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Rose Marie Mendez, 32; Rising Talent in Architecture

September 13, 2002|From a Times Staff Writer

Rose Marie Mendez, an award-winning Los Angeles architectural designer and educator, died of cancer Saturday at her West Hollywood home. She was 32.

Mendez taught architectural design at Cornell University and the State University of New York at Buffalo before moving to California several years ago. More recently she taught at UCLA and at the Southern California Institute of Architecture, or SCI-Arc, and worked with the Santa Monica architectural firm Morphosis.

She also collaborated with her husband, Gregory Fischer, at f.m. Design and was active in the Los Angeles Forum for Architecture and Urban Design, a nonprofit organization that fosters dialogue about the city, architecture and urbanism.

In 1997 Mendez and Fischer edged out 300 competitors for the $4,000 grand prize in an international competition soliciting plans for the redesign of Union Square, the center of San Francisco's downtown retail district.

They proposed breaking down the walls that separated the square from the street and replacing its patchwork of spaces with a single plane that the prize jury described as "an elegant, unfolding urban napkin." They envisioned a variety of uses for the square, including an indoor-outdoor market, bandstand and skating rink.

The design provoked heated public discussion and did not win the commission. But Mendez and Fischer's models and drawings were acquired for the permanent collection of the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art and were exhibited in June 2000.

"It was a very powerful project," said Thom Mayne, principal architect at Morphosis and a member of the San Francisco Prize jury. "She was one of our future talents. She had the ingredients it takes to be a really good architect. She had the toughness, the intellect and the artistic ability."

Mendez helped shape the content of "L.A. Now," a two-volume work produced by Morphosis in collaboration with Art Center College of Design in Pasadena that offered proposals for redesigning the city.

Born of Cuban and Dominican parents, Mendez was raised in New Jersey and educated at Cornell University, where she earned her bachelor's and master's degrees in architecture.

In addition to her husband, she is survived by her mother, Maria Bornia-Mendez, and a sister, Ligia Mendez Goodwillie.

A memorial service will be held at 6 p.m. Saturday at SPF Gallery, 3384 Robertson Place, Los Angeles. Memorial donations may be sent to the Rose Mendez Undergraduate Architectural Memorial Scholarship at Cornell University, Department of Architecture, Art and Planning, 129 Sibley Dome, Ithaca, NY 14853.

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