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08.13.2012
Obit> Henry Stolzman, 1945-2012
A gifted architect of synagogues, boutique hotels, schools, and celebrity apartments.
Living space inside the Orchard Residence in Millerton, New York.
Paul Warchol

Henry Stolzman.
Kelly Campbell
 
 

The senior partner of the venerable, two-generation New York firm Pasanella + Klein, Stolzman + Berg (now PKSB), Henry Kardon Stolzman, FAIA, died on August 8 at 66 after an extended bout with cancer. He spent his last months at the Orchard, a sprawling house in Millerton, New York, that he recently built with his wife Alison, a retired lawyer. He is survived by nieces and nephews, his sister and brother, his sons Kardon and Daniel Stolzman, the women in their lives, Sasha and Caroline, and a grandson, Pheonix.

Henry Stolzman was born in Brooklyn, grew up in Yonkers, graduated from McGill University in Montreal, and received his graduate degree in architecture from Columbia University in 1974.

He joined Giovanni Pasanella and Arvid Klein’s highly regarded firm, known for housing and university buildings, in 1978. Six years later, Wayne Berg, the gifted son of a Montana architect who taught at Columbia University, joined the firm. It became known as Pasanella + Klein, Stolzman + Berg in 1992. Led by the two younger partners, the firm won numerous awards for modernist designs of public places, university buildings, and private residences, while postmodernism was still in fashion. Berg died of a brain tumor in 1999 at age 52. Soon after that, Sherida Paulsen joined the firm, which became known as PKSB in 2007. William Fellows and Tim Witzig became partners this year.

Stolzman, who was a fellow of the American Institute of Architects as well as of the Institute for Urban Design, designed schools, homes for art collectors and movie people, and three particularly charming boutique hotels in New York—the Shoreham, the Mansfield, and the tiny Franklin.

   
Pioneer Academy/PS 307 in Queens, New York (left, Center) and interior of the Congregation Rodeph Sholom in Manhattan (right).
Paul Warchol
 

An active member of the West End Synagogue, for which he created a home in an old public library, preserving much of its atmosphere while adding facilities for prayer and meetings, Stolzman was particularly interested in synagogue design. With his son, Daniel Stolzman, he was the author of Synagogue Architecture In America, which was published by the Images Publishing Group in 2006.

Henry Stolzman renovated the historic Park Avenue Synagogue, restored sacred space in two nineteenth century townhouses for the Society for the Advancement of Judaism, designed a pristine new rooftop chapel and roof garden for Congregation Rodeph Sholom, and built additions to the Larchmont Temple in Westchester County and to Temple B’Nai Chaim in Georgetown, Connecticut. His firm also created a modernization plan for St. Michaels Church in New York and a Buddhist Retreat Center in Middletown, New York.

Delivering a eulogy at his funeral on August 10, Rabbi Leah Cohen of Temple B’Nai Chaim said, “My words pale in comparison to the reality of his creations. Those who have had the privilege of working with him need no words to describe who he was. My experience may be unique for our congregation, but I don’t believe it was unique for Henry. As one devoted to turning client’s aspirations into concrete reality, I believe that nothing gave Henry a greater sense of professional pride than creating sacred space. When Henry built synagogues, he went beyond merely functionality, or even aesthetics. He labored to express something much deeper.”

Exterior of the Orchard Residence in Millerton, New York.
Paul Warchol
 

“In this regard he reminds me of the first architect mentioned in the Bible named Betzalel,” she continued. “When the Israelites were ready to build their first sanctuary, the Lord singled out by name Betzalel and endowed him with a divine spirit of skill, ability, and knowledge in every kind of craft and inspired him to make designs, to cut stones for setting and to carve wood, to work in every kind of designer’s craft and to give directions to all in building the Tabernacle.”

“Sounds a lot like Henry when he set out to build our sacred space,” she said.

Henry Stolzman had something more than an unwavering commitment to his work. He had a commitment to humankind. Several times I found myself talking to him at Institute for Urban Design events when the cocktail hour ended and it was time to find a seat at a table for dinner. When I had been in that position with other architects, they tended to case the room and sit with people who could help them get ahead in some way. Not Henry. He looked around the room for some lost soul who looked like he or she needed company. He was a man of character whose personal, professional and political behavior were all one thing. He was not only profoundly interested in all aspects of design but also in literature, theater, movies, and politics.

Like many members of my generation, he spent the Vietnam War years doing alternative service—teaching mathematics at the Columbia Grammar School while studying architecture at Columbia at night. But he never completely got Vietnam out of his mind. One of the last trips he took with his wife Allie, after he was ill, was to Vietnam. Like many of us who opposed to the war, 30 years later he was still concerned about what had happened there.

Henry’s generosity—to his large extended family, his synagogue, and the larger community—was extraordinary. He even taught this tight-fisted Midwesterner to tip like a New Yorker.

Jayne Merkel

Jayne Merkel, an architecture critic, is the author of Pasanella + Klein Stolzman + Berg (Rockport Publishers, 2000).