Internationally acclaimed architect John Carl Warnecke, whose design portfolio included College of San Mateo’s College Heights campus, passed away on April 17 at the age of 91. Warnecke, who is perhaps best known as the architect who designed President John F. Kennedy’s gravesite, had a prolific career that left his architectural mark on diverse projects that included commercial skyscrapers, airports, libraries, civic complexes and shopping centers. He rose to prominence with designs that helped foster “contextual architecture,” an approach that considers how a building fits into the natural setting. Some of his most notable work includes the State Capitol of Hawaii, U.S. Embassy in Bangkok, the U.S. Naval Academy Library and science buildings in Annapolis, MD, Boston’s Logan Airport, buildings at Stanford University, UCLA, UC Berkeley, Georgetown University and the redesign of Washington D.C.’s Lafayette Square.
When he began work on the design of College of San Mateo in the late 1950’s, Warnecke was already an internationally recognized architect. According to Class Act: College of San Mateo — A History, by Michael Svanevik and Shirley Burgett, Warnecke’s design of College of San Mateo, which opened in 1963, “conveyed a dignity, distinguishing College Heights as unique. Many felt that it was among the first two-year colleges in the nation to “”express the dignity of a university.”
His San Francisco-based firm, John Carl Warnecke and Associates, became one of the nation’s largest architectural companies with offices in many major U.S. cities. During the Kennedy administration, the president appointed Warnecke to serve on the U.S. Commission of Fine Arts, the organization which approves all federal building projects in Washington D.C.