Early life and Education
Iris S. Alex was born in New York, NY, in 1926. She attended Brooklyn College, earning a B.Arch in 1947. Alex later attended the Institute of Design at the Illinois Institute of Technology, graduating in 1950. She also held an M.A. in Urban Planning from New York University.
Career in Architecture
- 1950-56: Varied experience in Chicago and New York offices: hospitals, industrial, residential, store buildings, interior design and urban planning
- 1956-69: Skidmore, Owings and Merrill, New York. Assistant Job Captain (began as draftsman). Supervision of draftsmen, coordination with engineers, field supervision. Worked on diversified projects from design and working drawings through shop drawings and construction stage.
- 1969: Klein and Kolbe, Architects. Chief of Production, Project Manager. Office interiors, institutional, commercial buildings.
- 1970-1981: National Board of the YWCA, NYC National Architect. Originated and Administered building advisory service for nationwide network of 650 YWCA-owned buildings.
- 1981: State of New York Facilities Development Corporation, New York, NY Development Administrator: administration of architectural and engineering projects for NY State psychiatric and developmental centers.
Alex’s contributions to the profession have been in communication, standards, and client education. Her 20 years of experience as an architect with such firms as Skidmore, Owings & Merrill, combined with her life-long interest in social welfare, have given her the unique ability to mediate between architect and client.
As the first national architectural advisor for the YWCA (which commissions an average of $10,000,000 worth of new buildings and renovations annually), she set up procedures and guidelines to help YWCA building committees in their dealings with project architects. Unable to fulfill the growing demands for consultation, and aware that both agency people and architects needed guidelines for identifying, clarifying and pursuing building needs, she wrote the book. Her two-volume handbook, A Building Manual for the YWCA, has filled its need so well that not only the YWCA but many other building-centered social welfare agencies have relied on it since its publication in 1978.
As consultant on buildings to the national board of the YWCA from 1970 to 1981 she created a consulting process that expedites the accomplishment of building projects by educating building committees in their responsibilities for a successful project, and by providing locally-hired architects with a knowledgeable and interested client backed up by a national supporting service of advice, design review, and standard setting.
As a member of the Task Force on Buildings of the National Assembly of National Voluntary Health and Social Welfare Organizations, she initiated and collaborated on several projects with representatives of other building-centered national agencies: YMCA, Goodwill Industries, Salvation Army, Boy Scouts, Boys Clubs of America, Jewish Welfare Board, Girl Scouts, Girls’ Clubs, Junior Achievement, etc., which commission several hundred building projects annually.
The most significant of these projects was a training program in energy management, funded by the Exxon Corporation. The Task Force produced an educational slide/tape featuring the Hartford, CT, YWCA building’s energy conservation program, a manual written specifically for agency buildings, and ran 30 regional workshops across the country using specifically designed tools to train building personnel to reduce fuel and electricity costs.
Another significant project of the Task Force was a multiple-agency survey of swimming pool design characteristics and their suitability for program use. Recommendations from this survey were published in a chapter on “Agency Pools” in the 4th ed. of Swimming Pools, A Guide to Their Planning, Design, and Operation. As a member of the national AIA Committee on Architecture for the Arts and Recreation for five years, she contributed her expertise in recreation and aquatic facilities design to the profession by chairing the subcommittee that reviewed the pages on sports, games, and swimming pools for the Seventh Edition of Architectural Graphic Standards.
Major Buildings and Projects
- Macy’s, Queens, New York City, 1967
- Mary Imogene Bassett Hospital Addition, Cooperstown, NY, 1969
- Butterick/Vogue Pattern Co., New York City, 1973
- Steelcase Showroom, New York City, 1973
- Christian Science Reading Room, New York City, 1969
- Member: Task Force on Buildings of the National Assembly of National Voluntary Health and Social Welfare Organizations
- Consultant: the National Board of the YWCA from 1970 to 1981
- Chair: Housing and Real Estate Committee, NY
- Trustee: Beekman/Downtown Hospital
- Visiting Critic: design studios at the University of Pennsylvania and at Pratt Institute