Architect and educator Julius Panero dies at 85


Longtime Riverdalian Julius Panero, an architect, interior designer, teacher and author, died on June 6 at an assisted living facility in New Jersey. He was 85 years old.

According to his friends and family, “Julie” was known for his intelligence, creativity and dry sarcastic wit.

He practiced architecture in New York and was a principal in the consulting firm of Panero Zelnik Associates, Architects/Interior Designers, where he worked closely with his lifelong friend and business partner Martin Zelnik for over 45 years.

His modernist work included the Air France terminal at New York’s Kennedy International Airport in 1969 as well as projects for Twin Donuts and the Trailways Bus Company, among other corporate and residential clients. 

His design of his own home in Riverdale in 1959 was a unique blend of the simplicity of the Bauhaus style with naturalistic shingled siding in context with its older neighbors. It was ahead of its time, taking advantage of passive solar energy with large expanses of south-facing glass coupled with an overhanging roof to capture the sun in winter and shade in summer.

He enjoyed the interplay of rich materials like rosewood and marble in many of his projects.

Mr. Panero also enjoyed transforming rural and urban spaces where he lived and worked. He converted an old warehouse in Union City, N.J., into condominium units and a rural ranch house in Blairstown, N.J., into an artist’s living and work space.

Under his hand, a factory building in what was once called the New York fur district became a collaborative art and media office space.

He was a professor of interior design at the Fashion Institute of Technology (FIT) in New York City from 1959 to 1994 and served as the chairperson of the interior design department.

During his 30-plus-year tenure at FIT, he was a revered teacher and mentor to many students. After his retirement he served as an Emeritus faculty member.

Mr. Panero was a graduate of Pratt Institute, where he received a Bachelor of Architecture degree, and Columbia University, where he received a Master’s of Science degree in urban planning.

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