Joseph, Wendy Evans
Wendy Evans Joseph
Born c. 1955; daughter of Melvin and Fran Evans; first marriage ended in divorce; married Peter Joseph (a merchant banker; died c. 1998); married Jeffrey V. Ravetch (a scientist), October, 2001; children: Danielle, Nicholas (from second marriage). Education: Graduated summa cum laude from the University of Pennsylvania, 1977; earned architecture degree from Harvard University's Graduate School of Design.
Worked for a Cambridge, Massachusetts, architectural firm, c. 1977-78; with Pei Cobb Freed … Partners, c. 1981-93; founded own firm, Wendy Evans Joseph Architecture, New York City, 1993; president of the New York City chapter of the American Institute of Architects, 1999-2000.
American architect Wendy Evans Joseph has built her professional reputation as a talented designer of museums and other public spaces. She and her eponymous New York City firm have also ventured into the hotel and restaurant sector, most notably with a renovation of a landmark Frank Lloyd Wright office tower in Bartlesville, Oklahoma.
Born in the mid-1950s, Evans Joseph completed her undergraduate education with top honors at the University of Pennsylvania in 1977. She graduated from the school with a major in design, but had originally begun her college career intending to study math and physics. One day, an architecture student happened to walk past her, and glanced at the notebook Evans Joseph had covered with her impressive sketches of the university's buildings, and encouraged her to rethink her chosen major.
After finishing at Penn, Evans Joseph worked for an architectural firm in Cambridge, Massachusetts, for a year before entering Harvard University's Graduate School of Design. Once again, she excelled at her studies, graduating first in her class and winning the coveted Henry Adams Medal from the American Institute of Architects (AIA) at her school for best senior thesis. Her winning proposal involved a design for the entrance to the Portland Museum of Art in Maine, and one of the judges had actually done the new addition, the Charles Ship-man Payson Building, himself. That architect, Henry N. Cobb, was impressed enough to hire Evans Joseph for her first job out of Harvard, at Pei Cobb Freed … Partners, the New York City firm founded by Cobb and his more famous partner, the architect I.M. Pei.
Evans Joseph spent a dozen years with Pei Cobb Freed, seven of them as a senior associate. She was involved in one of the firm's most important projects, the U.S. Holocaust Memorial Museum in Washington, D.C., which opened to the public in 1993. That same year, she also struck out on her own and opened her own practice in New York City, Wendy Evans Joseph Architecture. By then she had wed for the second time, to merchant banker Peter Joseph, with whom she would have two children. But tragedy struck when her husband was diagnosed with cancer, and he died in 1998 at the age of 47.
Evans Joseph was immersed in caring for her ill husband in 1996 when she was contacted by Cathy Bonner, founder and president of a planned Women's Museum in Dallas, Texas. Bonner had just read an article about Evans Joseph's work, and wanted to meet with her about designing the museum building. Evans Joseph's firm had never taken on such a large-scale project to date; moreover, her personal family commitments were considerable at the time. But the Texas museum's board "hung in there until I got my life in order and could focus on their project, " she told Dallas Morning News writer David Dillon. "They didn't even check references. They just had faith that I could figure things out."
The 70, 000-square-foot Women's Museum opened in September of 2000, and in the interview that appeared in the Dallas Morning News with Dillon that same month, Evans Joseph conceded that not everything had been built as she originally hoped. "It was my first solo building, " she noted. "I didn't have this big portfolio of work that enabled me to get my way. All I could do was say maybe this or that might work, and sometimes that wasn't enough." That same year, she was selected to design another museum, the National Jazz Museum in Harlem, the culturally rich historic center of African-American life in New York City.
With her firm's reputation on the rise, Evans Joseph won her first significant hospitality project, for Long Island's Greenporter Hotel and Spa, in the North Fork community of Greenport outside of New York City. Her task was to renovate a vintage 1950s-era motel, and it was a tough one. "Not only was the building old, " she told Rachel Fishman in Hospitality Design, "it hadn't been built all that well in the first place." But Evans Joseph's renovation won a citation on that magazine's annual awards list of notable buildings in 2002.
Evans Joseph's next major commission was also for the hospitality industry, The Inn at Price Tower in Bartlesville, Oklahoma. The new facility was to be located inside a renowned Frank Lloyd Wright building, the Price Tower, a Bartlesville landmark that had fallen into disrepair. Wright was a legendary figure in the world of twentieth-century American architecture, and his 19-story Price Tower was a rare example of only two skyscrapers the master completed during his prolific career. Built in the mid-1950s for the H.C. Price Company, an oil firm, it was originally used as offices and living quarters for company executives. Wright was known for meticulously planning everything about a building, even down to its window treatments, and Evans Joseph borrowed some of those ideas, but adapted them by using contemporary materials. The Inn opened in mid-2002, and the restaurant and 21-room hotel helped provide the financial income for the next stage of the Price Tower renovation, the adjacent Price Tower Arts Center.
Evans Joseph is the past president of the New York chapter of the American Institute of Architects, and she also sits on the advisory boards of the Graduate School of Fine Arts at the University of Pennsylvania and for the Graduate School of Design at Harvard. She is also involved with the American Ballet Theater, a legacy of her second husband's generous support of that institution. She remarried in 2001, to molecular geneticist Jeff Ravetch, whom she met through her work. "I'm used to new clients, so I didn't notice when Jeff decided to 'get the girl' by having me design an observatory, " she told More journalist Julia M. Klein. "He didn't wind up hiring an architect at all—he wound up marrying an architect, which is a lot cheaper."
Evans Joseph and Ravetch live in a Manhattan penthouse with their blended family of four children. They spend a month or two in Italy each summer, a legacy of her year in Italy when she won the AIA Rome Prize in the early 1980s.
Architecture, May 1999, p. 46; May 2000, p. 44; November 2002, p. 17.
BusinessWeek, November 3, 2003, p. 59.
Dallas Morning News, September 22, 2000.
Hospitality Design, November 2002, p. 72.
Interior Design, July 2003, p. 174.
Lodging Hospitality, July 1, 2003, p. 49.
More, December 2003/January 2004, p. 144.
New York Times, June 26, 1998; October 28, 2001; April 24, 2002; October 16, 2003.
Pennsylvania Gazette, November/December 2000.