Architect Jordan L. Gruzen died on Tuesday, January 27, at age 80.
Gruzen, whose career spanned six decades, played a significant role in enriching the urban landscape of 20th century metropolitan New York where his firm, Gruzen Samton, was based.
Friends and family remember Jordan as a man of great accomplishment, joie de vivre, warmth and optimism who fully embraced life in both work and play.
Gruzen and his firm were architects and urban planners. While their work was national and international in scope, their greatest concentration of projects was in New York City and New Jersey. The firm had a broad portfolio of project types including schools, universities, courthouses, transportation terminals, residential complexes, facilities for the elderly and synagogues.
The firm’s work created new neighborhoods, revitalized the waterfront and contributed to the character of the City. Significant works in Lower Manhattan include Stuyvesant High School, NYPD Headquarters at 1 Police Plaza, Southbridge Towers, Chatham Towers, Chatham Green and five residential buildings in Battery Park City.
One of Gruzen’s favorite projects was the 1967 horse stables in Central Park at 86th Street. The design put programmed space below earth mounds and orchards and, if built, would have been one of the City’s first “green designs,” thirty years before the movement.
Gruzen particularly enjoyed the intellectual challenge of international work, which added fresh cultural dynamics and physical landscapes to the design process. The firm’s projects include the U.S. Embassy in Moscow, civic work in Tel Aviv, residential and office buildings in Tehran and Nairobi, new housing developments in Dubai, and a new town plan for Bell Helicopters in Isfahan.
Gruzen’s philosophy of architecture was largely shaped by the cultural and artistic influences in his parents’ home as well as by MIT. He wove his love of art into his projects, ensuring artist commissions were incorporated into his buildings.
Gruzen’s influence on architecture and New York also extended beyond the structures he designed. He was a passionate preservationist and as a co-founder of Action Group for Better Architecture, served as a leading figure in the fight to save McKim, Mead & White’s Penn Station. Although he and his cohorts failed to save the iconic structure, their efforts raised awareness and contributed to the passage of New York City’s first landmarks law.
Gruzen was born in Jersey City on April 5, 1934 to Barney Sumner Gruzen and Ethel (Brof) Gruzen. His father, who was known professionally as B. Sumner Gruzen, founded the architectural firm Kelly & Gruzen with Colonel Hugh A. Kelly, in 1936. His mother was a professional opera singer with the Metropolitan Opera House.
Gruzen received his Bachelor of Architecture at Massachusetts Institute of Technology and Master of Architecture at University of Pennsylvania and was awarded a Fulbright Fellowship to Italy. In the early 1960s he and MIT classmate Peter Samton joined Kelly & Gruzen. Jordan and Peter became partners in 1967, and changed the firm name to Gruzen and Partners, then to The Gruzen Partnership, and in 1986, to Gruzen Samton, which merged, in 2009, with IBI Group and is now known as IBI Group-Gruzen Samton.
Gruzen was a resident of Battery Park City and Amagansett, Long Island, where he actively engaged in his communities and lived in the apartment building and houses that he designed.
Gruzen was noted for his athleticism and love for skiing, sailing with the Manhattan Yacht Club on New York Harbor, playing tennis at Devon Yacht Club, and exploring Gardiner’s Bay on his Sunfish.
He is survived by his wife, Lee, their two daughters, Rachel of Amagansett, New York and Georgia of Altadena, California, and his son, Alex and wife Karen of Austin, Texas. His is also survived by his brother, Maxson of San Diego, California, Alex’s mother, Joan Gruzen of New York City, and grandchildren, Elsa, Ava, Sonja and Bear.
Donations in Jordan’s memory can be made to the Knickerbocker Chamber Orchestra. http://www.shop.knickerbocker-orchestra.org/main.sc