01 August 2013

Michele Bertomen, In Tribute

Earlier this week I received news that Michele Bertomen passed away on the evening of Friday July 26, 2013. Michele was a professor of mine throughout my time in architectural school at the New York Institute of Technology (NYIT), starting in 2001, for Design Fundamentals, through my Thesis in 2006.   I am taking time to remember her here since she was such an influence on me throughout this time in my life and since.

Professor Bertomen was tough, frank and often brutally honest, during design critiques she definitely wasn't sugar coating anything, and you couldn't get anything by her, you had to be able to defend your work, no coasting.  I witnessed many students change majors and even drop out partially due to these rough times.  Looking back I realize that she was very passionate about the architecture profession, believing it isn't for the weak of heart, and wanted her students to push themselves and learn for themselves, she would never just tell us an answer or give us a solution.  After-all, how do you know what you can do until you try and, sometimes, fail?

Michele was largely responsible for NYIT's entry into the 2005 Solar Decathlon, of which I was a team member.  This project changed the course of my career as an architect, as I'm sure it did for many of my colleagues.  It was during this time that I first got to know Michele as more than a professor.  She had a passion for thoughtful design, and believed life was meant to be lived and to get things done, not to just let pass by.  I remember her once saying that there will be plenty of time for rest once we die.  These qualities were inspirational and contagious.

After graduation I stayed in touch with Michele, serving as a guest critic for some of her design studios at NYIT, socializing after, and seeing her at some Solar Decathlon team reunions along with her husband David Boyle and dog Zero.  I felt that she was always rooting for me to better myself and grow through my career, offering letters of recommendation, recommending me to teach at NYIT, and offering critiques of my own projects.  Michele was one of the few people I asked to review my first book, "A is for Architecture", before sending it off to be published.  She was always kind to me and asked how my life and career were going.

She recently completed her house in Brooklyn, along with her husband David, and I'm happy that she was able to enjoy it.  This was one of her last projects along with a KickStarter campaign for The SodaBIB Project which she was also passionate about.  These two projects offer a glimpse into how she thought as a designer, what can we do with what we have, with as much positive impact and as little negative impact as possible.  These are some of the values she passed onto her students, myself included.

I will miss Michele, she was an important part of my life, I feel fortunate that I knew her as I did and will always remember her fondly.

Michele with her husband David


12 comments:

  1. Michele bertomen was a horrid bitch and nothing more

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Michele, like all of us, was multidimensional, I am sorry that you never had the opportunity to know her in order to form a more complete opinion. I, along with the countless family members, friends, neighbors, students, and professional colleagues, who attended her memorial celebration think otherwise.

      Delete
    2. Michele Bertomen, Took a Design I Created...Not HER ! sho took it, and put it in the competition for the Entry Way at the Center. ( at te corner facing the field, close to the lower parking lot) She took my work and put her name on it and it WON! and was built. She stole my design. this was right around 1984-85. So all my life I thought of Her,the negative being that stole my Design.... She was not nice!

      Delete
  2. She has always been dead to me.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. we all survive in the memory of the living. while you say she has always been dead to you, the memories you have of her, however bad they may be, keep her alive.

      Delete
  3. Michele Bertomen was a real and passionate person. I meet her in 1981 at NYIT Old Wesbury campus in the formative years of the restructuring of the architecture program there. I have only fond memories of her and the dedication and passion she had for life and living architecture. I wish condolences to her husband David and the rest of the NYIT family.

    ReplyDelete
  4. Thank you eh. Kind words. I hope we met. Wish the failed forever dishwashers could keep silent. Alas, the anonymity of the internet makes them brave.

    ReplyDelete
  5. Michele was and is a great woman, very great. Those who appreciated her are richer for it. It's too bad that some could not. I'll miss her very much. She gave a great deal to me. Thank you to the author of this blog post.

    ReplyDelete
  6. She took my design for the Entry Way to Educational Hall and Stole it....it was built that summer after her class I attended and without my knowledge she took my design and had it built exactly to my drawings and specifications. The Project was to solve a Load issue for the Studios above in the attic area. I approached her and the Dean when I came back that fall and they did nothing but to laugh in my face. Hey to this Day I know and several other people know that I designed the Entry way. All I can say now is that She Must Face St. Peter and Confess before him of her Crime Against Me ! >>> SHE HURT MY LIFE !!!!!!!!!!!!
    May God have Mercy on her Soul............D. Beckmann

    ReplyDelete
  7. I just heard of Michele's passing because I thought of her and googled her name. It has been a long time, but she is the only teacher in my NYIT career that I remember. I am so sad that I did not keep in touch with her.

    I had her for two semester in design and asked her to be my advisor for my thesis. I graduated in 2000, so I did not get to meet you or the team that worked in this decathlon. As soon as I graduated in 2000, I moved to Florida and lost contact with everyone from NYIT.

    All these memories of Michele are coming back and she was definitely an awesome teacher, she was great at weeding out the weak (LOL). My thesis was based in williamsburg, Brooklyn, so its nice to know that she lived in the area and cared so much for the community.

    Darwin Reyes (NYIT, Architecture, Class of 2000)

    ReplyDelete
  8. For anybody interested here is a recently published obituary:

    http://archpaper.com/news/articles.asp?id=7119

    ReplyDelete