New Library Acquisitions Show Bond Family Legacy

Special from The Record

Feb. 19, 2010Bookmark and Share

Last year, the Avery Architectural and Fine Arts Library acquired the papers of J. Max Bond Jr., the African American architect and former Columbia professor who died last February at age 73. The documents, which are still being unpacked from 30 boxes, provide a window into the life of this accomplished and barrier-breaking architect of the 20th century.

Max Bond, pictured here in 1980, when he was chair of the architecture division
Max Bond, pictured here in 1980, when he was chair of the architecture division

Bond, a Harvard graduate, became an architect at a time when the profession had few minorities. After working at several prestigious firms, he joined the Graduate School of Architecture, Planning and Preservation as an assistant professor in 1969, ultimately becoming a professor and then chairman from 1980 until 1984.

Although he left the following year to serve as dean of the City College School of Architecture and Environmental Studies, Bond kept his Columbia ties as the partner in charge of the renovation of Columbia’s Audubon Biomedical Science and Technology Park. He was also the architect of record on the University’s current Manhattanville expansion project.

Bond’s papers document his extensive engagement with architecture in New York City and beyond. They detail his involvement with such projects as the Schomburg Centre for Research in Black Culture in Harlem and Martin Luther King Jr.’s memorial in Atlanta, as well as his role as the architect on the museum portion of the National September 11 Memorial and Museum at the World Trade Center.

“Beyond his distinguished design career, Max Bond was widely respected as a dedicated teacher and architectural thinker, a calm and compassionate voice,” says Janet Parks, curator of Drawings and Archives at Avery library. “His papers are a lasting record of his contributions to the social and philosophical process of planning and architecture.” Also included in the collection are architecture critiques written by Bond and catalogs from Bond Ryder and Associates, the firm he founded in 1969 with Donald Ryder and which later became Davis Brody Bond.

Bond is not the only person in his family to have his papers end up at Columbia. Last February, shortly after his death, the papers of his parents, both well-known educators, were donated to Butler Library’s Rare Book and Manuscript Library.

J. Max Bond Sr. was dean of Dillard University in New Orleans in the 1930s and administrator of the Tuskegee Institute in the 1940s; he became president of the University of Liberia in the 1950s and was a vocal supporter of the Civil Rights Movement. “Besides being invested in this movement because it was needed, the Bonds were personally connected, since Julian Bond was Max’s nephew,” said Lea Osborne, processing archivist at the manuscripts library. Julian Bond, a civil rights leader, is chairman of the NAACP and served 20 years in the Georgia Legislature.

Max Bond Sr.’s wife, Ruth Clement Bond, was a women’s rights advocate who was also known for her quilts. She is best remembered for her design of the TVA quilts, which were sewn by the wives of African American men who built dams for the Tennessee Valley Authority in the mid-1930s.

The focus on recording Ruth Clement Bond’s place and importance in the family is uncommon. “Women have been traditionally underrepresented in archives, and African American women even more so,” says Osborne. “I find it very exciting that Ruth Bond is represented in this collection. There are meeting minutes and notes from organizations such as Church Women United, the Women’s Auxiliary Board, the National Council for Negro Women and the National Council of Women. There are also correspondences between Ruth and other family members, as well as diaries of hers from the 1930s.”

The acquisition of the Bond papers puts Columbia in the vanguard of libraries that are working to diversify their archives. “I think that there is a conscious effort on the part of many institutions to have a comprehensive collection,” explains Osborne. “This is not just a change in outlook, mind you. One would hope that a more diverse collection will attract a greater variety of researchers.”

—by Nick Obourn

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