Many friends were startled to learn that Sarelle Weisberg, FAIA, passed away on 03.29.14. Her levels of energy and enthusiasm, and her very positive outlook on life and its possibilities, were legendary to all who knew her.
I met her in 1960, when we both entered architecture school at Columbia, in the evening program (which no longer exists). Sarelle was taking care of her family, husband Daniel and sons Andrew and Joel, of elementary school age. But that was not enough of a challenge for her.
She became a very stimulating classmate, encouraging others as well as persevering enthusiastically and thoughtfully in her own design work. She produced some excellent projects, and won a William Kinne Fellowship in 1965. Sarelle graduated in 1966 with a B.Arch. degree, which was later converted to an M.Arch. degree when Columbia reorganized its curriculum.
Within a few years, working at the architecture firm Warner Burns Toan Lunde (WBTL), she gained enough experience to take – and pass – the licensing exam. After leaving WBTL, Sarelle became a Public Architect, first at the Port Authority of NY & NJ focusing on airports, then at the NYS Facilities Development Corporation, and lastly at the Bureau of Building Design of the NYC Department of General Services. In the latter two positions, she managed new construction and renovations for public buildings, specializing in libraries.
Soon after becoming a Registered Architect in the early 1970s, Sarelle asked for my endorsement to enable her to join the AIA New York Chapter. I was chair of the Student Affairs Committee, and said I would endorse her if she would join my committee. I was joking, but she followed through! Her first AIA activities focused on organizing architectural tours for high school students and working with architecture students on various aspects of their professional development. We had a grand time visiting architectural offices and construction sites with our troops of high-schoolers. This remained a theme throughout Sarelle’s career, as she continued to develop mentoring programs and acted as personal mentor to numerous architecture students and young professionals.
Sarelle devoted an extraordinary amount of time and effort to AIA, expanding her meaningful activities in multiple capacities within the New York Chapter and New York State organizations. She said more than once that it was like an extended family to her. And she was extremely proud when she was advanced to Fellowship.
Her energy level and enthusiasm for learning never dwindled. In retirement she returned to school to study theater design at Marymount College. She co-authored a book on urban infrastructure and taught the subject at Marymount.
Sarelle’s desire to learn was insatiable. Until the time of her death at age 84 she was studying to take the LEED exam and become certified. She did not expect to use the certification professionally; she simply wanted to learn the information that was necessary to qualify.
She moved to San Francisco in 2009 to be near her son and former husband, and immediately became active in AIA San Francisco, focusing on design for aging, an area of interest she developed while in NYC and which had an influence on the formation of the AIANY Design for Aging Committee.
Sarelle truly considered her AIA involvement an essential and fundamental element of her life. She requested that her FAIA medal be buried with her.
It’s been a great source of enjoyment to know and work with her, and be a member of Sarelle’s extended family.
With many fond memories,
Jerry Maltz, AIA