Remembering Max Bond

Thursday, February 19, 2009
Max Bond.

Max Bond.

As we reported, Max Bond passed away yesterday. We’re already getting condolences from far and wide–more on that soon–but we also wanted to open up the blog and encourage readers to submit their own thoughts and memories. Please submit them in the comments section below.

UPDATE: Here’s a thoughtful note from Michael Arad, who worked with Bond on the World Trade Center Memorial:

The last time I saw Max was shortly before the election – we were both filled with hope and apprehension – and in retrospect, we were both coming at it from very different places but with similar desires. I am glad that he lived to see the election and all that it represented, especially for him, and I am sorry that he won’t be with us for the dedication of the Memorial.

8 Responses to “Remembering Max Bond”

  1. Lola says:

    Showed you can lead AND be a gentleman

  2. Claire Weisz says:

    Reflecting on what Michael Arad wrote about a changed world; Max Bond was one of those architects that in his lifetime managed to change architecture, but he also actively managed to change the world. The Max Bond era at City College certainly has to go down as one of the more enlightened Deanships on record – he seeded a whole generation of faculty and graduate students that came together at City and then had an impact all over the country and beyond. For those of us that taught in the Bond/Ryder era at CCNY, myself among them, it was a demanding, diverse, intense and committed place thanks to Max Bond.

  3. Linsey Johnson says:

    In the late 80’s and early 90’s I was an architectural student at CCNY. Max Bond was the dean at the time. During one of the presentations for my class one of my friends came over to me and said that the dean was looking at a drawing I had pinned up as part of the project. The whole class including several other classes looked on as Max Bond stared at the drawing and made positive comments on the piece. Max turned and asked about the person who had did this. My friends and class pointed to me. Max Bond said, great job. He then asked me to explain to concept behind my work. To make a long story short, it was the single most gratifying and proudest moment I had at CCNY. I did not becaome an architect, but I never forgot Max Bond.
    Thanks, Mr. Bond

    I am now a Dean at a school in Brooklyn. I help to create better minds for the future.

  4. Andrew Thompson AIA NOMA says:

    Mr. Bond was one of the founders of NYCOBA-NOMA in 1970 and had been involved with the organization since that time. Mr. Bond was a mentor and friend to many in NYCOBA-NOMA.

    His accomplished projects located in Harlem, New York, Atlanta Georgia, and as far reaching as Africa have earned Mr. Bond accolades in the design community and amongst his peers.

    In the 15 years I have gotten to know Mr. Bond he has been an inspiration. His focus on design and design relating to the Black community was an inspiration to the many members past and present of NYCOBA-NOMA.
    He is a giant amongst us and even though the man is no longer with us, his spirit will always be with us.
    Thank you J. Max Bond Jr. FAIA NOMA, you will always have us reaching higher.

  5. Atim Annette Oton says:

    Max Bond inspired me to believe that Architecture is Revolution and I studied architecture at City College while he was the Dean. He was an eloquent man who pursued architecture with spirit in a time where architecture was most difficult. He was one of the most reasonable educators focused on the student, the process and truly enjoyed teaching and architecture.

    He was a wonderful soul and was indeed the most influential African American Architect. My class of 1991 and those who knew him at City as Dean still smile when we talk about him. I remember first meeting him when I was deciding to go to City College and having a long conversation about choices and the importance of making architecture a life path focused on change and revolution. A quiet radical, he made you think about life and boundaries, about the importance of having a perspective, an opinion and approach to architecture.

    I was fortunate to have him on several architectural critiques at school and also fortunate to work for him on the Audubon Biomedical Science and Technology Park after coming out of graduate school. I was also fortunate to be able to call him periodically just to talk and sometimes laugh. I still remember him in North Carolina at a conference talking about transitioning your practice to the next generation…Always a thinker, he was vibrant and focused.

    He will be truly missed.

    I have called Davis Brody Bond, 212-633-4700 – to add my name to the list – as a service for him has not yet been announced. I will also suggest you do the same.

    Atim Annette Oton

  6. Byron Gumbs says:

    J. Max Bond, Jr. man was a beacon. As a young architecture student I happened to read a profile of Dean Bond on the 4th floor of Shepard Hall, right outside of the converted storage space with a sliver of a window for ventilation, that mentioned his graduation from Harvard at the age of 19 and his subsequent attendance at the GSD. In 2006 I purchased a book entitled, “The Bonds”. This publication chronicles the accomplishments of Dean Bond’s family. His father, J. Max Bond, Sr., co-founded the Univerity of Liberia. His uncle, Horace Mann Bond, was an influential leader at several historically black colleges and was appointed the first president of Fort Valley State University in Georgia in 1939. In 1945 HMB also became the first African-American president of Lincoln University, Pennsylvania. His first cousin is the noted civil rights activist Julian Bond and his brother George Clement Bond is a tenured professor of anthropolgy at Columibia University. I mention members of Dean Bond’s family to show the depth of the man. It is very significant that he and other members of his family were able to achieve so much during a time when the opportunities for people of color were so circumscribed. The man was a thinker who descended from a family of educators who achieved and served their communities in a most noble fashion.

    I attended CCNY’s architecture program in the late 80’s/early 90’s. I was fortunate that my time at CCNY coincided with Dean Bond’s tenure there. He previously was Chairman of Columbia’s architectrure program and when he took the position of dean at CCNY he brought a level of intensity and rigor to the architecture program that benefitted all who were fortunate enough to enroll in the program during this time. I encountered dedicated professors (John Loomis, Victor Body-Lawson, Don Ryder) who were brought to CCNY by Max.

    I was also provided the opportunity to work for Max at Davis Brody Bond, through Victor Body-Lawson, on the University of Science & Technology of Bulawayo, Zimbabwe during my junior year at CCNY.

    He penned my letter of recommendation to graduate school, granted me a second sting at DBB between CCNY and graduate school and gave me sound, personal advice before departing for New Haven, Connecticut in the summer of 1994.

    I am very grateful to Dean Bond for the opportunities I was furnished with because of his presence at CCNY, i.e., the relationships that were fostered in this environment that continue to this very day, the intellectual development steming from the rigor of the curriculum, and the chance to work in a major NYC architecture firm.

    His impact was both evident and subtle.

    Byron Gumbs CCNY ’93, YALE SOA ’97, MIT-CRE ’01

  7. I have decided to share an article I wrote about Max Bond.

    An Architect Plans For Peaceful Plains
    by Frederick B. Hudson

    The poet Kahlil Gibran hoped that the sons and daughters of the universe not dwell in tombs made by the dead for the living. The native of Lebanon encouraged them to hope that the valleys were your streets, and the green paths your alleys, that you might seek one another through vineyards, and come with the fragrance of the earth in your garments.

    The lyrical dreams have come to fruition in the career of J. Max Bond, Jr., an internationally known architect whose buildings ranging from libraries to cultural centers in sites as diverse as Zimbabwe and Harlem, New York have included the dreams and aspirations of those who inhabit them.

    Mr. Bond, a graduate of Harvard College and Harvard Design School, has for over forty years sought sustainable development for the citizens of the world. Defined by urban planners as “development that meets the needs of the present without compromising the ability of future generations to met their own needs, this concept has found credibility within the United Nations and other allied organizations within the last twenty years.

    Max Bond started on his quest for this inclusive value system in Ghana in 1964 as an architect for the Ghana National Construction Company. He designed the Bolgatanga Library. He took the needs of the culture in consideration in the design of this project by organizing the space in consideration for the needs of the users of the research facility to meet and share information within the cultural context of African arts and culture.

    These concerns have marked his work since he feels that the European Bauhaus method of architecture which feels that architecture should be responsive to the needs and influences of the modern industrial world.

    Bond feels that some housing in Harlem reflects society’s lack of concern for the residents-it is very stark and similar and makes the people in it almost anonymous. He notes that some cities have had to destroy this type of public housing because the social disruption is so intense that it renders life unbearable.

    “Public housing in Harlem tends to dehumanize the residents It does not make the residents feel that they own the housing. The firms that designed this housing after World War II were not minority owned firms, they went along with the standard concept of the time which was about warehousing people. “In contrast some of the first public housing in Harlem which was the East River housing was designed by a mixed race group of architects in the ’30s was very warm and welcoming to the residents. You enter the houses through courtyards. There is a lot of sculpture in the courtyards which was done by the WPA. It is very humane.”

    These concerns propelled Bond to establish and lead the Architects Renewal Committee of Harlem(ARCH) in the late 1960s. He was inspired by the presence of brownstones in Harlem which reflected a desire to provide good , stable housing for the middle class in the early 20th century. He and a staff of other architects and lawyers stove to provide poorer community residents with options that they could present to city officials and planning boards as alternatives to establishment plans for renovation and renewal. He encouraged them to consider the effects of neighborhoods plans on the development of neighborhoods.

    Always the educator, he rose from assistant professor to Chairman of Colu mbia University Graduate School of Architecture and Planning from 1970 to 1985. Among his private commissions during this time was the design of the Arthur Schomburg Center for Research in Black Culture. He feels that the construction of this building was a prototype of how architects can best serve their community. Jean Blackwell Hutson at first presided over a decaying Carnegie library building where the collection was housed, but through a personal campaign secured public money to construct a new facility after library officials had ignored her pleas for support.

    Bond intentionally designed the building in 1979 using masonry rather that from glass and steel since more black laborers had skills in these areas. He got very involved in the contracting out of labor to make sure that minority workers got ample share of the work. His design plans specified that the wood used for the paneling and the tables were to be made from a certain type of African wood. When the contractors asks where the wood could be found, he led them to an African company based in the World Trade Center who could supply the wood. No excuses allowed!
    He says he was able to do this fundamentally because he cared. His concern coupled with a strong advisory board was able to wield influence in the corridors of powers to bring diversity to this effort.

    When he was asked to design the new university in Zimbabwe, he tried to understand what materials could be supplied locally as well as what concerns were appropriate for the climate there. He designed an environment which provided an updraft which would cool the building during the day with materials that would hold heat during the night for warmth. This is true planning for the future. He also designed the roofs for rainwater collection and reuse.

    Concerns for maximum use of local labor was incorporated in the design plans. Laborers in the country had been exploited for years by colonial powers and had skills, but they had been denied managerial responsibilities. Bond and his team made every effort to specify use of materials that local natives had worked with in the past, thus creating career paths for local residents.

    Bond sees buildings as potential magnets for human activity and interaction-his designs for the Martin Luther King Jr. Center for Nonviolent Social Change and the Birmingham Civil Rights Museum reflect his desire for people of good will to meet on common ground for understanding.

    He recently had significant concerns about the planning process used to rebuild the destroyed twin World Trade Center Towers since he felt that all types of people should have consulted about the use of the land. ” There was an immediate decision to rebuild the commercial use of the land. But all kinds of people should have been consulted about the very use of the land. It could have been a park or anything. Poets, dancers, artists as well as architects should have been consulted about this space which was created by tragedy.”

    Bond contrasts this exclusive process of land use to the African Burial Ground in Lower Manhattan where the minority community rose up when the bones of their ancestors were discovered beneath public property. “People demanded change.”

    A true visionary, Bond is committed to reminding residents of the world’s cities and villages of the admonition of Gibran: In their fear your forefathers gathered you too near together. And that fear shall endure a little longer. A little longer shall your city walls separate your hearths from your fields.

    [back to top]

  8. NA says:

    Much respect our brother, your spirit lives forever in each of us whose lives you affected. Guide us in the right direction ancestor.

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