William (Bill) Roberts

Esteemed Architect and Visionary Landscape Architect Passes Away at 90 


William (Bill) Roberts, a distinguished architect and visionary landscape architect, peacefully passed away in his sleep on August 19, 2023, at the age of 90. Born on December 9, 1932, on a working farm in Llandrinio Llanymynech, Wales, UK, Bill was the beloved son of Henry Wynne Roberts and Lena Jane Roberts. He is survived by his devoted wife of 64 years, Jean Mary Roberts, and their sons, Huw Wynne Roberts and Richard Henry Roberts.

Bill's extraordinary journey began in rural Wales, where he spent his formative years on the family farm. This upbringing instilled in him a deep appreciation for the natural world and a profound work ethic that would later shape his illustrious career.

Bill's academic pursuits led him to the University of Cardiff, where he pursued his passion for architecture and, serendipitously, found the love of his life, Jean. In 1959, Bill and Jean embarked on a new adventure, moving to the United States, where Bill assumed a faculty position teaching architecture at Washington University in St. Louis. They later moved to Philadelphia, where Bill earned a Master's degree in Landscape Architecture and joined the faculty at the University of Pennsylvania. Bill's teaching career thrived, culminating in his appointment as the chair of the Department of Landscape Architecture at the University of Pennsylvania's Graduate School of Fine Arts. 

Bill's visionary approach to architecture and landscape architecture was instrumental in the founding of the renowned firm, Wallace, McHarg, Roberts and Todd (WMRT), in 1963, alongside his fellow faculty members, David Wallace, Ian McHarg, and Thomas Todd. Today, this firm is recognized as WRT and continues to lead the field, pioneering methods and principles that have become industry standards. Bill's commitment to sustainable design and his ability to harmoniously unite the natural and cultural environments left an indelible mark on the profession.

Under Bill's leadership, WRT achieved global recognition for its projects, including master plans for iconic landmarks such as the US Capitol, Baltimore Inner Harbor, Amelia Island, and the capital of Nigeria. The firm's expertise in environmental planning and urban waterfront redevelopment has positively influenced cities worldwide. At its peak, WRT reached over 200 employees and remains a thriving force in the industry (www.wrtdesign.com). Bill's role as Managing Partner for many years was pivotal to the firm's growth and success.

Bill's commitment to the broader design profession extended beyond his work at WRT. He served in leadership roles on the Executive Committees and Boards of several industry organizations, including the Landscape Architecture Foundation, the American Society of Landscape Architects, and the Fairmount Park Foundation. His outstanding contributions were honored with his induction as a Fellow of the ASLA in 1992.

Bill and Jean lived most of their adult lives in Chestnut Hill, a neighborhood of Philadelphia, where they cultivated a large circle of friends and entertained frequently. Bill was an avid tennis and golf enthusiast at the Philadelphia Cricket Club (PCC) for over 53 years. His architectural efforts extended to the club, where he designed prominent structures, such as the indoor tennis courts. He also served as the Chairman of the Grounds Committee for 5 years and held a seat on the Board of Governors for 4 years.

Later in life, Bill focused on his passion for painting watercolors. He had a talent for capturing the essence of rocky shorelines in Maine and scenes from around Chestnut Hill. He exhibited and sold many of his paintings in galleries and loved to see the joy his work brought to others.

Bill's heart remained close to his Welsh roots, and he enjoyed his trips back to Wales to reconnect with his extensive family. As the eldest of ten siblings, he fulfilled his role as an elder brother, uncle, and mentor. Bill's dedication to his Welsh heritage led to his recognition as a Distinguished Welsh-American by the Welsh Society of Philadelphia, a community he proudly belonged to for more than six decades, and where he enjoyed singing.

Bill was a deeply devoted husband, father, and grandfather. He will be deeply missed by his family and friends. 

A  private family ceremony was held soon after his passing.