May 22, 2019

NJ Institute of Technology Names School for Architects

NAMED IN THEIR HONOR: New Jersey Institute of Technology’s College of Architecture and Design has been named for Princeton architects Barbara and J. Robert Hillier, whose recent donation is the largest in the school’s history. The Hilliers also built three versions of the school over the past 45 years.

By Anne Levin

The New Jersey Institute of Technology (NJIT) has named its College of Architecture and Design for Princeton architects J. Robert and Barbara Hillier. Announced Tuesday, May 21, following the Newark school’s undergraduate commencement ceremony, the naming is in recognition of a gift from the Hilliers that represents the largest donation in the school’s history.

J. Robert Hillier, a Town Topics shareholder, declined to reveal the amount of the gift. But he praised the Newark-based NJIT, for which the couple’s firm has built all three versions of its architecture school since 1974.

“They are the top architecture school in the country in terms of return on investment for tuition,” he said Monday. “They are kind of an unknown, but they do a really good job.

The gift will provide support for student scholarships, faculty development, state-of-the-art technology, physical space improvements, and curricular innovation. Most significantly, Hillier said, the donation will be focused on research into the growing use of artificial intelligence (AI) in architecture. The use of technology and AI in architecture has soared in recent years, now spanning all aspects of practice. But there is concern that those who don’t incorporate emerging technologies into practice will get left behind.

“The gift will allow NJIT to do research on how architects can embrace artificial intelligence instead of getting put out of business by it,” Hillier said. “What I’m fearful about is that with AI, you lose the
humanity. So the question is, how do you take this technology and human experience and make them work together?”

The Hilliers are co-founders and principals of Studio Hillier LLC, which is located on Witherspoon Street. Their previous firm, Hillier Architecture, was the third largest strictly architectural firm in the country, according to information from NJIT. The firm counts hospitals, corporate headquarters, universities, independent schools, arts centers, museums, and residences among its projects around the world.

NJIT’s College of Architecture and Design was established as the New Jersey School of Architecture in 1973,  in response to an AIA National Advisory Committee recommendation to build a public school of architecture in Newark, and with approval from the New Jersey State Board of Higher Education. The college was granted accreditation in 1978 and has since expanded its academic and research offerings with undergraduate degree programs in architecture, interior design, digital design, and industrial design, and graduate-level programs in architecture and infrastructure planning.

NJIT awarded J. Robert Hillier an honorary Doctor of Humane Letters in 2017. According to the school’s President Joel S. Bloom,“The Hilliers are icons in the world of architecture, and we are incredibly proud to have this school carry their name. Their involvement with and support of NJIT have been extensive and incredibly valuable over the course of many years, and this gift will have a transformative effect on our students, faculty, and research within the areas of architecture and design.”

Barbara Hillier, who has received several honors for her architectural work including numerous AIA (American Institute of Architects) awards, said of the naming, “I think the leadership at NJIT is very special. They have been looking for ways to enhance the programs they have, not just in architecture, but in other disciplines as well. And they really embrace all of their students and provide them with a very strong education from which to launch their careers.”