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Guide to the Records of the Office of the University Architect/Joseph J. Roberto Collection
1928-1987
 RG 11.4  RG 11.4

Elmer Holmes Bobst Library
70 Washington Square South
New York, NY, 10012
(212) 998-2641
university-archives@nyu.edu


New York University Archives

Collection processed by Stephen Urgola.

This finding aid was produced using the Archivists' Toolkit on October 24, 2011
Description is in English. using Describing Archives: A Content Standard

Historical/Biographical Note

The position of University Architect was created in 1924 with the designation of Professor Fiske Kimball (1888-1955) as such. Kimball had joined NYU's faculty in 1922 as a lecturer on art in the school's Extramural division. The following year was named Morse Professor of the Literature of the Arts of Design and took charge of the newly-created Department of Fine Arts. As University Architect, Kimball advised the school on architectural matters such as the development of the University Heights campus and the design of the law school center in the late 1940s. While he resigned his professorship in 1925 to take the post of director of the Philadelphia Museum of Art, he continued in the position of University Architect on a part-time basis for thirty years, until his death in 1955.

The position was revived in 1960 with the hiring of Joseph J. Roberto. Expansion of the university's academic and research programs had spurred significant building activity in the 1950s, Loeb Student Center and the Medical Center among the projects undertaken. Anticipating increasing enrollments in the 1960s, NYU's plans for the decade ahead included further physical development. The administration believed that such a program demanded the appointment of a full-time architect to determine immediate needs and anticipate potential growth. The responsibilities of the University Architect position, one of only about thirty in the nation, included the handling of programming, real estate, mechanical services, use and site planning, and architectural design matters. In this new post, Roberto's functions were to set aesthetic standards and to make recommendations for the selection of outside architects.

Joseph Roberto had graduated from New York University's School of Architecture in 1935. After serving as a major in the Air Force in World War II, Roberto practiced architecture in New York for twelve years, specializing in institutional buildings. His first professional involvement with the university came in 1951, when he was engaged to design the School of Retailing's facilities in the Main Building.

Roberto originally reported to Vice President of Business Affairs George F. Baughman, but by September 1961 had been transferred to the office of Charles R. Cox, head of the university's capital development program. Later that autumn the position of University Architect was moved under the auspices of a new office, that of the Director of Planning and Supervising Architect, which was created by President Carroll V. Newsom. Baughman and Chancellor George Stoddard had proposed the new position, which was given the responsibility for developing and presenting the university's building program, working with administrative and faculty committees, and acting as a liaison with architectural firms. The administration engaged Martin L. Beck for the post. An architect in private and associated practice, Beck had developed expansion plans for several universities, including Long Island University, where he had worked with James Hester. Beck was responsible for making recommendations relating to budgets, the selection of outside architects and engineers, and space utilization matters. Beck supervised the University Architect's execution of duties involving the latter.

The position of Director of Planning and Supervising Architect was discontinued upon Beck's retirement in 1966. After that point Beck served as Consulting Architect to the Office of the Chancellor and Executive Vice President. After 1968, Roberto reported to Director of Planning and Construction Joseph Schober, within the Office of the Vice President for Institutional Facilities, but by the mid-1970s the Office of the University Architect again functioned independently. In 1977 Joseph Roberto retired upon reaching mandatory retirement age and the post was discontinued. Roberto continued to consult for the university, however, through the mid-1980s.

Sources:

  • "Architects for NYU" Reference File, Archives H
  • News Release, July 1, 1960
  • Beck, Martin biographical file
  • Chancellor's Office Records. Elmer Ellsworth Brown. (R.G. 3.0.3) Box 34, Folder 15
  • Chancellor's Office Records. Harry Woodburn Chase. (R.G. 3.0.3) Box 34, Folder 15
  • Director of Planning and Supervising Architect, Annual Reports
  • Kimball, Fiske biographical file
  • President's Office Records. James M. Hester. (R.G. 3.0.3) Box 1, Folder 15
  • Roberto, Joseph biographical file
  • University Directories