School of Architecture & Design News
Sep 10 2013
In Memoriam: Michele Bertomen
Michele Bertomen

Our esteemed colleague, Michele Bertomen, passed away on July 27, 2013. She had taught at NYIT since 1981. A practicing architect since the mid-1970s, Michele held a degree in architecture from Cornell University. She also formed the Brooklyn Architects Collaborative with an exceptional group of colleagues. But it is her life and contribution at NYIT that her friends and colleagues would like to address:

We, the faculty of the School of Architecture and Design, had great admiration and respect for Michele Bertomen's energy and erudition in teaching. As one of our key faculty members, she made important contributions to NYIT's studio and technology courses. Going beyond teaching her assigned courses, she constantly invented and pursued research projects that involved NYIT faculty and students in one way or another. Much of her work was interdisciplinary—even before it was a common goal at NYIT goal. Those projects helped demonstrate the tremendous potential that cross-disciplinary pursuit offers.

One of the first projects Michele Bertomen undertook in the early 1990s was a study of transmission towers along the Long Island Expressway. With her students, she documented these towers with elegant drawings that made us aware of their visual power and secret beauty. Her publication of this work was highly celebrated in New York progressive and scholarly circles. Transmission Towers on the Long Island Expressway: A Study of the Language of Form was published by Princeton Architectural Press in 1992. There was also a traveling exhibition of the drawings and models, reviewed by Herbert Muschamp in The New York Times.

A second significant research project in the early 1990s, undertaken with Dr. Paul Koch from the NYIT School of Engineering, was a study of magnetic levitation (mag-lev) transportation systems. The research theorized a Tristate system, centered on New York City, of short connections where public transportation would be needed to access regional systems. Years later, the research team received grant money to study the application of the mag-lev sytem to local transportation within the Nassau Hub development project. This involved collaboration with numerous public agencies including the Regional Plan Association.

In 2002, Michele engaged students in a project to develop a neighborhood in the South Bronx with the Cherry Tree Association, a Casa del Sol community organization. Again, she took students outside the traditional classroom to provide a rich extracurricular program that engaged them in community activism.

Most importantly, and significantly for NYIT, from 2003 to 2005, Michele Bertomen organized a collaborative and interdisciplinary project, a solar-hydrogen home, for the U.S. Department of Energy Solar Decathlon competition. Exhibited on the National Mall in Washington D.C., this innovative house, designed and built by students in NYIT's architecture, engineering, interior design, communication arts and the culinary programs, brought international attention to our university. NYIT came in fifth overall and third in the design category. This marked the beginning of NYIT's research on issues of sustainability in the field of architecture and design. The solar-hydrogen cell home, now located at the Merchant Marine Academy at King's Point, N.Y., is utilized as a research laboratory. A critical force, Michele again collaborated with colleagues and students when NYIT was again selected for the 2007 Solar Decathlon project, also exhibited on the National Mall.

Most recently, Michele was involved with students and junior faculty members in a project called Soda BIB/Home 2D, an economical sheltering system that recycles plastic bottles and pallet waste into shelter. With architecture, engineering, and M.B.A. students, the project won the 2012 Judge's Choice for Runner-Up Award and the 2013 People's Choice Award in the New York State Business Plan Competition Regional Finals. In 2012, the project was a USBGC Impact Award finalist.

For nearly two decades, Michele Bertomen brought her passion and evolving interest in ecology and sustainability to our school, culminating in a new course for the School of Architecture and Design (ARCH 220) and for NYIT, as a whole, as a Core Seminar (IC SS 308). We, the School of Architecture and Design, as an expressed wish of Michele's, intend to ensure that this seminal course will be an important part of her innovative and forward-thinking legacy at NYIT.

In research and scholarship, Michele Bertomen always engaged NYIT faculty and students in a very generous, selfless, and sharing manner. She has brought the School of Architecture and Design and NYIT significant recognition in the design world, academe, and other realms of research.

Finally, in her professional work, which always informed her teaching, she completed her own house in Brooklyn, N.Y. Designed with shipping containers, it has had an immediate and significant impact on the profession. Michele's house was featured on Inhabitat, NPR's Science Friday, CBS New York, NTDTV, CURBed, and Yahoo News.

In closing, we would like to say, that we all miss her very much as will her students and all of the faculty members of the other schools who have come to know and appreciate this very gifted educator and designer.

The Faculty of the School of Architecture and Design
September 4, 2013

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