Avery Drawings & Archives Collections
 

Robert Allan Jacobs papers, 1890s-1990s, bulk 1909-1983

Summary Information

Abstract

Robert Allan Jacobs (1905-1993) was an American architect and designer active in the United States from the 1930s until his retirement in the early 1980s. His work consists primarily of commercial projects, including numerous skyscrapers in New York City, along with a richly varied corpus of other institutional, residential, and commercial projects--primarily centered in New York City and its surrounding suburbs but ranging as far afield as South Africa and the Dominican Republic. The son of the notable Beaux-Arts architect Harry Allan Jacobs, Robert Allan Jacobs was educated at Amherst College and the Columbia University School of Architecture. Jacobs began his career as a disciple of Le Corbusier, went on to serve as a designer and draftsman for Harrison & Fouilhoux, and then formed a partnership with Ely Jacques Kahn in 1941--thus commencing three decades of pioneering collaborative design work that would leave an indelible mark on the Manhattan skyline. Together, Kahn & Jacobs made their debut with the Municipal Asphalt Plant in 1941 and went on to design such iconic projects as 100 Park Avenue (1944), the Universal Pictures Building (1947), 1407 Broadway (1950), 425 Park Avenue (1957), the Seagram Building (in collaboration with Mies van der Rohe and Philip Johnson, 1958), the Astor Plaza Building (in collaboration with Carson & Lundin, 1961), the New York Telephone Building (1969), and One Astor Place (1970).

At a Glance

Bib ID 12473331 View CLIO record
Creator(s) Jacobs, Robert Allan ; Jacobs, Harry Allan, 1872-1932
Title Robert Allan Jacobs papers, 1890s-1990s, bulk 1909-1983
Physical Description 34.5 manuscript boxes; 19 print boxes; 2 boxes (Card Storage-File Boxes)
Language(s) English
Access

This collection is available for use by appointment in the Department of Drawings & Archives, Avery Architectural and Fine Arts Library, Columbia University. For further information and to make an appointment, please email avery-drawings@library.columbia.edu.

Arrangement

Arrangement

This collection is made up of six series: Series I: Project Photographs, Series II: Office Records, Series III: Personal, Series IV: Personal Photographs, Series V: Correspondence, and Series VI: Architectural Plans and Drawings.

Description

Scope and Content

The collection documents the architectural projects by the firm Kahn & Jacobs through photographs primarily, but also through some architectural plans and drawings, and office records. Additionally, the collection includes a number of Robert Allan Jacobs' personal and professional papers, the confluence of which helps to contextualize his work vis-a-vis his broader milieu while helping to delineate the unique design impulses of Jacobs as distinct from his partner Ely Jacques Kahn. This collection's rich diversity of project records and photographs, office records, personal papers, correspondence, and ephemera offers a way into understanding the influences that formed the underpinnings of Jacobs' design ethos--from the Beaux-Arts spectre of his father Harry Allan Jacobs and the deeply traditional nature of his architectural education through his modernist awakening under Le Corbusier and finally the brutalism that would dominate the world of architecture by the end of his career.

Series I: Architectural Plans and Drawings

This series includes all of the architectural plans and drawings within the collection, ranging from blueprints to plans, sections, and elevations. Included within this series are drawings ranging from Jacobs' time as a student through his career and retirement as well as plans and drawings from his father, Harry Allan Jacobs, and his partner, Ely Jacques Kahn.

Series II: Project Photographs

Arranged alphabetically by project name, this series includes all photographs of projects contained within the collection--ranging from entire buildings to interiors.

Series III: Correspondence

Because the line between Jacobs' personal and professional life was often blurred, all correspondence-both professional and personal-has been organized into one series. Substantial materials from a particular project or event have been organized around that project or event name while more general correspondence has been organized alphabetically by the last name (or when no last name is provided by the first letter of the first name) of the correspondent.

Series IV: Office Records

This series, organized around individual projects or general themes as appropriate, includes a broad range of materials, from Kahn & Jacobs firm publicity and presentations to appointment books and firm financial records, scrapbooks, personnel photographs, and awards.

Series V: Personal

This series includes material that correspond more directly to Jacobs' personal rather than professional life. Included are books and monographs found in Jacobs' office, school yearbooks, a portfolio of watercolors, diplomas, journals, and military ephemera. The series includes photographs of a more personal nature found within the collection. Included within the series are studio portraits-both of Robert Allan Jacobs himself and of his family-and more informal snapshots, especially from Jacobs' vacations and hunting expeditions.

Series VI: Harry Allan Jacobs

This series contains papers of Robert Allan Jacob's father Harry Allan Jacobs. The papers include clippings, ephemera, scrapbooks, firm ledger, portrait, and a play script.

  • Series I: Architectural Plans and Drawings

    This series includes all of the architectural plans and drawings within the collection, ranging from blueprints to plans, sections, and elevations. Included within this series are drawings ranging from Jacobs' time as a student through his career and retirement as well as plans and drawings from his father, Harry Allan Jacobs, and his partner, Ely Jacques Kahn.

  • Series II: Project Photographs

    Arranged alphabetically by project name, this series includes all photographs of projects contained within the collection--ranging from entire buildings to interiors.

  • Series III: Correspondence

    Because the line between Jacobs' personal and professional life was often blurred, all correspondence-both professional and personal-has been organized into one series. Substantial materials from a particular project or event have been organized around that project or event name while more general correspondence has been organized alphabetically by the last name (or when no last name is provided by the first letter of the first name) of the correspondent.

  • Series IV: Office Records

    This series, organized around individual projects or general themes as appropriate, includes a broad range of materials, from Kahn & Jacobs firm publicity and presentations to appointment books and firm financial records, scrapbooks, personnel photographs, and awards.

  • Series V: Personal

    This series includes material that correspond more directly to Jacobs' personal rather than professional life. Included are books and monographs found in Jacobs' office, school yearbooks, a portfolio of watercolors, diplomas, journals, and military ephemera. The series includes photographs of a more personal nature found within the collection. Included within the series are studio portraits-both of Robert Allan Jacobs himself and of his family-and more informal snapshots, especially from Jacobs' vacations and hunting expeditions.

  • Series VI: Harry Allan Jacobs

    This series contains papers of Robert Allan Jacob's father Harry Allan Jacobs. The papers include clippings, ephemera, scrapbooks, firm ledger, portrait, and a play script.

Using the Collection

Avery Architectural and Fine Arts Library

Restrictions on Access

This collection is available for use by appointment in the Department of Drawings & Archives, Avery Architectural and Fine Arts Library, Columbia University. For further information and to make an appointment, please email avery-drawings@library.columbia.edu.

Restrictions on Use

Columbia University is providing access to the materials in the Library's collections solely for noncommercial educational and research purposes. The unauthorized use, including, but not limited to, publication of the materials without the prior written permission of Columbia University is strictly prohibited. All inquiries regarding permission to publish should be submitted in writing to the Director, Avery Architectural and Fine Arts Library, Columbia University. In addition to permission from Columbia University, permission of the copyright owner (if not Columbia University) and/or any holder of other rights (such as publicity and/or privacy rights) may also be required for reproduction, publication, distributions, and other uses. Responsibility for making an independent legal assessment of any item and securing any necessary permissions rests with the persons desiring to publish the item. Columbia University makes no warranties as to the accuracy of the materials or their fitness for a particular purpose.

Preferred Citation

Robert Allan Jacobs papers, 1890s-1990s, (bulk dates 1909-1983), Department of Drawings & Archives, Avery Architectural and Fine Arts Library, Columbia University.

Related Material

Related holdings in Avery Drawings & Archives:

Kahn & Jacobs architectural drawings and records, circa 1893-1965, (bulk ca. 1893-1950): Hellmuth, Obata, and Kassabum Gift (1978.001)

Harry Allan Jacobs photographs, ca. 1910-1930: Gift (1000.064)

Ely Jacques Kahn papers, 1906-1986, (bulk 1906-1972) : Ely and Liselotte Kahn (1963.001, 1992.003, 1992.011, 1993.016, 1994.013)

[Conceptual cross-section rendering for a multi-use building] / Kahn & Jacobs : Mark Dessauce Gift (2003.005)

150 Permanent Dwelling Units and Community House [Lexington Park, M.D. ] / Kahn & Jacobs: Mark Dessauce Gift (2003.005)

Related holdings in other institutions:

Robert A. Jacobs Photographs, Special Collections Research Center, Syracuse University Libraries.

About the Finding Aid / Processing Information

Columbia University Libraries, Avery Architectural and Fine Arts Library

Processing Information

This collection was processed by Travis Brock Kennedy (Robert Allan Jacobs Intern) in 2016-2017.

Revision Description

2017-04-20 File created.

2019-05-20 EAD was imported spring 2019 as part of the ArchivesSpace Phase II migration.

Subject Headings

The subject headings listed below are found in this collection. Links below allow searches at Columbia University through the Archival Collections Portal and through CLIO, the catalog for Columbia University Libraries, as well as ArchiveGRID, a catalog that allows users to search the holdings of multiple research libraries and archives.

All links open new windows.

Subject

Heading "CUL Archives:"
"Portal"
"CUL Collections:"
"CLIO"
"Nat'l / Int'l Archives:"
"ArchivedGRID"
Architects -- New York (State) Portal CLIO ArchiveGRID
Architectural firms -- New York (State) -- New York Portal CLIO ArchiveGRID
Architecture -- New York (State) -- New York Portal CLIO ArchiveGRID
Architecture -- United States -- Designs and plans Portal CLIO ArchiveGRID
Buildings -- New York (State) -- New York Portal CLIO ArchiveGRID
Commercial buildings -- New York (State) -- New York Portal CLIO ArchiveGRID
Jacobs, Robert Allan Portal CLIO ArchiveGRID
Kahn & Jacobs Portal CLIO ArchiveGRID
Kahn, Ely Jacques, 1884-1972 Portal CLIO ArchiveGRID

History / Biographical Note

Biography

The son of the prominent Beaux-Arts architect Harry Allan Jacobs (1872-1932), Robert Allan Jacobs (1905-1993) was a prominent American architect active in New York City from the 1930's until the early 1980's. Jacobs was educated at Amherst College and the Columbia University School of Architecture, where he was awarded the Hamlin Prize for Design.

Jacobs worked with Le Corbusier in Paris from the fall of 1934 to the winter of 1935 and accompanied him on his American lecture tour in the spring of 1935, serving as translator, guide, photographer, and assistant. Following his work with Le Corbusier, Jacobs took a position as a designer and draftsman in the New York offices of Harrison & Fouilhoux where he worked from 1935-1939.

In 1939, Jacobs took a position working with Ely Jacques Kahn on designs for Kahn's own apartment at 970 Park Avenue and was offered a 15% partnership in Kahn's firm the same year. By 1941, Jacobs was made a 50% partner in Kahn & Jacobs Architects, commencing three decades of collaboration between the architects. Together, Kahn & Jacobs designed numerous projects, primarily in New York City and its surrounding suburbs, but including major projects further afield in the United States and abroad.

Jacobs was a president of the Architectural League of New York and a fellow of the American Institute of Architects. Following the death of Ely Jacques Kahn in 1972, Robert Allan Jacobs merged his firm with Hellmuth, Obata, and Kassabaum of St. Louis, forming the firm of Kahn & Jacobs + HOK. Slowing work for the firm throughout the later part of the 1970s mirrored the broader slowing of development in New York City, and by the time of Jacobs' retirement in 1982 the business of Kahn & Jacobs was fully absorbed into HO+K.

Robert Allan Jacobs retired to his home in Pawling, New York, where he remained active within the local community and where he died, at home, in 1993.