When Jan Hochstim and his parents fled their native Poland during World War II and were forced by the Soviets to live in Siberia, Hochstim experienced enough deprivation, starvation and cold to never forget what a priceless gift life is. Had the family not been able to flee to Uzbekistan before immigrating to America they surely would have died at the hands of the Nazis. Renowned modernist architect, esteemed professor, distinguished author, beloved father and friend Jan Hochstim, passed away peacefully on November 5 at 80 years of age.
Beyond the seemingly interminable list of accolades, awards, and distinction Hochstim earned during his multiple decades of academic service at the University of Miami’s School of Architecture and as a practicing architect, he stood out among friends and colleagues as an accessible, humble and unassuming gentleman.
“He was the best father around, my friends used to tell me all the time, ‘gosh, I wish I had your dad’ and it was because he was a very gentle and kind man, one in a million really. He was morally fair with great integrity,” said son Richard Hochstim.
Old friend and colleague UM Architecture Professor Aristides Millas says Hochstim was larger than life. “He was a sincere man of immense character, never showed his disappointment, completely devoted to family and friends, and full of tireless energy. He was a true icon and a very dear friend.”
Millas says that although Hochstim was a modern architect he respected historic buildings and fought preservation battles in the trenches, serving for many years on both the Historic Preservation Board and the Environmental Review and Preservation Board.
As a professor Hochstim was known as tough and demanding. His classes on the rudiments of architecture, studio courses, and modern architectural movement’s lectures were no easy A’s. “Jan was a strict professor, he really pushed us in the creative realm but also instilled a discipline and focus to match the artistic with the realistic,” said partner and former student hired by Hochstim on the day he graduated, Adam Krantz.
Krantz says that Hochstim-Krantz Architects made a name for themselves as the guys who refused to build Mcmansions. “Not every house in South Florida needs to be painted pink with clay tiles and archways that make it look like a Taco Bell. Modernism is about what is best suited for a subtropical American town verses a hillside in Italy. We were pretty successful with an audience of clients who found us and were sympathetic. We were very proud of that and I continue to be, it is part of his legacy.”
In 2006 Hochstim was interviewed by Sarasota Herald-Tribune editor Harold Bubil on his book “Florida Modern: Residential Architecture 1945-1970.” Hochstim said at the time: “my whole theme behind my book was sensibility verses style—that the designs of buildings by the modernist pioneers were done on a sensible basis not on a stylistic basis. They were not trying to use form as an expression of beauty itself; it was a result of the way you organize the spaces, the way you organize your life, the way the construction manner dictated and to make it inexpensive.”
The original Mark Light Stadium at UM, the Coral Gables Swensen property, the 1984 remodeling of the School of Architecture at UM, Larkin Hospital modifications and South Miami Gymnastics are just a few of the many area projects Hochstim has been involved with in the community.
However both his son Richard Hochstim and business partner Adam Krantz believe his greatest accomplishment in life was his quiet nobility and steadfast drive to give back to the world for the priceless gift of life. “He was a real human being, a true mensch,” said Richard Hochstim. Hochstim is survived by a brother, Adolf; son Richard; and nieces Diana Taylor and Monica Hoochstim.
A gathering to celebrate his life will be held in the School of Architecture’s courtyard on December 2 at 4 p.m., 1225 Dickinson Drive, University of Miami Coral Gables Campus.