Larry Ford

- 2009

Larry Ford died on September 17, 2009. He was a longtime professor of geography at San Diego State University, where he spent his entire professional career after earning a PhD from the University of Oregon in 1970. Ford’s interests included urban geography, comparative urbanization, urban form/ design, cultural meanings of urban space, downtown revitalization and historic preservation. Known as an innovative thinker and a persuasive writer, he authored the acclaimed books, Cities and Buildings: Skyscrapers, Skidrows, and Suburbs (1994) and America’s New Downtowns: Reinvention and Revitalization (2003), as well as the thought-provoking The Spaces Between Buildings (2000), which examined ordinary and often unnoticed features of the urban landscape such as alleys, driveways and other recesses and suppressed cultural spaces. More recently, Ford wrote Metropolitan San Diego (2004) and My Kind of Suburb: the Inter- War Years in California (forthcoming from The Center for American Places). Ford received many accolades throughout his career. He was presented with a Distinguished Service Award from the Historical Site Board of the City of San Diego in 1981; a Distinguished Teacher Award from the National Council for Geographic Education in 1985; and a Distinguished Service Award from the Association of Pacific Coast Geographers in 1995. He occupied the Benjamin and Louise Carroll Revolving Endowed Chair of Urban Studies at the University of Oregon in the Spring of 2000, and was awarded the Distinguished Educator Award by the California Geographical Society in 2004. Much of his inspiration for research on comparative urbanism came from a number of Fulbright awards. Within the disciplines of geography, urban planning, anthropology and sociology, Ford is known for his conceptual models of urban structure, the most enduring of which is “A Model of Latin American City Structure” (Geographical Review 1980, co-authored with Ernst Griffin). Ford served as President of the Association of Pacific Coast Geographers in 1982-1983, as an AAG Regional Councillor, and as a member of the American Geographical Society Council (1996-2003 and 2004-2009). He also served on the editorial boards of the Journal of Geography and the Geographical Review. A recently completed Planetizen poll of architects and urban planners ranked Ford as among the world’s top 100 urban thinkers, placing his name alongside notables such as Frederick Law Olmstead, Walter Benjamin, William H. Whyte, Henri Lefebvre, Lewis Mumford, and Thomas Jefferson.

Larry Ford (Necrology) 2009. AAG Newsletter 44(10): 17.