Born and raised in Ireland, Roche graduated from University College, Dublin, in 1945. After working in Dublin and London as an architect he moved to the United States to study with Mies van der Rohe at the Illinois Institute of Technology. In 1950 Roche joined Eero Saarinen and Associates, and in 1954 he became the principal design associate, working on all of the office’s major projects. Following Saarinen’s death in 1961, Roche, together with John Dinkeloo, inherited the Saarinen practice. As designer, Roche was responsible for completing many of Saarinen’s major works, including the TWA Terminal at JFK Airport, Dulles International Airport, CBS Headquarters, Bell Labs Headquarters, and the Jefferson National Expansion Memorial in St. Louis. Upon completion of Saarinen’s projects in 1966, Roche and Dinkeloo renamed the firm Kevin Roche John Dinkeloo and Associates.
Roche’s master planning and design projects are noted for their Modernist aesthetic and their sensitivity to creating connections to the surrounding urban context. His diverse work in the United States, Europe, and Asia encompasses museums, institutional and corporate headquarters, research laboratories, performing arts centers, theaters, and campus buildings. Notable projects include the Central Park Zoo; the master plan for the Metropolitan Museum of Art; and the Oakland Museum of California. Roche was the recipient of the American Institute of Architects Gold Medal Award in 1993 and the Academie d'Architecture Grand Gold Medal in 1977. In 1982 he became the second American architect to receive the Pritzker Architecture Prize. Roche passed away at his home in Guilford, Connecticut, at the age of 96.