Paul S. Byard


Died July 15, 2008

College: Saybrook

Widow: Mrs. Rosalie Warren Byard
50 Plaza Street East
apartment 10D
Brooklyn, NY 11238-5077
Children: Joshua; Eliza

Paul Byard died at home in Brooklyn on July 15, 2008, of cancer. He was a partner in the New York City architectural firm of Platt Byard Dovell White and Director of the Historic Preservation Program in the Columbia University Graduate School of Architecture, Planning and Preservation. He was my husband, the father of our two children, Eliza and Joshua, and the grandfather of their two daughters. Anyone who knew Paul’s characteristic brio will appreciate the trajectory of his multifaceted career.

After Yale, Paul was off to Clare College, Cambridge, as a Mellon Fellow— taking a degree in French, studying viola at the Fontainbleau Conservatory, and, as at Yale, acquiring friendships that became life-long. He returned to earn a 1966 Harvard L.L.B. We were married in 1965 and our children were born in 1968 and 1971. Paul practiced law for almost a decade: at Winthrop, Stimson, Putnam and Roberts, as counsel to the New York State Urban Development Corporation and in private practice. The UDC stoked Paul’s already passionate interest in architecture, emboldening a radical career leap: he became a practicing architect, with a degree in 1977 from the Columbia Graduate School of Architecture and Planning.

Starting out at James Stewart Polshek & Associates, Paul was made a partner in 1981. In 1988 he joined Charles A. Platt in the firm that is now Platt Byard Dovell White. His involvement in myriad projects and master plans with significant old buildings included the renovations of Carnegie Hall, the Courthouse of the Appellate Division of the State Supreme Court and the New-York Historical Society. He helped design such contemporary buildings as the New 42nd Street Studios, the Chanel 57 building in New York, and a mausoleum and columbarium at Green-Wood Cemetery in Brooklyn.

Paul’s gift for expressive language led to numerous publications about architecture and to his being an eloquent speaker, advocate and teacher in the field. As an architect who had practiced law, he was an invaluable board member of civic organizations concerned with architecture and historic preservation. He served as president of the Architectural League of New York and was made a Fellow of the American Institute of Architects.

For Paul, “preservation” was about architecture, not embalming the past. At Columbia, he instituted a joint studio where architects and preservationists worked together on innovative projects. His book “The Architecture of Additions: Design and Regulation” (W. W. Norton, 1998) explored with originality how new architecture could be added to significant old buildings in the creation of a “combined work.” At his death, he was writing a manifesto about the vital public interest in preserving past architectural “meaning.”

Paul wore several hats professionally. Two from his personal life hung in our second home in Maine: a Yale “undefeated” cap from the 25th reunion, to be worn sailing, and his base drummer’s hat from the uniform of the Vinalhaven Town Band, his favorite gig. He would have reveled in the landmark occasion of his Yale 50th.

— by Rosalie Warren Byard


Paul Spencer Byard, a land-use lawyer who returned to school in his late 30s to be an architect and who became an important figure in the renovation of some of New York’s most prominent landmarks, died on Tuesday (July 17, 2008) at his home in Prospect Heights, Brooklyn. He was 68.

The cause was cancer, said Charles A. Platt, a partner of Mr. Byard’s in Platt Byard Dovell White Architects of Manhattan.

Mr. Byard was one of very few people – perhaps the only one – whose resume included both the elite law firm Winthrop, Stimson, Putnam & Roberts and the high-profile architectural firm James Stewart Polshek & Partners.

As an architect, he worked on the renovations of Carnegie Hall, the Cooper Union Foundation Building, the State Supreme Court’s Appellate Division Courthouse on Madison Square and the old Custom House on Bowling Green.

Among the purely contemporary buildings he helped design were the New 42nd Street Studios, at 229 West 42nd Street; the Chanel 57 building, at 15 East 57th Street; and a mausoleum and columbarium at the Green-Wood Cemetery in Brooklyn.

Mr. Byard’s last big project in Manhattan was the renovation of the New-York Historical Society building on Central Park West, which was to have been accompanied by a new 23-story apartment tower. Preservationists and neighborhood groups were vehemently opposed to that part of the plan, and the tower proposal was dropped this month.

In person, Mr. Byard was the embodiment of a preservation-minded professional: a graduate of three Ivy League schools and of Cambridge University, a vestryman of Trinity Church, unfailingly dapper, with a broad chin perpetually set at a jaunty angle and a patrician mid-Atlantic accent.

But he did not view preservation as a matter of casting the past in amber, unaltered.

“Every act of preservation is inescapably an act of renewal by the light of a later time, a set of decisions both about what we think something was and about what we want it to be and to say about ourselves today,” he wrote in his book “The Architecture of Additions: Design and Regulation” (W.W. Norton, 1998).

Mr. Byard was born Aug. 30, 1939, in New York. His father, Spencer Byard, was a lawyer who was active in the affairs of Trinity Church, the Episcopal landmark at the head of Wall Street, and in the New York Society Library, New York’s oldest library. His mother, Margaret Mather Byard, was a Scottish immigrant who taught English at the School of General Studies at Columbia.

Mr. Byard graduated from Yale College in 1961. He received degrees from Clare College, Cambridge, and from Harvard Law School. In 1966, he began a three-year stint at Winthrop, Stimson.

In 1965, Mr. Byard married Rosalie Starr Warren of Bernardsville, N.J. She survives him, as do his sister, Margaret Byard Stearns of Kent, Conn.; a daughter, Eliza Starr Byard of Brooklyn; a son, Joshua Spencer Byard of Bloomfield, N.J.; and two granddaughters.

His legal career ran through 1977, as general counsel to the Roosevelt Island Development Corporation, as associate counsel to the New York State Urban Development Corporation and as a private practitioner.

Peg Breen, the president of the New York Landmarks Conservancy, credited Mr. Byard with devising a novel preservation-financing method that involved a revolving loan fund using proceeds from the residential conversion of the Federal Archives Building in Greenwich Village. “That was his vision because of his unique skills as a lawyer and architect,” she said.

The Graduate School of Architecture and Planning at Columbia awarded Mr. Byard an architectural degree in 1977, and he joined the firm of James Stewart Polshek & Associates (later James Stewart Polshek & Partners), becoming a partner in 1981.

At the Polshek firm, he worked on the renovations of Carnegie Hall, the former United States Custom House and the Villard Houses, on Madison Avenue, between 50th and 51st Streets.

Mr. Byard joined Charles A. Platt Partners in 1989, at which time the firm became Platt & Byard, Architects. Ray H. Dovell joined in 1990, and the firm’s name was adjusted accordingly, as it was again in 2002 with the arrival of Samuel G. White.

The firm proposed enlarging the historical society’s Central Park West entrance to overcome what Mr. Byard likened to the appearance of a private club. “The front entrance is so tiny,” he said in 2006. “It’s as if they expected no one to come in there.”

In addition to maintaining his architectural practice, Mr. Byard directed the historic preservation program at Columbia from 1998 until this year. He created a joint third-year studio and workshop for architecture and preservation students. Mr. Byard was also working on another book, tentatively titled, “Why Save This Building? The Public Interest in Architectural Meaning.”

On Tuesday, Mr. Platt said, “I think it disappointed him the most – at the end – that he couldn’t finish it.”