Radisson residential area map.
man in a light colored suit, black and grey hair, and glasses

Henry Richardson

B.Arch. '68, M.Arch. '70, M.R.P. '71

Radisson residential area map.

Engaging Communities

By Maiko Sein, B.Arch. '23

From his work as a United Nations research fellow on housing and urban settlements in developing countries to efforts in setting up the first PC-based CAD architecture studio at Cornell and initiatives that have supported greater diversity and inclusion at the university, professor and alumnus Henry Richardson's (B.Arch. '68, M.Arch. '70, M.R.P. '71) goal has been consistent: "My primary focus in design is to make really good spaces for people, but also shape them in such a way that people can turn my spaces into places for themselves." 

This approach runs throughout his career, not only as a designer but as an instructor of architecture, as well. In 2001, Richardson was honored with Cornell's Faculty Innovation in Teaching Award, and in 2007 he received Cornell's Distinguished Faculty-in-Residence Recognition Award.

Born and raised in Ghana, Richardson explained that he chose Cornell because of an "ah-ha" moment shared with AAP Dean Kelly Burnham during a campus visit that involved a huge map filled with pins hanging in the dean's office. The pins indicated all the places AAP students were from.

"When I walked in and we were talking and I was looking at the map, the dean walked up with a pin and put it in Ghana and said, 'Okay, there you are. Now we have a person from Ghana,'" Richardson recalled. "Okay, that's it," he thought.

Portrait of Professor Henry Richardson

Professor Henry Richardson, headshot.

Richardson graduated with a Bachelor of Architecture in 1968 and a Master of Architecture in Urban Design in 1971. As he was finishing a Master of Regional Planning in 1971, he became a research fellow studying low-cost, sustainable housing and urban settlements for the United Nations Center for Housing, Building, and Planning, now known as UN-Habitat. He compiled reports on housing settlements in various developing countries throughout the world that the UN used to discuss and solve problems pertaining to urban housing and informal settlements for particular nations. 

When Richardson became an associate professor at AAP in 1977, he worked to establish Cornell's multidisciplinary Low-Cost Housing and Affordable Urban Settlements in Developing Countries program, which aimed to achieve new approaches and appropriate technologies in this realm. 

"In Puerto Rico," Richardson explained, "we did some projects and found out that people, if you give them a basic house, they would expand it, grow it, improve it, and make it much better using their own resources."

An advocate of architecture students studying urban design and city planning, Richardson said, "Housing is not a collection of dwellings. As soon as housing comes into the picture, you have to provide infrastructure, you have to provide safety systems, you have to provide energy and power and so on. The whole is always greater than the sum of the parts," he said. "That's why it's good to look at urban design and planning." 

As an architecture student, Richardson and his urban design team took an American Institute of Architects design class titled Rooted. They visited several cities, talked to residents, and afterward, held design charettes "to try and translate the community's ideas into images and things that they could appreciate." He now teaches Engaged Cornell studios which provide students with the opportunity to learn how to work with a community through direct involvement. Also, unlike many studios that are theoretical, students in Engaged Cornell studios work on design proposals for projects that will be built. 

For example, students were asked to redesign a part of the Southside Community Center for a predominately Black neighborhood in downtown Ithaca, to bring the building up to code and keep it from being demolished. Students in the studio met with community members and city officials to learn what the residents wanted, allowing local input to inform their design. Still standing today, the revamped community center contains a library and space for kids to play basketball. "This place was transformed," Richardson said. Once the kids became involved in the center's renovation, "they began to take very good care of the place."

Male student wearing VR headset

Richardson teaches a virtual reality studio that enables Cornell students to visualize architectural possibilities. 

In 1985, Richardson developed and taught the first PC-based CAD studio at Cornell, and in 2001, he designed and introduced the first CAVE-based immersive virtual reality (VR) studio. Currently, he teaches a VR studio funded by Epic Games, Inc. Richardson explained, "We opened a PC-based CAD studio and after a while, it took off. Now everybody has laptops and computers on their desks." Explaining the importance of why CAD and virtual reality are needed in architecture, Richardson said, "If people could get a sense of what it would be like to work in a community and have the ability to help others to visualize their ideas, that would be very, very important. Virtual reality helps you envision the future, actually walk in and taste it." 

For Richardson, that future requires the profession of architecture "to reflect the cross-section of the country as a whole." In 1971, he set up the Diversity and Inclusion Office at AAP, which saw the establishment of many such offices in various colleges across campus. The office was created to recruit and support historically underrepresented students of color. In 2016, Richardson helped to establish the Cornell Future Architect Award program that helps minority students interested in pursuing architecture to attend AAP's Introduction to Architecture summer program on a full scholarship. The award includes all supplies and provides mentorship. "Architecture becomes richer if you make it inclusive," Richardson said.

Looking back on his 50 years in architecture, Richardson remarked, "If you have the [ability] to learn new skills, then you can keep going."


Brandford House Addition (2004)

Brandfor House Addition plan

Henry Richardson Associates (architect), Ray DiPasquale Associates (structural consultant), Interior plan for Brandford House Addition (2004), Ithaca, NY.

Interior plan

Brandfor House Addition

Exterior (2004), Ithaca, NY. The client requested a studio that could accommodate a weaver with a large wooden loom and could be converted into an accessory apartment in the future.

Exterior figure 1

Brandfor House Addition

Exterior (2004), Ithaca, NY. Project requirements included designing a structural system for the foundations and superstructure, through a deep bed of shale, capable of withstanding continuous vibrations from adjacent highway traffic below.

Exterior figure 2

Brandfor House Addition interior

Interior (2004), Ithaca, NY. Well lit with both natural and artificial light, the addition included a spacious work area, ample built-in storage for large sheets of woven textile and supplies, sufficient wall area to hang work, and a wet area for mixing dyes and dying fabric.


View of trees

Picture window (2004), Ithaca, NY. The site sits on the narrow plateau of a hill west of a busy state highway, but sufficiently above it to afford spectacular views of both the City of Ithaca and Cayuga Lake.

Picture window

H.H. Whetzel Seminar Room (1995–96)

H.H. Whetzel Seminar Room drawings of interior Janusian facades

Henry Richardson Associates (architect), Raymond DiPasquale Associates (structural consultant), Drawings of interior Janusian facades in H.H. Whetzel Seminar Room, Cornell University, Ithaca, NY.

Drawings of interior Janusian facades

H.H. Whetzel Seminar Room floor and reflected ceiling plans

Floor plan and reflected ceiling plan, Cornell University, Ithaca, NY. Cornell's College of Architecture and Life Sciences tasked Henry Richardson Associates with redesigning an existing laboratory and classroom suite into a high-technology, multimedia, and multifunctional room.

Floor plan and reflected ceiling plan

H.H. Whetzel Seminar Room

Interior view of media wall, Cornell University, Ithaca, NY. The seminar room housed a media wall that included a state-of-the-art multimedia projection and recording system.

Interior view of media wall

H.H. Whetzel Seminar Room fireplace view

Interior view of fireplace wall, Cornell University, Ithaca, NY.

Interior view of fireplace wall

H.H. Whetzel Seminar Room dedication

Dedication by Dean Call, Cornell University, Ithaca, NY. Cornell dedicated the seminar room to Herbert Hice Whetzel, who was a distinguished faculty member and former chairman of the university’s Plant Science Department.

Dedication by Dean Call

Radisson Pathway System (1995)

Radisson Pathway System map

Henry Richardson Associates (physical planner/architect), Trowbridge and Trowbridge Associates (landscape architect), O'Brien & Gere (civil engineering firm), Radisson Pathway System residential area map, Radisson, NY.

Radisson residential area map

Seneca River Path System

Seneca River Path System map, Radisson, NY. The Radisson Pathway System is a network of pedestrian pathways that links all homes to businesses, shopping, recreational areas, and the natural and built amenities of the town.

Seneca River Path System map

Paved pathway

Seneca River Path System figure 1, Radisson, NY. Pathways facilitated the enjoyment of wooded areas, open fields, and the town's many ponds and small lakes.

Seneca River Path System figure 1

Paved pathway surrounded by greenery

Seneca River Path System figure 2, Radisson, NY. Pathways led to important destinations, such as the wildlife area or the banks of the Seneca River.

Seneca River Path System figure 2

Bench overlooking Seneca River

Seneca River Path System figure 3, Radisson, NY. The Pathway System was designed to reveal the beauty of the town in addition to linking facilities and amenities.

Seneca River Path System figure 3

Umnini Resort and Recreational Center (2001–02)

Land use map

Henry Richardson (development consultant); Concepta International, Mtetwa & Associates Architects, Wimberley, and Allison, Tong, and Goo (planning, urban design, and AEC consultants); Umnini Resort and Recreational Center land use map, Kwazulu Natal, Republic of South Africa.

Land use map

Master plan

Master plan, Kwazulu Natal, Republic of South Africa. The Umnini Resort Center included the preparation of a land use plan for the trust land and the development of a casino and hotel complex.

Master plan

Illustration of section through central walkway

Illustrated view of section through central walkway and south west elevation, Kwazulu Natal, Republic of South Africa.

Central walkway and south west elevation

Illustrated view of buildings facing ocean

Illustrated view of south east elevation from the Indian Ocean, Kwazulu Natal, Republic of South Africa. The Umnini Resort Center project encompassed the development of a stretch of Umnini Tribal land along coastal land along the Indian Ocean.

Illustrated view of south east elevation from the Indian Ocean

Illustration of casino interior

Casino interior, Kwazulu Natal, Republic of South Africa. The Umnini Resort Center project created an economic and social development generator for the region.

Casino interior

In the Field

Male student wearing VR headset

Testing real time experiential XR design in the Virtual Places XR Research Studio (fall 2019). 

Virtual Places XR Research Studio (2019)

Male guest lecturer presents to students in VR studio

XR presentation by one of our research partners from FXCollaboration (fall 2019).

XR presentation by FXCollaboration (2019)

VR outreach with elementary school students

Outreach program for the Trumansburg Elementary School by the Virtual Places XR Research Studio (fall 2019).

Outreach program, Trumansburg Elementary School (2019)

Group photo of Henry Richardson and students

Faculty-in-residence group photo with Court-Kay-Bauer Hall residents.

Faculty-in-residence and Court-Kay-Bauer Hall residents

Henry Richardson and students at lunch

Dinner discussion with students in Richardson's graduate extended practice studio (2011).

Dinner discussion with students in graduate studio (2011)

Henry Richardson standing inside mouth of a large animal sculpture

Orcus mouth sculpture in Il Parco dei Mostri (Park of the Monsters), Bomarzo, Italy (spring 2016).

Orcus mouth sculpture in Il Parco dei Mostri in 2016

Henry Richardson sitting on panel at race symposium

Brown's Race Symposium (1993), Rochester, New York.

Brown's Race Symposium (1993)

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