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10.09.2012
Obit> Tony Goldman, 1943-2012
Developer and arts patron put architecture first.
Tony Goldman.
Ben Ritter

Tony Goldman—developer, connoisseur of history, patron of contemporary art—was a rare and exciting client from an architect’s perspective. I imagine that as a friend, a status to which I aspired, he was even better. The loss we feel from his absence, personally and professionally, is huge.

He has been routinely described as a visionary and over the course of 40 years his pioneering projects in SoHo and South Beach (just to name two) cement that reputation. He saw the possibility of renewal in moribund neighborhoods before the potential became clear to others and his insight was especially acute in regards to hiding-in-plain-sight architectural quality. I’ve heard others describe his incredulity at the beautiful loft buildings he was able to buy in the 1970s. I gather that when he fell for the character of a building or neighborhood he acted with infectious confidence. In late 2004 I experienced that confidence when he laid out his thoughts for a new building at 25 Bond St. This time, the setting wasn’t an overlooked neighborhood, but his appreciation for the street’s history and vitality was riveting. Looking toward the Bowery he said, “This is the balls of New York!” I thought, “Wow, not your usual marketing slogan.”

 
25 Bond Street, a development by Goldman Properties.
Paul Warchol / Courtesy BKSK
 

In his approach to the project, he pushed everyone to think hard, very hard, and to pitch bold ideas. Speaking of his goals for the building, he said, “Whenever you go into grand homes, you notice that the walls are thicker, the doors are bigger, and the ceilings are higher. I want that here.” Indeed, when you worked with Tony, life was a little thicker, bigger, and higher. Achieving something grand, even great, became more possible than usual.

He wasn’t grandiose or at all pompous. He could be brash, but arguably had earned the right to be dismissive of people who questioned his insight. Yet, at least during the course of our project, he never was. Characteristically, the start of construction was marked by a kick-off speech at the job site, mandating civility and respect among all parties. He meant it, and it worked.

He was always restless, those who worked with him said, and it is not easy to imagine him resting now. I’m told the original layout of his office in the SoHo Building included a rollerblade loop and that he used it often. In the rest of his life loops were not his forte. He always seemed ready to roll in a new direction, loathe to circle back and repeat.

Above all he tried to imbue everything with artistry. The artwork emanating from SoHo drew him there and the murals that comprise his Wynwood Walls project in Miami show his mature vision of art as integral to neighborhood life. The sidewalk at our 25 Bond project is a small, emphatic measure of his commitment to art in the public realm. The building was almost done, the units mostly sold. He began a seemingly quixotic quest to persuade his purchasers, his architects, the Public Design Commission, and the Department of Transportation to support a commissioned work by the artist Ken Hiratsuka—part of a solid granite sidewalk he, Ken, and ultimately all of us envisioned and now treasure. I urge everyone to go stand on one of those 8-inch-thick slabs and marvel, thinking of Tony and his magnificent life.

Harry Kendall

Harry Kendall is a partner at BKSK in New York.