Corrections or additions?

This article was prepared by Nicole Plett for the September 26,

2001 edition of U.S. 1 Newspaper. All rights reserved.

Reflections of a Father

Like father, like son, used to be a familiar catch

phrase. But where Cody Eckert and her father, the late Nicholas

Eckert,

are concerned, "Like father, like daughter" is closest to

the mark.

Cody A. Eckert, architect, artist, principal of Cody Eckert &

Associates

on Clarksville Road, will host a one-evening exhibit of

"Reflections

of Zermatt" in memory of her father Nicholas G. Eckert, at Tre

Piani Restaurant in Forrestal Village on Friday, September 28.

The exhibit is a family affair in which architect Cody pays tribute

to her father, a well-known, award-winning architect, and introduces

guests to her firm’s recent and ongoing projects. Nicholas Eckert,

who died last year at age 79, was a principal of the firm Eckert,

Morton, Russo, and Maggio Architects, (now Morton Russo Maggio) in

North Brunswick.

Eckert was also a licensed private pilot and an avid skier who spent

considerable time, during 20 post-retirement years, in Zermatt,

Switzerland.

His special love for the Swiss Alps, in particular the magnificent

Matterhorn peak, inspired his daughter’s painting series,

"Reflections

of Zermatt," based on her memories of the beauty spot.

"This event has turned into something so massive," says Cody

Eckert, with passion, in an interview from her Princeton Junction

office. "I think this is both because of the show’s concept, and

because of what’s happened with the terrorists, too. It has increased

the meaning of it." Among her father’s accomplishments was his

health and vitality. "He skied every day. He never had a sick

day in his life, not until the last two years."

According to her father’s wishes, his ashes were scattered over the

Matterhorn. "The family went over for that, but his many friends

and colleagues could not," says Cody. Returning from Switzerland,

she devised the idea of taking time to create a painting series based

on her fond memories of the region, and also to organize a tribute

event that friends and family could share.

Nicholas Eckert was born in New Brunswick. "He was

an artist in the sense that he was a great musician, a trumpet player,

and once led the Louisiana State University band," says Cody.

He was also a sculptor, and served as a captain in the U.S. Army.

After LSU, Eckert studied at the Chicago Institute of Design under

the famous architect, color theorist, and former director of the

Bauhaus

in Germany, Walter Gropius.

"He and my uncle Charlie were builders before my father started

his architectural firm," says Cody. "He designed and built

our family home, a single-story, Frank Lloyd Wright-style house. It

was all glass, floor to ceiling; every house seemed dark to me after

that. My father also designed and built all the furniture in our home.

He even designed and built our cribs," says his daughter.

"Later

he gave it all away — and I wish he hadn’t."

Cody Eckert’s mother, Ruth Cody Eckert (who also calls herself Cody),

is well known to many of her firm’s clients. She came to work in her

daughter’s office in the mid-1980s, two or three years after she

started

the business, and stayed for close to a decade.

"She was afraid at first," says Cody, "but I told her

we’d learn together. And we did." Ruth Eckert managed the office,

and took care of reception and bookkeeping. She, too, was a licensed

pilot. Now retired and living in the Rossmoor community, Ruth Eckert

heads the Hangar Flying Club, a group of World War II and private

pilots, most of them now retired. "We chose the name because most

of our planes stay in the hangar now," she says.

Ruth Cody Eckert also takes particular pride in her colorful family

background. Buffalo Bill Cody — or William F. Cody known as

Buffalo

Bill Cody, as she prefers to call him — was her great, great

uncle.

"Every first daughter in the family is traditionally named

Cody,"

explains daughter Cody. Her younger sister, Janis Eckert, is director

of global resources at Ernst and Young.

Nicholas Eckert’s firm took commissions all over the state of New

Jersey. During the baby boom 1960s, there was a great demand for

schools,

which became one of the firm’s specialties. His projects include East

Brunswick Vocational School, the JFK Hospital in Edison, Middlesex

County College, and his firm’s three South Brunswick office buildings

that are something of a landmark on Route 130. "They have redwood

veneer and a signature blue window trim that became known as `Eckert

Blue,’" says Cody.

Now Cody Eckert’s firm has become known for its artistic approach

and use of color in its buildings.

Cody Eckert began her education in architecture in 1978 and

established

her firm in 1983. She graduated from Syracuse University with a

bachelor

of architecture degree and a bachelor’s degree in fine arts in

interior

design. Before attending Syracuse, she attended the Philadelphia

College

of Art studying art and environmental design. She has also studied

privately with the artist Vincent Ceglia and painter and illustrator

William A. Smith. Eckert says her travel throughout the United States

and Europe has inspired her to paint. She has had solo shows of art

work in many media.

"In the past, I was shocked to learn that most architecture was

devoid of color," she says. "During a certain period it was

even fashionable to create what was known as `white architecture.’

And I thought, We have such a wide range of color in life, why are

we not using it in our building? This became an issue for me, one

I wanted to follow and study.

"I started utilizing my background and studies in art to draw

on what I knew about color, and how color can create certain feelings

of space and mood. When I use color in my building, it is always an

analytical application, never a form of decoration," she says.

When her firm took on the design of the region’s first

freestanding hospice, Cody’s research indicated widespread use of

green walls in hospitals in the past. "I learned that hospitals

used green walls because green brought out the red pigment in the

skin and made the patients look healthier," she says. "So

I also used green in my building, but I used a little nicer, paler

green."

"This is not a sales show, it’s a celebration of my father’s new

life, but there will be things for sale there, including photographs

of paintings as mementos," says Eckert. But while she had

previously

announced that a portion of proceeds would be donated to the Amyloid

Fund (fighting the disease from which her father died), she has now

chosen a charity that will support survivors of those who gave their

lives in the September 11 terrorist attacks.

Two recent completed projects by Cody Eckert & Associates are the

Children’s Home Society of New Jersey headquarters, a

50,000-square-foot

office facility in the Roebling Market, and the $40 million Sovereign

Bank Arena, both in Trenton.

In mid-September, Eckert’s firm, in association with Gwathmey Siegel

Associates of New York, was awarded the design of the new $60 million

Campus Center and Academic Building for the NJIT Campus in Newark.

This project is currently in the construction documents phase and

is being designed to become the major focal point of the campus.

Subsequently,

NJIT added two additional building renovations to the scope of the

project, the renovation of Eberhardt and Cullimore Halls, currently

reflecting a total budget of $75 million. The new contracts mean that

Cody’s eight-person office is also seeking new employees.

— Nicole Plett

Reflections of Zermatt , Cody A. Eckert, Tre Piani

Ristorante, Forrestal Village, 609-452-1515. Reservations recommended.

Friday, September 28, 5 p.m.


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