About Leslie Laskey

The Laskey Award honors Professor Emeritus Leslie Laskey and his singular approach to design education during his thirty-five year tenure at Washington University.

Professor Laskey presented to first and second year architecture students an inspired, multi-faceted vision of design. Consistently forceful and inventive, Leslie’s teaching prompted students to think for themselves, extend the range of their abilities, and explore each design opportunity in depth. He encouraged collaboration, persistent curiosity, interconnection across disciplines and investigation of scale, material and media. Leslie eschewed the perfect answer, preferring ongoing process and analysis as the work of design.

Born in 1921, Leslie grew up in Manistee, Michigan, and enlisted in the army the day after the attack on Pearl Harbor. Trained as a combat engineer, he was among the first troops to land at Omaha Beach on D-Day. He fought in the Battle of the Bulge, and at the war’s end, liberated prisoners from German concentration camps.

After returning home, he studied at the Institute of Design founded in Chicago by Laszlo Moholy-Nagy, who himself had been the instructor of the basic design course at the Bauhaus. Leslie then continued on to advanced study in design at the University of Indiana, from which he received a master’s degree.

Leslie continued to teach, mentor, and challenge countless students and friends with the same intensity as his official instruction in the architecture studio. As Professor Emeritus at Washington University, he was a guest critic at reviews, led several Master Classes, and once again roamed the basement studios of Givens Hall during the annual Laskey Sophomore Charrette.

Leslie died on June 17, 2021, weeks before his 100th birthday.


Washington University published an obituary that covers many highlights of Leslie’s life.

Forty-Seven Views of Leslie Laskey is a documentary film portrait that intimately chronicles Leslie’s life as an artist, poet and teacher. By David Wild and Lulu Gargiulo.

See an archive of and read critical essays about Leslie’s exhibitions at Bruno David Gallery

The Columbia Foundation in St. Louis maintains an archive of Leslie’s work.

For Leslie’s ninetieth birthday, friends gathered in St. Louis to celebrate. The following excerpts from two of the many toasts delivered that night summarize Leslie’s influence as teacher and friend:

The most naturally gifted teacher among all of us, Leslie thinned the numbers of architecture students who should not have been there in the first place and injected inventive thinking among those promoted to the next level. Leslie’s energetic, triumphant, and, by design, slightly late arrival before his anxiously waiting students of his first fall semester class would push them into all different directions of excitement, search and confusion. Miraculously, by the end of the project, the evidence of drawings and models on the walls would confirm the remarkable learning that had occurred under his confident guidance.

- Constantine E. Michaelides

He was, is, both pedagogue and friend. As artist, teacher and taskmaster, he informs by example, and even for those of us who’ve never been in one of his classes, he imposes a discipline both steady and relentless. There are no short cuts, no compromises in Laskeyland. Friendships made with him, as far as I am concerned, are permanent, and they too are pedagogical and involving. Breakfast at his table gives new meaning to the word nourishment, for these meals are gustatory, aesthetic and intellectual festivals.

- Bob Duffy