JMZ Architects, Cornell University Martin Y. Tang Welcome Center (2016), Ithaca, New York. photo / David Lamb Photography

Robert Joy

B.Arch. '73

JMZ Architects, Cornell University Martin Y. Tang Welcome Center (2016), Ithaca, New York. photo / David Lamb Photography

Building Community Relations

By Maiko Sein, B.Arch. '23

From joining community boards to founding art projects, architect Robert Joy (B.Arch. '73) fully immersed himself into the communities he designed for throughout his career, as he sought to integrate the community's voice and needs into architectural projects. Joy's approach has shaped his work revitalizing historic buildings in downtowns throughout New York state as well as designing buildings for universities and colleges across the U.S. "Architects and planners shouldn't just come in and do projects. We should become part of the community," he said.

Born and raised in Central New Jersey, Joy remembers narrowing his career interests to law and architecture for a class assignment as a high school sophomore. He ultimately chose to pursue a career in architecture, which he saw as an optimistic profession in which he could help people realize opportunities. He had already developed an interest in photography, which allowed him to express himself artistically, and submitted a portfolio of photographs to Cornell's architecture program, where enrolled in the fall of 1968.

Older man looking at the camera, smiling

Robert Joy, headshot. photo / provided

His fondest memories from his Cornell years include managing the student-run Green Dragon Café. "I think the fact that it's down half a flight of steps rather than up made all the difference," Joy said. "Construction workers felt comfortable sitting there with their hard hats. Professors would sit there with students. Students hanging out, dogs hanging out. It was just a wonderful thing." This sense of inclusivity is something he recreated for others throughout his career.

Joy centered his undergraduate thesis on the campus of Silver Bay Association (also known as the Silver Bay YMCA Conference and Family Retreat Center) near Lake George in New York. Silver Bay's campus is a part of the National Register of Historic Places and includes 65 buildings. Since Joy was young, he had spent many summers with his family at Silver Bay, where he worked as a summer employee. After graduating from Cornell in 1972, Joy was invited to join the Silver Bay Board of Trustees, and work with architect Gil Barker to publish his thesis and have it adopted as the Silver Bay Association's official master plan. Together, Joy and Barker revitalized many buildings on the campus, including the Memorial Chapel and the auditorium. For Joy, Silver Bay became a learning ground for historical renovation. After opening his practice JMZ Architects in Glens Falls in 1997, Joy took on projects dealing with historic renovation, including the renovation of Glens Falls City Hall. 

As the firm grew, JMZ Architects became known for its architecture and planning for community colleges and state schools throughout the U.S. Of the 30 community colleges in New York State, Joy has worked with 26, including Tompkins Cortland Community College, where Joy helped with the campus's master plan and the designs for the athletic complex (2003).

"I really enjoyed the community college sector because of the students," Joy said. "Most were first-generation students. Many worked part-time, and many were juggling families."

Coming full circle, Joy worked with Cornell in 2016 when his firm renovated the Martin Y. Tang Welcome Center, located less than one mile from Sibley Hall, where he first studied architecture. Joy also worked with Cornell's Department of Communication in 2013 to transform the fourth floor of Mann Library into offices and meeting spaces for the department. In the redesign, all hallways lead to The Hub, a central space that prompts interaction and collaboration, perhaps akin to the Green Dragon Café during Joy's time at Cornell.

"It's a place where everybody hangs out," Joy said. Faculty members and graduate students alike "have a home there." Joy involved the Cornell community in the design process, conducting many design charettes with the faculty. For Joy, it was a meaningful project that enabled him to work with faculty in a completely different way on a building he had been in hundreds of times as a student.

Front entrance to the Cornell welcome center

JMZ Architects, Cornell University Martin Y. Tang Welcome Center (2016), exterior view, entrance, Ithaca, New York. photo / David Lamb Photography

Joy's commitment to community benefits not only the clients he serves but his employees as well. JMZ architects, for example, has become a women-owned business enterprise, and in 2009, ZweigWhite named it a "Best Architecture Firm to Work For." Joy has mentored younger architects, advising them, "If there is ever a conflict between your client's needs or goals and your own, you have to side with the client, and if there is ever a conflict between your client's needs and society's needs or interests, you have to side with society."

Joy currently serves on the Cornell University Council (CUC) and has funded the Priscilla and Robert Joy While in Rome Photography Prize for students who attend the Cornell in Rome program. He has also been an active community member in Glens Falls, where his architecture firm is located, serving as a director to the Lake George Arts Project and the Glens Falls Symphony Orchestra Board. In 2015, Joy received the Glens Falls 26th J. Walter Juckett Community Service Award.

Retired in 2017, Joy spends his time going back to what he loves — photography. He has photographed for Save the Chimps, a nonprofit organization based in Florida that provides a sanctuary for rescued chimpanzees. Now in his third term on the CUC, Joy said he hopes that Cornell "will continue to provide an institution and opportunity that really trains the next generation of leaders in the field of architecture around the globe."

Projects


Cornell Mann Library Fourth Floor Renovation (2013)

Lobby and welcome desk

JMZ Architects, interior view, lobby, 19,000-square-foot space, Ithaca, New York. photo / David Lamb Photography

Lobby

Round white tables and chairs spread out in a light-filled room

JMZ Architects, interior view, The Hub, 19,000-square-foot space, Ithaca, New York. photo / David Lamb Photography

The Hub

A group of students sit at a high table.

JMZ Architects, interior view, "Words of Communication" magnetic poetry wall in The Hub, 19,000-square-foot space, Ithaca, New York. photo / David Lamb Photography

"Words of Communication" wall

Mann Library renovation redesigned areas

JMZ Architects, interior view, collage including The Hub, The Shoreline, and glass box meeting rooms, 19,000-square-foot space, Ithaca, New York. photo / David Lamb Photography

Fourth floor rooms and hallways

Mann Library renovation floor plans

JMZ Architects, floor plan and renderings, 19,000-square-foot space, Ithaca, New York.

Floor plan and renderings


Cornell Martin Y. Tang Welcome Center (2016)

Exterior view of Welcome Center's main entrance

JMZ Architects, exterior view, entrance, Ithaca, New York. photo / David Lamb Photography

Entrance

Lobby with cushy red chairs

JMZ Architects, interior view, lobby, Ithaca, New York. photo / David Lamb Photography

Lobby

Lounge with gray couches, gray chairs, and red chairs

JMZ Architects, interior view, lobby, Ithaca, New York. photo / David Lamb Photography

Lobby

Posters and displays showcase Cornell's research and programs.

JMZ Architects, interior view, lobby, Ithaca, New York. photo / David Lamb Photography

Lobby

Wooden terrace overlooking flowers and greenery

JMZ Architects, exterior view, rear terrace, Ithaca, New York. photo / David Lamb Photography

Rear terrace


Mohawk Valley Community College Rome Campus Expansion (2015)

Buildering exterior at night

JMZ Architects, John D. Plumley Complex, exterior view, new west addition and entrance, Rome, New York. photo / David Lamb Photography

Plumley Complex, exterior view

Building interior, view of first floor hallway and stairs, and second floor

JMZ Architects, John D. Plumley Complex, interior view, sun-lit atrium, Rome, New York. photo / David Lamb Photography

Plumley Complex atrium

Computer lab inside library

JMZ Architects, John D. Plumley Complex, interior view, computer lab and library stacks, Rome, New York. photo / David Lamb Photography

Plumley Complex computer lab

Meeting tables in room with a wall of windows

JMZ Architects, John D. Plumley Complex, interior view, Rome, New York. photo / David Lamb Photography

Plumley Complex interior view

Collage of images of MVCC building exterior and kitchen with chefs

JMZ Architects, John D. Plumley Complex, photo collage showing culinary labs and exterior view of new east addition, Rome, New York. photo / David Lamb Photography

Plumley Complex culinary labs and east addition

MVCC building plan

JMZ Architects, John D. Plumley Complex, expansion rendering, Rome, New York.

Plumley Complex expansion rendering


SUNY Adirondack Campus Expansion (2018)

SUNY Adirondack building exterior

JMZ Architects, Adirondack Hall, exterior view, entrance, Queensbury, New York. photo / Randall Perry Photography

Adirondack Hall entrance

SUNY Adirondack building exterior, side view

JMZ Architects, Adirondack Hall, exterior view, Queensbury, New York. photo / Randall Perry Photography

Adirondack Hall exterior view

Collage of images of SUNY Adirondack classrooms and hallways

JMZ Architects, Adirondack Hall, interior views, photo collage showing science classrooms and hallways, Queensbury, New York. photo / Randall Perry Photography

Adirondack Hall interior views

Inside a classroom with bright blue chairs and lime green walls with white trim

JMZ Architects, Adirondack Hall, interior view, nursing classroom, Queensbury, New York. photo / Randall Perry Photography

Adirondack Hall nursing classroom

Inside a classroom with bright blue chairs and floor-to-ceiling windows

JMZ Architects, Adirondack Hall, interior view, classroom, Queensbury, New York. photo / Randall Perry Photography

Adirondack Hall classroom


Tompkins Cortland Community College Collegiate Sports Center (2003)

TC3 building exterior

JMZ Architects, exterior view, 80,000-square-foot building, Dryden, New York. photo / Roger William Photography

Exterior view

Brightly lit hallway

JMZ Architects, interior view, two-story grand hall, 80,000-square-foot building, Dryden, New York. photo / Roger William Photography

Grand hall

Open stairway

JMZ Architects, interior view, grand hall staircase, 80,000-square-foot building, Dryden, New York. photo / Roger William Photography

Grand hall staircase

Brightly lit room with large windows and woman sitting on a yoga mat

JMZ Architects, interior view, studio, 80,000-square-foot building, Dryden, New York. photo / Roger William Photography

Studio


Selected Photography

View of Baxter Mountain on a sunny day

Baxter Mountain, Adirondacks (2020).

Baxter Mountain, Adirondacks (2020)

Blue-tinted scene shows a swan in a body water with trees in the backdrop

White Pelican, Grand Harbor (2021).

White Pelican, Grand Harbor (2021)

A boat sits on a beach after sunset

Vineyard Haven (2019).

Vineyard Haven (2019)

Buildings overlooking water

Bruges (2017).

Bruges (2017)

A man plays a long woodwind instrument made of a natural material

Man in Barcelona (2010).

Man in Barcelona (2010)

An older man with a mostly white bead looks into the camera

Man in Key West (2019).

Man in Key West (2019)

A large water bird holds a fish in its mouth while perching on a rock in front of water

Anhinga and fish, Grand Harbor (2020).

Anhinga and fish, Grand Harbor (2020)


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