[URBANTH-L]J. Max Bond
lknauer at umassd.edu
Mon Feb 23 13:06:07 EST 2009
here is a NYTimes obituary for J. Max Bond, a prominent African American
architect, who died a few days ago:
J. Max Bond Jr., Influential African-American Architect, Dies at 73 -
Obituary (Obit) - NYTimes.com
J. Max Bond Jr., Architect, Dies at 73
By DAVID W. DUNLAP
Published: February 19, 2009
J. Max Bond Jr., long the most influential African-American architect in
New York and one of a few black architects of national prominence, died
on Wednesday in Manhattan. He was 73 and lived in Manhattan.
Mr. Bond was an educator as well as an influential architect.
Projects designed by J. Max Bond Jr. included the Bolgatanga Regional
Library in Ghana. Mr. Bond also designed the Audubon Biomedical Science
and Technology Park in Upper Manhattan.
The cause was cancer, said Steven M. Davis, a partner of Mr. Bond’s in
the firm Davis Brody Bond Aedas.
At his death, Mr. Bond was the partner in charge of the museum portion
of the National September 11 Memorial and Museum at the World Trade
Center. Davis Brody Bond is also the associate architect for the memorial.
But Mr. Bond’s reputation did not rest solely — or even principally — on
design. He was known as an educator, at City College and Columbia
University; an exemplar to younger minority architects; and a prickly
voice of conscience within his profession on issues of racial and
economic justice. “Architecture inevitably involves all the larger
issues of society,” he said in a 2003 interview.
Gordon J. Davis, the founding chairman of Jazz at Lincoln Center, said
Mr. Bond had a “steel spine and rock-hard determination — qualities
always masked by a handsome gentlemanly exterior, a gracious and
extraordinarily collegial persona, and so many of the characteristics
that are hallmarks of a great and wonderful teacher and mentor.”
From boyhood curiosity about a staircase in a Tuskegee Institute
dormitory, through a trip to Tunisia that opened his eyes to North
African construction, Mr. Bond developed a love of architecture. But at
Harvard, where he received a bachelor’s degree in 1955 and a master’s
degree in 1958, he was counseled by a faculty member to forego his
architectural aspirations because of his race. He persevered, despite
the barriers in what was an almost all-white profession.
His early career took him to France, where he worked with André
Wogenscky; to New York, where he was at Gruzen & Partners and Pedersen &
Tilney; and to Ghana, where he worked for the government from 1964 to
1967. There, in the northern part of the country, he designed the
Bolgatanga Regional Library, four buildings under the broad shade of a
tabletop-like roof intended, along with natural ventilation, to
eliminate the need for air-conditioning.
Mr. Bond led the Architects Renewal Committee of Harlem before founding
the firm Bond Ryder & Associates in 1970, with Donald P. Ryder. Foremost
among its projects were the Martin Luther King Jr. Center for Nonviolent
Social Change in Atlanta, which includes Dr. King’s tomb; the Schomburg
Center for Research in Black Culture in Harlem; and the Birmingham Civil
Rights Institute in Alabama.
When Mr. Ryder retired in 1990 the firm merged with Davis, Brody &
There, Mr. Bond was partner in charge of the Audubon Biomedical Science
and Technology Park for Columbia University in Upper Manhattan, which
included the redevelopment of the Audubon Ballroom, where Malcolm X was
assassinated. In 1992, Herbert Muschamp, then the architecture critic of
The New York Times, said the design “gives new meaning to the term civil
engineering: it seeks to balance by formal means the competing stakes in
the land the building will occupy.”
That is not to say Mr. Bond’s work was universally admired. In 2001 his
modernist addition to the Harvard Club of New York, at 27 West 44th
Street, was harshly criticized by some club members as unsympathetic and
Mr. Bond’s family included the prominent 20th-century educator Horace
Mann Bond and the civil-rights leader Julian Bond. His father, J. Max
Bond Sr., was president of the University of Liberia in the early 1950s.
His mother, Ruth C. Bond, also an educator, was renowned for quilts she
designed in the mid-1930s.
Mr. Bond’s wife, Jean Carey Bond, survives him, as do their children,
Ruth M. Bond of San Francisco and Carey Julian Bond of Manhattan; three
grandchildren; a sister, Jane Clement Bond of Manhattan; and a brother,
George Clement Bond of Teaneck, N.J.
Mr. Bond served on the New York City Planning Commission from 1980 to
1986. He was chairman of the architecture division at the Columbia
University Graduate School of Architecture and Planning from 1980 to
1984 and dean of the School of Architecture and Environmental Studies at
City College from 1985 to 1992.
Despite these insider’s credentials, Mr. Bond never lost an outsider’s
perspective, applying it critically in 2003 to early plans that called
for public spaces high up in the new skyscrapers at the World Trade
“It’s always been difficult for young blacks, for young Hispanics, for
anyone who looks aberrant to get access to the upper realms of Wall
Street towers,” Mr. Bond said. “For a city of immigrants, the public
realm is more than ever now the street.”
A version of this article appeared in print on February 19, 2009, on
page A20 of the New York edition.
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