Town Topics — Princeton's Weekly Community Newspaper Since 1946.
Vol. LXIII, No. 17
 
Wednesday, April 29, 2009
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It’s New to Us by Jean Stratton


DEFINITIVE DESIGN: “I enjoy the diversity of working on a lot of different projects. I’ve always been fascinated by the process. You start with a blank piece of paper, and then sometime later, you can be walking through the building.” Joshua Zinder, AIA, LEED AP, founder and principal of Joshua Zinder Architect + Design, is shown on the Princeton University campus.

Joshua Zinder Architect + Design Is a Full-Service, Multidisciplinary Firm

Growing up, Joshua Zinder lived in “a world of Lego.” He loved building, putting things together, seeing all those magical pieces become a whole.

It cannot be said that Lego alone led him straight to architecture, but it did play a role. The real turning point came in the seventh grade, when he was required to take a course in mechanical drawing.

“I had failed Spanish,” he recalls, “and I took mechanical drawing as a make-up course. It was a transforming event. It gave me something in school that was easy, and it gave me confidence. It gave me the path to success, and it opened my eyes to design.”

Mr. Zinder later earned a bachelor’s degree in architecture from the Syracuse School of Architecture and a master’s degree in advanced architectural design from the Columbia University Graduate School of Architecture.

Project Portfolio

After working with several firms in New York state and New York city, he joined Michael Graves and Associates, and moved to Princeton. Then, in 2006, he opened his own firm, Joshua Zinder Architect + Design LLC (JZA + D). He recently moved to larger quarters at 20 Nassau Street.

In a career that spans 20 years, his professional experience encompasses residential, commercial, and institutional architecture and design. His diverse project portfolio ranges from high-end commercial space to educational facilities, to private homes, to government/municipal facilities, and beyond, including pro bono work.

“In the 20 or so years I’ve been in this work, I’ve done every type of building project for people,” he points out. “Prisons, high-end residential, public housing, schools, museums, and restaurants.

“I’ve been very lucky with all the firms I’ve been with,” he continues. “Michael Graves focused on making design a focal point of our work. One of the things I got from Michael Graves was the idea of complete design. You need to think of a project holistically. You shouldn’t just look at the exterior — you need to consider all parts of the project, including furnishings and furniture, and product design, and in the process, you can help people live heathier lives.

“With the other firms, I learned to become an advocate for my clients. We work on a project, and I want it to be a great design for them. At the end of the project, I go home, and the clients live with it. It has to be right for them.”

It’s a team effort, he adds. “I believe that the clients have ownership of the project, just as the design team has. We all have a part.”

Basic Tenet

Mr. Zinder’s architectural style blends a sound commitment to traditional materials with a dedication to appropriate design, allowing every project to reflect a sense of purpose, place, and context.

“I don’t really have a style,” he explains. “I consider myself a contextualist. It’s a huge challenge to make a project look like it belongs — to the client, the location, and to the building. One of the basic tenets of design is re-use and doing less. It’s about context and appropriateness. The Renaissance architect Leon Batista Alberti said: ‘Beauty is the adjustment of all parts proportionately so that one cannot add or subtract or change without impairing the harmony of the whole.’”

Mr. Zinder is licensed in New Jersey, Nevada, New York, and Pennsylvania, and is also certified by the National Council of Architectural Registration Boards. He is an active member of the American Institute of Architects, and is the recipient of an AIA Easy Access Design award for residential design.

Mr. Zinder’s projects range from New Jersey, to Nevada, to New York, to Washington, D.C., to Singapore. They have included schools and synagogues, hotels and houses, corporate offices and correctional institutions. Remodeling, historical renovation, additions, and new construction have all been part of his work.

Different Challenges

“We recently did a restaurant in Las Vegas for Chef Charlie Trotter, and we also designed the furniture,” says Mr. Zinder. “This is the only restaurant in Las Vegas to have a chef’s table that overlooks the kitchen. We are currently designing another restaurant in Singapore.

“There are different challenges in all of these projects,” he adds, whether it’s remodeling, an addition, or new construction.”

Whatever the project of the moment (which currently include those in design stage, construction drawings, and buildings under construction), he is particularly concerned with the importance of sustainability and the use of environmentally-friendly products. Mr. Zinder is LEED-(Leadership in Environmental and Energy Design) accredited, and his firm belongs to the U.S. Green Building Council.

“As an architect, by being ‘green,’ you can design buildings with passive solar and passive heating and cooling. By encouraging people to update their heating and cooling systems, you can help them achieve substantial changes in efficiency. The materials we select are important; for example, using rapidly renewing resources, like cotton, cork, linoleum, and products that are recycled.

Green Industry

“It’s interesting. People go to the supermarket and read the ingredients in products; but do you know what’s in ceramic tile? There can be products with fresh raw materials or ones that are 50 percent recycled. These are all things to consider.”

He adds that the “green” industry is changing so rapidly, costs are frequently lower than in the past.

Mr. Zinder is proud of another “green” project he had here in Princeton. “I designed a Kiddush table for the Jewish Center, and it was made from the ‘mother’ Princeton elm tree that had survived Dutch elm disease, but later had to be taken down for other reasons. For me, it’s a green story, and it speaks to me of the resilience of the Jewish people.”

He is enthusiastic about his firm’s growth, which now includes four full-time employees and two part-time. He looks forward to continued diversity in his projects, which often involve more than one design job for a client. He is committed always to managing projects from ‘paper to production,’ to excellence, personalized service, and a keen sense of proportion and style.

And he loves architecture so much that he teaches at the New Jersey Institute of Technology, as an adjunct design professor.

“I feel very fortunate about so many things,” he says. “My family, my kids, my work.”

Hours for the firm are Monday through Friday 8:30 a.m. to 6 p.m., and by appointment. (609) 924-5004. Website: www.joshuazinder.com.

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