Attached images

Robert E. Bourke
Home | Bourke, Robert E.

Bourke, Robert E.

Carroll Gantz
Birth/Death Age: 
Robert E. Bourke

This American industrial designer attended Chicago Art Institute and started as a staff designer for Sears, Roebuck in 1935. In 1940 Virgil Exner hired him as a Studebaker staff designer. In 1942, he transferred to Studebaker’s Curtiss-Wright division, which built engines for the Army Air Corps, and continued to work on car designs for Studebaker for the Loewy’s group at Loewy’s request. In 1944, Raymond Loewy’s independent design studio in South Bend for the Studebaker account was headed by Virgil Exner and was working on the 1947 post-war Studebaker. Exner had been plotting with Studebaker’s VP of Engineering, Roy Cole, to get rid of Loewy’s firm and for Exner to head design at Studebaker for Cole. When he found out, Loewy fired Exner, who went with Studebaker, and replaced him with Bourke, who refined the final design. The design was the first genuine post-war design, with dramatic wrap-around rear windows and slab sides. It was highly acclaimed by the design community. In 1948, Bourke had to fire a number of Loewy designers at Cole’s request, including Dick Caleal. Burke and other Loewy staff helped Caleal get a job with George Walker by helping him design a model of what became the 1949 Ford. The 1950 Studebaker was the next Loewy design later credited to Bourke. It was a dramatic design different from Detroit’s big three, with a huge chrome, aircraft-spinner-like nose. Bourke designed the famous 1953 Studebaker for Loewy, with help from assistants Randy Faurot and Holden “Bob” Koto. It was a blend of European and American design, lower and longer than previous designs, and received design accolades. The Museum of Modern Art called it “a work of art.” Bourke worked with Loewy until 1955, when Studebaker merged with Packard. Bourke developed the concept for the Studebaker Hawk, the last car with the Studebaker name. But Studebaker-Packard wanted nothing to do with Loewy, and Loewy’s Studebaker group disbanded. Bourke worked for a while at Loewy’s Chicago office, but soon established a design office in New York City with Clare Hodgeman called Hodgeman & Bourke. Clients included Coolerator Corporation and others. In 1969, Hodgeman retired and Bourke moved his office to Westport, Connecticut, where his home was located.

100 Years of Design consists of excerpts from a book by Carroll M. Gantz, FIDSA, entitled, Design Chronicles: Significant Mass-produced Designs of the 20th Century, published August 2005 by Schiffer Publications, Ltd.
Copyright Information: 
I own or have obtained the rights to the image(s) included with this article and grant the right to post it(them) on its website and make use of it(them) in print media with proper attribution.