In Memory of Friend and collegaue Gerald B. Olanoff

By Francoise Bollack

From Jan. 1996, AIA Newsletter, p. 20

On October 22, New York architect Jerry Olanoff, AIA, died of AIDS at age 42, with his partner of 20 years, Ron Csuha, at his side. Olanoff, who received his master's degree in architecture from Columbia University, had joined Davis, Brody & Associates in 1979, where he participated in the renovation of the Brooklyn Botanic Garden and the old Bird House at the Bronx Zoo. Olanoff's admiration for Charles Moore was evident in his private work on houses on Fire Island, in Massachusetts, and in residential renovations in Manhattan.

In 1984, Jerry helped found the Lesbian and Gay Community Services Center, setting up an advisory architectural committee to develop a master plan for renovation and expansion of the center at 202 West 13th Street. He nurtured various projects, including the award-winning facade restoration completed in 1991. For those who knew Jerry, including this writer, it is particularly sad that he will not see the realization of the center's renovation, scheduled to begin construction this year--the result of his committed and lucid guidance.

At a memorial service held at the center after his death, family and friends recalled his sartorial mannerisms, the Groucho Marx-like lift of his eyebrows, his occasional crotchetiness, and his marvelous curiosity. All rembmered his courage in dealing with AIDS and his refusal to be shut in by his illness.

Two years ago, Olanoff spoke with David Dunlap about AIDS and the practice of architecture for an article in The New York Times: "I've been thinking about artistic legacies. With lots of gay artists who have died of AIDS, the family has come in and thrown the stuff out. But one does not keep a finished building in a drawer in an apartment. Part of my sense of accomplishment is that there are tangible results."

 Return to Columbia AIDS Memorial List