Seasoned Professional Profile of Fred Moyer


By the AAJ Communications Committee


Personal Information:

When did you know, you wanted to be an Architect?

FM:  The interest began at six years old, when I graduated from Lincoln Logs to an Erector set.  At eleven years old, a scholarship to the School of the Art Institute of Chicago provided exposure to Chicago architecture on a weekly basis.  At fifteen years old, a trip around the world on a freighter provided exposure to both landmark and anonymous architecture in 30 different countries. By then I knew I wanted to be an Architect.

Where did you go to college and what degrees did you earn?

FM:  University of Illinois, B. Arch. -Structural Engineering
Ecole des Beaux Arts Americaines, Fontainebleau -Urban Planning
Princeton University, M.F.A. Voorhees Fellow -Architectural Design,
Post graduate -Professor of Architecture -Architectural Design, U. of I., 16 years



How have trends changed and evolved during your career in justice architecture?

FM:  My career in justice architecture began in 1970 as a faculty member at the University of Illinois.  The Law Enforcement Assistance Administration (LEAA), U.S. Department of Justice, awarded a research contract for the development of guidelines for the planning and design of adult correctional facilities. Congressional legislation had tied these yet to be written guidelines to the eligibility for federal funding participation in construction.  The legislation called for “Advanced Practices” to be incorporated and it was our task to define them.

The trend that was in place at the time we began our study was the replication of 18th century justice facility concepts. They were antithetical to the support of program services delivery and lacked recognition of the humanity of the occupants. “New” buildings were old.

Our small team advocated total system planning as the framework for determining facility needs. System planning was advocated that placed its emphasis upon alternatives to incarceration, reserving the use of facilities where community safety was involved. It advocated “normative” architecture with unobtrusive security and outside light and view. It suggested the incorporation of space standards recognized in other building types for the functions involved. It called for the provision of program space for services delivery, and direct staff-client interaction…which later became known as direct supervision.

A new trend followed in the architectural field…primarily because federal funding was available and was tied to compliance with these guidelines.  The new direction in correctional facilities design was rapidly adopted in the field. The industries serving the correctional facility market responded with the development of the materials, products and assemblies that were needed for these new concepts. Some industries initially resisted the changes but later adapted to where the market was going.

Parallel work was done by our research group for law enforcement facilities and for court facilities.  We became identified as the National Clearinghouse for Criminal Justice Planning and Architecture, and provided technical assistance to over 3,000 projects in corrections, law enforcement and courts in the years that followed.

The developments and trends in the justice facilities arena in the 35+ years since that time are seen as mixed, for many different reasons, that cannot be concisely summarized here. They have also been different in the corrections, law enforcement and courts sectors.

With isolated exceptions, community-based corrections has not been realized. There have been several decades of massive increases in the use of incarceration nationwide. This has been accompanied by the construction of large and remote new facilities that in very many instances do not incorporate the new directions of the 1970’s.

On the other hand, community policing, which was advocated by the professional Advisory Board to the National Clearinghouse and incorporated in our guidelines, has been embraced by law enforcement throughout the country. This has resulted and continues to result in facilities that are a part of their community…inviting to the public and responsive to their surroundings. 

Planning and design for judicial facilities in this interval have largely embraced the facilities guidelines developed in that area. Refreshingly, historic court buildings are more often valued today and conserved using strategies for their sensitive adaptation for re-use, housing judicial support components or other functions. Clearinghouse recommended strategies for new construction continue to be followed.

What is your preferred building type in the Justice market?  Corrections, law enforcement, courts or other?

FM:  I’m regularly involved in each type these days and greatly enjoy each opportunity.  Frequently, we have public safety complexes that have a combination of components…often including non-justice municipal or county functions as well.  Each building type has its own distinct needs and the process of solution finding, whether individual component or combined components, is a collaborative effort with the client and stakeholders. The needs definition, planning and design process has the same core characteristics in every project and I find it to be very rewarding.


Why justice?

What prompted you to begin working within the field of justice architecture?

FM:  It was totally unplanned. I was tapped to head the research team at the University of Illinois where I was a Professor teaching architectural design. I expected to go back to teaching after the one year Justice Department guidelines work. But I got hooked…and have never left. It led to leaving the University, after seven years as Director of the National Clearinghouse for Criminal Justice Planning and Architecture, and starting Moyer Associates Inc. where I have been practicing for the past 39 years. I have no plans for retirement.

What do you find most challenging about working in justice architecture?

FM:  A major challenge in the corrections arena is a continuing public perception that isolation and punishment of the offender is the primary objective. Acceptance of community programming and the use of facilities as a last resort remain elusive. Support for normative environments that reinforce behavioral change and encourage individual development tends to only be accepted when it can be shown that this approach costs less.

A major challenge in the law enforcement sector is an all too often lack of public appreciation for the importance of appropriate support facilities for the work of law enforcement professionals.  Civic funding priorities typically have not had police near the top and existing facilities are often several decades out of date and severely inadequate, with other public needs coming first. Bringing community uses into the program offers great potential.

In the judicial facilities arena the challenge is often presented to conserve historic courthouses that are landmarks in their communities, but functionally obsolete with space inadequacies, lack of security and inability to separate public, secure and judicial personnel circulations. Repurposing with the housing of judicial support or other public uses serves both historic as well as sustainability objectives. It is a very rewarding exercise.


The Future of the Justice Market?

What do you consider your largest contribution to justice architecture?

FM:  I’ll leave that for others to consider, if it’s even necessary.  However, I am deeply aware that all my work has been conducted in a collaborative team setting with contributions coming from all its participants.  Bill Caudill, FAIA, among others, was a strong influence in this. He emphasized multi-disciplinary professional teamwork working closely with clients and users.

What are some future trends you see in the justice market?

FM:  There was a trend that I thought would develop many years ago that never did. I still hold it out as a trend that should be expected to be realized…so I put it forward as a future trend here.

It is simply the introduction of a greater discretion in the purposeful use of justice system resources.  The fact that the cost of incarceration requires such a great amount of public funds should in itself be expected to bring this consideration to the table.  Up until now, there has been no limit to the level of expenditure that can be made…far past any level that could have been expected. Effective resource management should be expected to guide decision-making toward community corrections development rather than an over reliance upon incarceration.

The realization of community-based corrections so strongly emphasized in the planning initiatives of the National Clearinghouse for Criminal Justice Planning and Architecture in the 1970’s, remains a potential trend for the future.

Under the umbrella of “Total System Planning”, the potential exists to more effectively define architectural needs in all components…law enforcement, courts and corrections.

Please provide a piece of advice you’d like to share with other justice architects.

FM:  Practice collaborative planning, programming and design, involving the client and stakeholders in every stage of project definition and solution development.  And, as Louis Sullivan advised us:” Always design a thing by considering it in its next larger context….”  For justice facilities, that includes the societal context.       



Frederic D. Moyer, FAIA, President of Moyer Associates Inc., is a founding member of the AIA's professional interest group in justice facilities (1971) and a former chair (1990). The standards and guidelines that define professional practice for justice facilities today have their foundation in the pivotal work conducted at the National Clearinghouse for Criminal Justice Planning and Architecture under Fred's direction. With architectural registration attained in 42 states, he conducts a diverse practice in planning, programming and design for law enforcement, courts and correctional facilities, collaborating with locally-based architects nationally and internationally. 


(Return to the cover of the 2016 AAJ Journal Q4 issue)