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February 25, 2015
by William Singer
Jordan L. Gruzen, FAIA; Julian Zugazagoitia, former Director, El Museo Del Barrio; William M. Singer, AIA, Ronnette Riley Architect; David Burney, FAIA, former Commissioner NYC Department of Design + Construction at the groundbreaking ceremony for El Museo del Barrio

To describe a life justly and clearly in a limited verbal narrative illuminates the paradox of framing time past with current memory. Behind large accomplishments one finds large personalities – generally an axiomatic truth, though highly inflected by the individual. Jordan Gruzen loved the physical realm and vigorous activity in it; the operative concept is love. This man cherished life – total immersion! He embraced it with delight, consistently demonstrating the psyche of a cheerful person – one rooted in a teleology of optimism. That optimism centered on beauty; it propelled Jordan’s actions and responses. One could see his excitement percolate when the topics of architecture, New York City, design, business, sailing, painting, sculpture, music, women, and family – especially when his adored wife, Lee, two daughters, Rachel and Georgia, and son, Alex, were broached. All were entry points to the same end – an oncoming possibility of engaging gorgeous splendor. Why wouldn’t one be optimistic if that were how one perceived life; what a blessed way to live?

And Jordan was providentially laden with benefits. Indeed, rich in talent, spirit, and resources, and handsome to boot. He lived to design and designed to live. Trained at MIT and Penn as one of the Second Generation of Modernists, he always had a #2 pencil or Razor Point pen at hand. And he never missed any, any opportunity to draw! If not drawing, then surveying and designing an unusual angle into a new business opportunity. For if, through self-generated good fortune and diligence, he succeeded with the strategy, which in and of itself would have been beautiful, he then could indulge in the design of the real world – from cities to art installations. More than 50 buildings designed and built in New York City alone are associated with the name Gruzen.

Jordan, endowed with deep professional talents and skills, had other gifts bestowed upon him: quick intelligence, statuesque physical beauty wed to smart political sense and charming social manners, a broad and winning smile – he never met a stranger. All merged into a potent and compelling life. Children, family, friends, colleagues and rivals, clients, all saw and felt the presence of a vigorously robust personality. Though his other qualities and accomplishments may fade from memory, let us not forget that Jordan loved the beauty of architecture, working in the civic realm and the City of New York. A life far exceeds a catalogue of essays, triumphs, and failures – the finite lists of people, places, events, and dates. Outlining a person’s history merely leaves a residual jot of the sacred, private, and public motions affecting the real solids and voids of human endeavor. Until his death Jordan lived a large and immensely successful life – one full of personal and professional achievements. Rest in peace.

William Merritt Singer, AIA, LEED AP, is Technical Director at Ronnette Riley Architect. He was formerly Principal at IBI Group ▪ Gruzen Samton.

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