Sidney Brower, city planner and teacher, dies

Jacques Kelly, The Baltimore Sun
·4 min read

Sidney Norman Brower, a former Baltimore City planner and University of Maryland professor who studied what made a good community, died of an infection Oct. 8 at Sinai Hospital. The Roland Park resident was 90.

Born in Upington, South Africa, he was the son of Charles Brower, who owned and operated a hotel, and his wife, Miriam. He earned a Bachelor of Architecture degree from the University of Cape Town in 1953 and practiced architecture in South Africa before coming to the United States in 1961 with his wife, Cynthia. He received a master’s degree in city planning from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology.

“We were excited to start a new life in the United States,” said his wife, who was also a student at the University of Cape Town.

He came to Baltimore to join architects RTK&L at the invitation of one of its founding partners, George Kostritsky, who died earlier this year. He worked on planning issues at the firm’s office on Cathedral Street. One of his early projects was a planning report for the Jones Falls Valley, suggesting recapturing the valley’s green spaces. The plan was not followed.

From 1966 to 1979 he worked for the Baltimore City Department of Planning as chief of the comprehensive planning section and later chief of the design research section.

Mr. Brower was the Planning Department’s representative to the city’s Design Advisory Panel.

“Sidney’s value to the panel was his interest in the social aspects of planning. He was really a social and behavioral planner. He personally brought an intellectual side to planning," said Alfred W. Barry III, a former city planning official with whom Mr. Brower worked.

From 1979 to 2011, he taught in the School of Architecture, Planning and Preservation at the University of Maryland, College Park and later held the title of professor emeritus.

Chris Ryer, director of the Baltimore City Department of Planning, recalled Mr. Brower as his University of Maryland teacher.

“Sidney studied how people used spaces. He could tell you why people would stand on a busy New York street in front of Bloomingdale’s department storefront door at a congestive spot to hold a conversation with someone they had met. This indicated they did not want to make a commitment," Mr. Ryer said.

Mr. Ryer also said, “He was sincere, progressive in attitude and a man of wisdom. He was definitely an idea person.”

Mr. Brower wrote three books and numerous journal articles, papers and book chapters on the subject of urban design and environment-behavior research. In 1989, and again in 1995, he was a visiting scholar at Peking University in Beijing.

Among his books were “Design in Familiar Places” (1998) and “Good Neighborhoods” (1996).

A University of Maryland publication described Mr. Brower as a “visual thinker with a background in architecture and the arts [who] brought a people-focused, sensitive side to the economics of planning.”

In 1997, he spent six months as a visiting faculty member at the University of Cape Town, and in 2000 he was a guest lecturer at the State University of Architecture and Civil Engineering in St. Petersburg, Russia.

“His research focused on ways in which people’s attitudes and behaviors affect and are affected by their physical surroundings, and on ways that research information can be made useful to planners and designers,” said his daughter," Katherine Hannah Brower, a Baltimore resident.

Mr. Brower was a gardener. He created a hillside planting space behind his Deepdene Road home and added rhododendrons, azaleas and perennials, including asters and astilbes. He was a weaver of colorfully designed scarves, which he sold commercially. His work was featured at the StoreLtd. in Cross Keys and from home on Open Studio days.

A ceramicist, he worked through the Baltimore Clayworks studio.

“He was a skilled baker,” said his wife. “He made something called a Brower cake, a type of pound cake. He also made raisin bread where you soak the raisins in sherry overnight — and then drink the sherry. Sundays were for tea and scones he made. Sidney had a happy retirement and filled his days with his baking, weaving and time in the ceramic studio."

He was an ocean swimmer and enthusiastic ice cream eater. Most recently he was planning to write a book about the idea of beauty.

He was a past president of the Roland Park Civic League.

In addition to his wife of 59 years, Cynthia Jawitz, a painter and printmaker, and his daughter, survivors include a son, Gideon Brower of Santa Monica, California, and a sister, Hazel Greenstein of Baltimore.

Services were held Oct. 14 at Sol Levinson and Brothers.

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