Wilhelm Viggo von Moltke was an influential urban planner in the US, working as the chief designer on projects in Philadelphia and at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT). He was also a teacher at the Harvard Graduate School of Design.
Wilhelm Viggo von Moltke was born in Kreisau, Germany, in 1911. He received an architectural degree from the Technische Hochschule in Berlin in 1937, but chose to leave the country during the same year due to his political opposition to the Nazi government. His oldest brother, Helmuth James von Moltke, a member of the German resistance, was executed by the Nazis in January 1945.
Von Moltke spent the late 1930s working as an architect in several offices in Great Britain and Sweden. In 1940, he left Europe for the United States. During his first year in America he worked for short periods in New York and Philadelphia. In New York he was employed by Alvar Aalto, and in Philadelphia by Oscar Stonorov and Louis Kahn. Stonorov, like von Moltke, was an immigrant from Germany, and had already made a name for himself in the USA as a modernist architect. In Stonorov’s office, von Moltke also met Peter Blake, another recent immigrant, who became an influential architectural critic and a lifelong friend.
Von Moltke received a second architectural degree from the Harvard Graduate School of Design (GSD) in 1942, studying with Walter Gropius and Martin Wagner, who had arrived in the US in 1938. After serving in the US Army during World War II, von Moltke returned to Philadelphia and obtained a leading position in the city’s planning commission which he held until 1961. After he left Philadelphia, von Moltke took a position as chief designer for the Guyana project at the Joint Center for Urban Studies of MIT and Harvard University. The project assisted the government of Venezuela in the development of the Guyana region. In 1964, he returned to Harvard’s GSD, where he held a professorship until 1977.