G. Holmes Perkins was born in 1904 in Cambridge, MA, the son of Philadelphia natives George Howard and Josephine Schock Perkins. He was educated at Phillips Exeter Academy and Harvard University (A.B. 1926; M. Arch. 1929).
After a year as instructor at the University of Michigan, Perkins returned to Harvard to teach. He established his own architectural office, and completed a number of residential projects in the greater Boston area. The direction of Harvard's architecture program moved away from the Ecole des Beaux-Arts tradition in 1936 when Joseph Hudnut was recruited as dean, with a mandate to move the curriculum toward emerging European modernist style and philosophy. That same year, architecture, landscape, and city planning programs were brought together to form the Graduate School of Design. In 1937, Walter Gropius was brought on as professor and chairman of the Department of Architecture. During World War II, Perkins took a leave of absence from Harvard from 1942 to 1945 to work in Washington, DC with the National Housing Agency; during his final year he served as acting director of its Urban Development Division. He returned to Harvard in 1945 as the Charles Dyer Norton Professor of Regional Planning and chairman of his department.
With Hudnut's support and Gropius's participation, Perkins developed a first-year joint curriculum that brought architecture, landscape and planning departments together in a collaborative venture. Shared studio projects further encouraged design cooperation among the students of the different disciplines, a goal of the G.S.D. from its inception only truly realized after Perkins became chairman of the planning department. Perkins remained at Harvard until he was recruited to head the School of Fine Arts at The University of Pennsylvania on the retirement of George S. Koyl in 1950.
Upon his arrival at Penn in 1951, Perkins set about transforming the faculty and the curriculum of the school in the collaborative, progressive image of Harvard's G.S.D. Perkins made extensive changes in the faculty, bringing in young and talented teachers who would revitalize programs and move away from the Beaux-Arts methods and subjects that had dominated the school since the turn of the century. Under Perkins's leadership, a fine arts program was established, and the Institute of Contemporary Art was organized, as were research institutes under the City Planning and Architecture departments. Doctoral programs were approved and in 1958 the School of Fine Arts became a graduate division. Perkins continued as head of the Graduate School of Fine Arts until 1971.
Perkins's principal professional activity outside of his academic positions has been as an urban planner. He served as a consultant to Britain's Ministry of Town and Country Planning in 1946, and to the United Nations in 1955, 1957, and 1959 for projects in Turkey and India. Soon after Perkins came to Philadelphia, he became one of the key figures in the city's post-World War II redevelopment and renewal. Perkins served on the board of the Citizens' Council on City Planning from 1953 until 1955, as president of the Philadelphia Housing Association from 1954 to 1955, and as chairman of the city's Zoning Advisory Commission from 1956 until 1958. Most important, he chaired the city's Planning Commission from 1958 to 1968. He was also a member of the Philadelphia Development Corporation (1958-1968), of the Philadelphia Commission on Higher Education (1953-1968), of the Philadelphia Port Corporation (1964-1968), and of the Fairmount Park Art Association, for whom he served as trustee from 1957 to 1997.
From the description of G. Holmes Perkins papers and architectural records, 1897-2002 (bulk 1922-1990). (Unknown). WorldCat record id: 122635884