Past Features

May 19, 2008 (Vol. 7, No. 9)

Architect Jan Hird Pokorny, Dead at 93

Jan Hird Pokorny
Architect Jan Hird Pokorny

Architect Jan Hird Pokorny, whose New York firm was co-responsible for designing Lehman's Speech and Theatre Building, the Performing Arts Center, and the Leonard Lief Library, died on May 20 at his home in Manhattan. He was 93. His death follows less than two months that of architect David Todd, whom he partnered with to design these buildings.

In the architectural community, Pokorny was well regarded for his ability to fuse old and new styles of architecture and for restoring historic buildings for reuse. Among the historic buildings that his firm was responsible for restoring are the Lewisohn Hall at Columbia University, the Schermerhorn Row block at the South Street Seaport, the Brooklyn Historical Society building, the National Lighthouse Museum on Staten Island and the Battery Maritime Building in Lower Manhattan. From 1998-2007, Pokorny was an active and vociferous member of the New York City Landmarks Preservation Commission.

Born in 1914 in what is now the Czech Republic, Pokorny grew up in Prague. Fleeing the German occupation, he entered the United States on a student visa in 1939. He became a U.S. citizen in 1945. Pokorny earned a master's degree from Columbia University's architecture school, and later served on its faculty.