November 10, 2011 — Coral Gables — Jan Hochstim, a longtime professor at the University of Miami’s School of Architecture who was well known to generations of students for his exacting standards as a historian of the modern movement, passed away on November 5. He was 80.
Hochstim engaged fully in scholarship, teaching, and professional practice. He began his teaching career in 1958 and established a professional practice with Paul Buisson, also a faculty member. They both taught the history of architecture and established an architectural language that abstracted traditional elements through a modern lens with work that ranged from the original Mark Light Stadium at UM to remodeling of the Swensen residence in Coral Gables’ French Village.
“Jan was beloved by his students, who appreciated his dedication to their learning, even when it seemed tough,” said Elizabeth Plater-Zyberk, dean of UM’s School of Architecture. “Whenever I met alumni across the country, everyone asked about Professor Hochstim.”
Hochstim renovated the 1940’s-era apartment buildings that became the home of the UM School of Architecture in 1984, and after Buisson’s death in 1990, he formed Hochstim-Krantz Architects with Adam Krantz.
Although diagnosed with cancer, Hochstim continued to actively teach and travel. Along with professors Krantz and Ari Millas, he led a summer design studio to South America to renovate and expand a nonprofit medical clinic in the village of Coya in the Peruvian Andes. “This is a humanitarian endeavor that is going to help people as well as a unique opportunity for the students to deal with a real client and work on a project that will go from a concept to a built structure,” Hochstim said at the time.
Hochstim’s classes in the history of modernism fueled his scholarly work, and his book, The Paintings and Sketches of Louis I. Kahn (1991), was a critical success with reviews in the architectural press as well as The New York Times Book Review. His subsequent book, Florida Modern: Residential Architecture 1945-1970 (2005), also published by Rizzoli, brought together Hochstim’s intellectual interests as well as his personal associations with Florida’s leading modern practitioners. David Morton, Rizzoli editor, said that “both books were important contributions to our understanding of architecture and its history.”
“Jan was a wonderful resource on Florida’s mid-century modern architecture,” wrote Becky Matkov of the Dade Heritage Trust, which honored Hochstim last March as a “Living Legend” for his stellar contributions to Miami’s architectural heritage.
Hochstim was appointed to the board of directors of DOCOMOMO US, an organization for the documentation and conservation of buildings, sites, and neighborhoods of the Modern Movement. An authority on Florida’s modern architecture, Hochstim lectured on mid-20th century modern architecture, “From Deco to Mi Mo,” at the Dade Heritage Days 2011 event.
“Jan Hochstim was simply first-rate,” said Beth Dunlop, architecture critic and author. “He contributed greatly to our understanding of the architecture of Florida at mid-century in an important book. His work on Louis Kahn’s drawings and paintings was the first to look at that important area of scholarship. He fulfilled many roles as a teacher, scholar, preservationist, and architect, and in every case, he did it beautifully.”
Hochstim’s own life story could have inspired another book. He was born in Krakow, Poland, in 1931. As World War II began, the Hochstim family elected to remain on the German-occupied side of Poland but then quickly changed their minds, siding with the Soviets instead. This almost certainly saved their lives as the Soviets, fearful that they might be German spies, shipped them far into the Soviet Union to Siberia. Hochstim’s mother kept the family together while Hochstim’s father was sent to a labor camp. Eventually, when they were thought to no longer be a threat, they were transported to the Soviet province of Uzbekistan in Central Asia. It was there that he met his future wife, Ruth, also a Polish exile. After the war, Hochstim immigrated to Miami. Ruth’s family moved to Israel and then later to the United States, near Nyack, New York.
“A family friend called Jan and asked him if he remembered that skinny girl he met in Uzbekistan,” Hochstim’s son, Richard, recalled. “Jan flew to New York; he and Ruth married three months later, and I arrived on their wedding anniversary the following year.”
Hochstim earned a bachelor of science degree in architectural engineering from UM in 1954 at the famed Cardboard College on Anastasia and continued to the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign in 1958 for his bachelor of architecture. In 1976, he earned a master’s degree in the history of art and architecture from UM.
Hochstim received the Woodrow W. Wilson Award for Outstanding Teaching at the School of Architecture in 1981-82, and in 1978 the Buisson-Hochstim design for Mark Light Stadium received the American Institute of Architects’ Award for Outstanding Concrete Structure in Florida as well as the American Concrete Institute and Florida Concrete and Products Association Award.
He served on the Faculty Senate and various other UM committees as well as the Environmental and Preservation Board of the City of South Miami. He coordinated the Intern Development Program for the Miami Chapter of the American Institute of Architects and served on the City of South Miami Historic Preservation Board. He was dedicated to the advancement of knowledge, the profession, and the careers of the many students he taught.
Hochstim is survived by a brother, Adolf; a son, Richard; and nieces Diana Taylor and Monica Hochstim. A gathering to celebrate Hochstim’s life will be held at the School of Architecture's Jorge M. Perez Architecture Center, Stanley and Jewell Glasgow Lecture Hall, on Friday, December 2 at 4 p.m. A reception will follow. To RSVP visit http://arc.miami.edu/rsvp. In lieu of flowers, donations can be made in Hochstim’s memory to: University of Miami School of Architecture, Materials Lab, P.O. Box 249178, Coral Gables, FL 33124-5010.
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