Real Estate

Tour a New Jersey Home Designed by Le Corbusier’s Student

The Living Room: “The fireplace is structurally the main anchor for everything built around it,” Glenn Mariconda says. “The slate-and-concrete ledge acts as a seat as well.” The demountable chair and coffee table are 1940s Jean Prouvé. The triangular stools are 1970s Pierre Chapo. The wood sculpture on the right is by an unknown artist.
Photo: Gross & Daley

In 2020, Glenn Mariconda and Asaka Midorikawa had lived in Brooklyn for almost 20 years. After their son, Jonah, was born, they were looking for a mid-century house outside the city, one that hadn’t been messed up in renovation, and they were having a hard time finding anything they liked. Until they drove by this one in a Nutley, New Jersey, neighborhood of mostly starter Colonials.

They came back the next day to tour the property. Its listing mentioned the architect of the house, Edward T. Bowser Jr. “I had never heard of him,” says Mariconda, a fashion executive. “And it said that he had worked for Le Corbusier.” It was in pristine condition, its heritage intact, and they bought it. “When the house was first built, there was nothing there,” Mariconda adds, “and all you could probably see was the Manhattan skyline.”

The architect Bowser in Le Corbusier’s Paris office in 1949.
Photo: The Bowser Family

Edward T. Bowser Jr. was born in 1924 and grew up in New Jersey in a civic-minded family (Bowser Sr. served on the East Orange city council, among other public-service roles). In 1948, after Bowser graduated from the School of Architecture at Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute, he wrote a letter to Le Corbusier in Paris, asking “if I might have the privilege of working in your office.” Corbu said “yes.” (The exchange is now in the Fondation Le Corbusier’s archive.)

The young architect worked in Le Corbusier’s office in 1949–50 and was part of the team behind the L’Unite d’Habitation de Marseille. After his stint with Corbu, Bowser remained in Paris until 1952, when he returned to New Jersey with his wife, Carmen, and daughter Kathryn to start his own practice.

“Our house was built in 1953, and we think it’s the first house he designed when he came back from France,” Mariconda says. “The kitchen, bedrooms, and living areas are all on the second level, much like early Le Corbusier villas.”

The House: An early-’50s photograph of Mariconda’s house (left) and a second Bowser-designed house.
Photo: Courtesy of Fred and Colleen Kingston

Bowser went on to design at least a dozen houses and buildings in New Jersey, including the Ronson Corporation HQ, the Medical Arts Building in East Orange, and a supermarket. After the 1967 riots in Newark, he designed Kuzuri Kylll (Swahili for “a beautiful village”), a low-and-middle-income complex in East Orange. Jet magazine wrote in 1973, the year it opened, that it was “the largest housing development in the United States developed by Blacks.”

Kathryn Bowser, a graphic designer in Manhattan, told me that in the late ’70s, her parents became involved with the Pan African Skills Project. It led them to move to Ghana, where they helped develop the Akuapem Polytechnic Institute.

“My father set up a school that taught construction trades and design,” she says. Her mother, a dressmaker, developed a sewing cooperative there. “My father became an honorary chief where they lived in Mampong-Akuapem.” He died in 1995 and is buried in Ghana.

The Study: Mounted on the wall is a 1950s coat rack by Le Corbusier. Both the red chair and the desk are vintage Jean Prouvé.
Photo: Gross & Daley

The Dining Area: The table and chairs are ’70s Pierre Chapo, the Japanese pottery is Bizenware, and the light fixture is Isamu Noguchi’s Ikari lamp.
Photo: Gross & Daley

The Kitchen: The wall-mounted shelf is a Charlotte Perriand “Nuage” shelf. The chairs in the foreground are 1950s Charlotte Perriand “Meribel” chairs. The kitchen cabinetry is original to the house.
Photo: Gross & Daley

The Primary Bedroom: There is a 1930s chalkboard hanging over the bed. The bench is a ’60s modernist piece by an unknown maker. The wall lamps are O.C. White circa 1930s.
Photo: Gross & Daley

The Stairs: “The entrance to the house is between the upper and lower level. The stairs that go down are to the basement,” Mariconda says. “The stairs going up are to the elevated main floor.”
Photo: Gross & Daley

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