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Evan Stuart Rose ’86

An architect whose innovative view of urban design and passion for life inspired students, colleagues, and friends, Evan fought a rare form of cancer for eight years.

“It’s cliché to say that somebody’s battle was ‘brave,’ but in Evan’s case, it was brave, honorable, public—nothing like I could even imagine for myself,” wrote John Manzo ’86. “A couple of weeks ago he posted pics of himself with his beautiful little son in the new wheelchair that, he wrote, his son had chosen for him. It was sweet and heartbreaking and honest and loving.”

Evan arrived at Reed when he was 17. It was his first choice for college, he said, and though he was astonished by the amount of required coursework, he loved the experience from the start. “Reed taught me how to think. What more could I want?” Lifelong friendships formed during his undergraduate years included those with Ben Wirtschafter ’86, Sheldon Yett ’86, Deborah Kamali ’85, Kevan Shokat ’86, and Robert Wilson ’86. He earned a BA from Reed in international studies, writing his thesis “Babylon Makes the Rules: Inequality, Ideology, and the Perpetuation of the Status Quo in Jamaica” with Prof. Robert D. Whittemore [anthropology 1985–86]. He played piano and basketball, was a member of the social affairs board, and supported the student-led anti-apartheid movement.

After Reed, Evan went on to be a research assistant at the Pacific Northwest College of Art, where he also took classes in photography, film, and drawing. He enrolled at UC Berkeley and earned a master’s degree in architecture and environmental design. In 1992, he joined the San Francisco Planning Department and helped develop a comprehensive design plan for pedestrian spaces in San Francisco, including the award-winning San Francisco Waterfront Urban Design and Access Plan and the acclaimed Downtown Streetscape Plan.

“Where other planners take a bureaucratic approach to their job, content to enforce the rules, Mr. Rose saw his job as a way to enhance the pleasures of everyday life—making it easier to add sidewalk seating outside cafes, for instance, or trying to make the lines at the Powell Street cable car turnaround more civil,” wrote John King in his obituary for Evan in the San Francisco Chronicle.

“He could listen to people, and then sketch the drawing or diagram that would bring what everyone was talking about to life,” said Karen Alschuler, who hired Evan as a principal for the San Francisco firm SMWM in 1997. “You’d sit in the room with a team of city planners, and Evan just jumped out.” Evan led the SMWM urban design practice for 11 years and built the New York office for the firm. His sketches and watercolors, which he called Urbanologies, were featured in an exhibition in 2005 and are represented online at

In 2008, Evan founded Urban Design+ and led a wide range of distinguished and challenging commissions across the United States and internationally, including the Anacostia Waterfront Initiative and Poplar Point Plans in Washington, D.C., the Willamette River Concept Plan, and the BI Village Greenville and Kamenskoe Plato projects in Kazakhstan. He cofounded SITELAB Urban Studio in San Francisco in 2012. He also worked on affordable housing, believing that a city should be a home for everyone, regardless of income, background, or circumstances.

In addition, Evan served as adjunct associate professor of architecture at Columbia University, where he taught in the Graduate Urban Design Program. He served as a board member for the San Francisco American Institute of Architects (AIA) and the California Council of the AIA, and was president of the Architecture and Design Forum at the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art, where he joined the board of directors.

Evan joined the faculty of the University of Pennsylvania’s School of Design (PennDesign) as professor of practice in the city and regional planning department in 2011. He received the 2014 G. Holmes Perkins Award for Outstanding Teaching.

In the PennDesign obituary for Evan, John Landis, chair of city and regional planning at the university, remarked: “From his first day leading his urban design studio, it was clear that Evan was special. He combined a love of cities with a clear sense of stewardship for their future as places for people. He also loved infusing his enthusiasm for cities and urban design in his students, and although his time at Penn was all too brief, he had a huge impact on how Penn’s planning and design students think about cities and how to make them more livable and more memorable.”

 PennDesign dean Marilyn Jordan Taylor stated: “Evan Rose was the smartest urban designer I will ever know. He knew where urban design came from and, far more than the rest of us, where it had to go. His commitment to exploring the 21st-century public realm, with its diversity, technology, and edge, defined his works and his teaching. They will leave a lasting impression–indelible we might believe–on all those with whom, for whom and alongside whom he worked, taught, and learned.”

In 2007, Evan was diagnosed with an ossifying fibromyxoid tumor, which he was able to fight with the use of precision or personalized chemotherapy. “Yes, there’s all this cancer stuff that I deal with,” he wrote to Reed, “but for the most part I live a pretty normal life.” The struggle and the success of this treatment were described in the article “The Perfect Drug” published in Newsweek in June 2014.

“My best friend at Reed (and to this day) is Kevan Shokat ’86, one of the world’s leading cancer researchers,” Evan wrote. “His contacts and his work are deeply intertwined with keeping me alive. Weird coincidence. Lucky me.”

Evan and Josslyn Shapiro were married with one son, Ryder.

Reed classmates, family, and friends have launched the Evan Rose Fund. Gifts in memory of Evan will support a student opportunity focusing on urban study and design. 

Appeared in Reed magazine: December 2015

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