmemberswererecovered.
UponreturningtoTexasin1945,hecontinuedhiseducationatThe
UniversityofTexasinAustinwherehereceivedtheBachelorof
ArchitectureandMasterofArchitecturedegreesbeforemovingto
Cambridge,MassachusettstoearntheMasterofCityPlanningdegreefrom
theHarvardUniversityGraduateSchoolofDesign,underthechairmanship
ofWalterGropius.AfterHarvard,JohnreturnedtoHoustontopractice
withKennethFranzheimthenrelocatedtoJapantoworkforCzech
AmericanmodernistarchitectAntoninRaymondinTokyo,wherehe
planned17airbasesintheFarEast.HepracticedalsofortheU.S.
DepartmentofStateinEastPakistan(nowBangladesh)planningvillage
housingandinstitutesfortheindigenouscommunities.
UponreturningonceagaintoHouston,beforeestablishinghissolopractice
heworkedwithmanyofHouston’seminentfirms,includingWilson,Morris,
andCrainwherehecontributedtothedevelopmentoftheHarrisCounty
DomedStadium,nowknownastheAstrodome.
InvitedtoteachattheUniversityofHoustonCollegeofArchitecturefirstas
avisitor,thenfulltimein1964,heearnedtenurein1969.Hisindependent
architecturereflectedaprofoundinfluenceofhisTexasruralheritageand
itslandscapeaswellashisrespectforanddeepknowledgeofthediverse
Asianculturesthatengagedhimsofullythroughouthislife.Hisworkhas
beenpublishedinlocal,nationalandinternationalmagazines,journalsand
televisionmediaandhehaswondesignawardsatthelocal,state,and
nationallevel.In1978heearnedthecovetednationalAIAHonorAward,
forhisThreeHServicesCenter,asocialservicescomplexforthe
Bordersvillecommunitythathadbeenestablishedbyformerslaves.Heis
rememberedespeciallyforaseriesofthreeMontrosehouses,each
designedashispersonalresidence,datingfrom1969,2000and2011.He
wouldlaterrefertotheseasGaia1,2and3toexpresshislife-long
reverenceforandunderstandingofnature.Whileeachisanunassuming
essayonmodestmaterialscarefullycombinedforgreatspatialeffect,a
comparisonrevealstheevolutionofhisthinkingfromephemeraldelicacy
towarddistinctrootedness.
Oftenonetoincitepassions,earlyinhisteachingcareerattheUniversityof
HoustonJohnwasthefocusofaschool-widestudentledprotestagainsthis
pendingdismissal,whichearnednationalattentionandultimatelyledto
thedean’sresignation.Overthe48yearsthathecontinuouslytaughtat
theUniversityofHoustonheneverfailedtochallengestudentstothink
criticallyandtoengagetheminan“architecturethatbeginswithoursocial
structure.”Oneformerstudentwrotethat"Iwasalwaysimpressedby
whatascholarJohnwas,hewassothoroughandpresent;thewayhe
paintedlandscapesandwrotedownhisexperiencesduringthewarin
letters,whichhewouldmailtohimselfasanaccuraterecordofthe
experience.Hewasaparticipantandareporter."
HislatestcreativeeffortsincludehismemoirBeing••Becoming(2016)
publishedjustbeforehisdeath,andadesignconsultationforMorningstar
Coffee,openinginHoustonnextmonth.
Johnisprecededindeathbyhisparents,5brothersand6sisters.Heis
survivedbyhissister-in-law,MarySueZemanek,aswellasnumerous
niecesandnephewsandextendedfamilyandalsosurvivedbyamultitude
offriendsanddevotedcaregivers.
Detailsoffuturememorialeventswillbeforthcoming.Donationsmaybe
madeinhishonortotheUniversityofHoustonLibrariesSpecialCollections
wherehispersonal,academic,andprofessionalpapersandarchitectural
drawingswillbeheld.
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