William W. Landsberg, designed LI homes, commercial buildings

This home at 5 Tianderah Rd, Port Washington, This home at 5 Tianderah Rd, Port Washington, N.Y. was designed by architect William Landsberg, who died of heart failure at 98 years old. (Oct. 25, 2013) Photo Credit: Howard Schnapp

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William W. Landsberg, a Bauhaus-influenced architect who designed more than a dozen homes and commercial buildings across Long Island, died Oct. 6 at his home in Port Washington. He was 98.

The cause was heart failure, said his daughter, Nina Bernstein, of Port Washington.

Landsberg homes, many built in the 1950s, shared plane geometry, wood-frame construction and high sensitivity to natural setting, with prominent windows, sliding glass doors and sometimes rock walls made of schist quarried in Glen Cove.

His design for the O.E. McIntyre Plant, built in a Westbury industrial park in 1954, oriented the building to face a grove of tall oaks and featured a long strip of windows and an outdoor dining terrace along its southern facade.

The design drew criticism from owners of neighboring factories who found it jarringly contrasted with their own buildings, but won praise from the men who commissioned it, said Caroline Rob Zaleski, who interviewed Landsberg for her book "Long Island Modernism 1930-1980".

Landsberg "built in a way that would allow people to enjoy living in a wonderful, natural context but with the comforts of modernity," she said.

He and his wife of 70 years, Muriel, who died in 2011, lived in a two-level home he had designed and set halfway up a wooded hill in Port Washington in 1951.

At the bottom of the hill was a brook that ran down to Manhasset Bay and at the top was a dense grove of trees, Bernstein said.

From the home's top floor, where the bedrooms and living area were situated, she said, "You were looking out at a hillside full of trees. It was like living in a treehouse."

Landsberg worked closely with the architect and designer Marcel Breuer, serving as director of design at his firm, Marcel Breuer Architect, from 1948 to 1956.

There, he did the drawings for Breuer's landmark entry in the 1949 Museum of Modern Art "House in the Museum Garden" series, a critical role because Breuer had not been formally trained as an architect, Zaleski said.

"He was the right-hand man of a conceptual genius," she said, translating ideas into buildable plans.

Landsberg was born in Bensonhurst, Brooklyn, in 1915, the youngest of five children. When he was 16, instead of going into the family printing business, he went to Pittsburgh on a scholarship to study architecture at the Carnegie Institute of Technology, now Carnegie-Mellon University. He later studied at Harvard University Graduate School of Design, where Breuer taught.

In World War II, Landsberg designed air bases and served in the 1253rd Engineer Battalion of the 9th Army, taking part in the Battle to Cross the Rhine in March 1945.

Landsberg also worked for firms including Skidmore, Owings and Merrill, Kahn & Jacobs HOK and Edward Durell Stone.

While Landsberg buildings such as the Roslyn Animal Hospital and the Ethical Humanist Society of Garden City survive, along with homes in Freeport, Garden City and Port Washington, many have been demolished, Zaleski said, including two Deer Park houses built for the McIntyre heirs, one of which won House of the Year in 1957 from "Architectural Record."

A gated community of 58 houses was later built on the site, she wrote.

William Landsberg is survived by Bernstein and a son, Mark Landsberg.

A service was held Oct. 9 at The Community Synagogue in Port Washington. Burial was the same day at Beth Moses Cemetery in Pinelawn.

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