[URBANTH-L]J. Max Bond

Lisa Knauer 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
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 
Center site..

“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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