Message from Dean Berke:
To the Yale School of Architecture community,
I write to let you know that alumna and long-time faculty member Mary Jane “MJ” Long (M.Arch ’64) died at her home in Sussex, England on Sunday. MJ was a colleague when I first started teaching at Yale. I admired her enormously and learned much from her.
Her professional accomplishments are many. MJ worked with her husband Colin St. John Wilson from 1965, becoming a director at Colin St. John Wilson & Partners and, in 1994, founding her own practice, Long & Kentish, with another Wilson team member. With Wilson she designed the British Library at St. Pancras, a major fifteen-year commission while as the head of her own firm she designed the National Maritime Museum in Falmouth, the Jewish Museum in Camden, as well as an extension to the British Museum.
MJ always stayed close to Yale, returning annually to run the third semester design studio. In recent years, she continued to teach in the third semester core studio, instructing students in how to construct detailed and accurate daylighting models to simulate direct sunlight and interior illumination.
MJ’s legacy will continue through the pedagogy at the school, the generations of students she inspired, and the many pioneering buildings she designed.
Dean, Yale School of Architecture
I first met MJ when she joined Sandy’s (Sir Colin St. John Wilson) office in 1965, just before I went to teach at Princeton, and connected with her over the years both with Sandy (who was my teacher and mentor at Cambridge), and at Yale. She was a good friend, sharing interests, and relating the struggles over the British Library over fifteen years with wit and poise. Indeed, much of the quality and strength of the British Library is due to her critical design sense and ability to bring Sandy’s consistent sense of “potentialities” and shifting design ideas into order and precision. Her later independent work could stand for what Peter Smithson wished for—“architecture without rhetoric”—with a great feeling for light, materials and spatial order. She was also an extremely fine teacher, at Yale and at Falmouth giving students a sense of possibilities in architecture and demonstrating how even the smallest design decision can contribute. We last met at the Architectural Association Bookshop a year ago when another friend and colleague Bob Maxwell launched his third book in three years. She delivered a brief but warm testimonial. We will miss her terribly.
—Anthony Vidler, Vincent Scully Visiting Professor of Architectural History
MJ was one of the few female professors we studied with during my time at Yale. Her passion for her work, belief in the value of architecture, and generosity towards her students made a great impression.
—Cary Bernstein, M. Arch ‘88
In March 2016, after speaking at Oxford, I ran into MJ in the city’s train station. We were both returning to London. I waived excitedly while she greeted me with her usual poise and understated friendliness. A quick smile as I pointed out this was the third time we had run into each other in the UK. She was in Oxford to discuss a new student residence hall that her firm, Long and Kentish Architects, was designing for Green Templeton College. We sat together during the ride to London and I described the talk I had just given on nineteenth-century architect E.W. Godwin, along with a separate paper on Godwin I was scheduled to give at the Society of Architectural Historians. MJ asked great questions and seemed keen to know more about my research. She mentioned she had studied at Smith College with Henry-Russell Hitchcock, a prominent historian of nineteenth-century architecture.
MJ’s interest in Godwin was due in part to the fact that her practice partner, Rolfe Kentish, had written his undergraduate thesis at Cambridge on Godwin. In addition, MJ had designed numerous artists’ studios, which were featured in her 2009 book, Artists’ Studios. Godwin, of course, is largely known for his design of a combined house and studio for artist James Whistler in London’s Chelsea. So, Godwin formed something of a bond between us and she asked me to drop her a note if my essay got published. MJ then described the talk she had recently given at Yale on the idea of the shed in modern architecture. She spoke enthusiastically of Scandinavian modernism, especially the work of Aalto, and alluded to the National Maritime Museum she had designed in Cornwall (a building described by Giles Worsley as “a glorious shed”). When she finished, I asked if she included Charles Moore’s Sea Ranch among the examples in her talk, since it seemed to epitomize the idea of a simple shed that toggled between the vernacular and the urbane. Nonplussed, she replied that she has been in Europe for so many years that the Sea Ranch was not at the forefront of her consciousness. But I do not think she was happy about my allusion to Postmodernism; her opposition to the movement—something she shared with her husband Sandy Wilson—was resolute.
As the train pulled into Paddington she had to rush off while I was fiddling with my luggage. I noticed she had left a folder of notes on the shelf above our seats, so ran after her with it. Her grateful thanks as she disappeared into the crowds of Paddington was the last I saw of her, and that hour-long trip remains a strong memory for me of a devoted teacher and incisive architectural intelligence.
—Richard W. Hayes, M. Arch '86