Eugene Ray, Emeritus Professor of Environmental Design
Eugene Ray was born in Baton Rouge, Louisiana on October 26, 1932, to a family with very strong French roots. Professor Ray developed his strong interest in architecture, nature, history, and UFOs during his adolescent years in Louisiana. Much of his work was influenced by a UFO sighting in his teenage years, and Ray’s fascination with such astronomical anomalies continued into his retirement through the form of his blog: “Eugene Ray Architect.” Professor Ray began teaching without a degree at Tulane University in 1952, then attended architecture school there for a year. He left to design buildings and enrolled in Louisiana State University to finish his education. After marrying, Ray dropped out of school, obtained his architecture license, and was invited to teach temporarily at Louisiana State University in 1964. San Diego State University offered him a job upon acquisition of a degree, so Ray earned his Master’s Degree at Tulane before moving to California permanently in 1969.
Professor Ray taught Environmental Design until 1996. The program that he founded and developed is one of the most unique in the world, and hosted guest lectures by prominent architects including Bruce Goff, Reyner Banham, Buckminster Fuller, and Archigram’s Sir Peter Cook. The program generated many successful and notable professionals. Several students even assisted Ray in building his home, “The Silver Ship,” in La Jolla, California. The professor’s architectural works are influenced by the synchronicities of nature, the many cultures represented in Louisiana, and an aspiration to develop affordable homes. Ray’s accomplishments are noted internationally.
Download the PDF transcript of the complete interview.
Image Credit: Eugene Ray, University Archives Photograph Collection, Special Collections and University Archives
Eugene Ray’s oral history was conducted in January 2014. He extensively discussed his background, including his various influences. Born in Baton Rouge, Louisiana in 1932, Ray was surrounded by Creole and French cultures. He was influenced by those cultures, as well as the works of famous architects such as Frank Lloyd Wright and Bruce Goff. Ray’s radiant architecture incorporates many natural synchronicities, largely a result of the ideas generated by his UFO sighting at the age of fifteen. His professional career began in 1952, and encompassed many jobs and projects over the next several decades. Professor Ray was invited to come to San Diego State University by Lloyd and Ilse Ruocco to initiate a new program about Environmental Design.
Professor Ray discussed his development of the curriculum for San Diego State University’s Environmental Design program. He strove to teach students leadership, so that they could strive to achieve more than the average architect. Ray’s emphasis on affordable architecture set him apart from others and led his students to win awards. Professor Ray was honored internationally with lectures, exhibitions, and publications.
Eugene Ray’s influences spanned many cultures, including the Creole and French of his heritage, but also that of indigenous Americans and the large African American population in Louisiana. The confluence of these cultures emerged through several projects, including various apartments in New Orleans. Professor Ray currently documents his thoughts and achievements on his blog: “Eugene Ray Architect.”
Interview digitally recorded by Susan Resnik, Ph.D.
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Special Collections & University Archives Contact
Location: SDSU Library & Information Access, Love Library Room 150