Nathaniel "Nate" Becker, FIDSA


Nathaniel "Nate" Becker, FIDSA

Photo taken by Yousef Karsh

  • Inducted into the Academy of Fellows: 1965
  • U.S. industrial designer and principal of Becker & Becker Associates design firm in New York, which was established in 1950 to create architectural interiors.
  • Member of the American Society of Industrial Designers (ASID) and served on its board of directors in 1969. He was awarded an ASID Fellowship, which was honored by IDSA when the Society was formed in 1965 from the merger of ASID, Industrial Designers Institute (IDI), and Industrial Designers Education Association (IDEA).

Nathaniel Becker, a pioneer of architectural programming and industrial design, died Saturday, March 13, 2004 as he arrived at the graveside service for Theo Redman Becker, his design partner and beloved wife of 50 years who passed away one week earlier. Mr. Becker was a longtime resident of New Canaan, Connecticut. He was 83 years old.

Mr. Becker was born in 1920 in Rochester, New York. He attended Ohio State University and studied industrial design at Pratt Institute, from which he was later awarded an honorary degree. He served in the Army Corps of Engineers as a camouflage specialist during World War II. Together with his brother Jules, he founded Becker and Becker Associates in 1950. Guided by the user-centric principles of industrial design, the firm’s early work included taxicab meters, light fixtures, packaging, corporate identity, and trade show exhibits, including the Seven-Up Pavilion at the 1964 World’s Fair in New York. As a founder and Fellow of the Industrial Designers Society of America, he worked with colleagues such as Henry Dreyfuss, FIDSA, George Nelson, FIDSA and Charles Eames to shape the discipline of industrial design.

By the mid-1960’s, Becker and Becker became the leading expert in interior space programming for corporate, government and institutional facilities. The firm gained international recognition for its methodology of researching organizational needs and translating them into a program to guide the subsequent architectural design. In doing so, Mr. Becker defined the discipline of architectural programming, which is now widespread.

Becker and Becker planned the Boston City Hall and Government Center, and facilities for many other government organizations, including the United Nations, the Department of Defense, the New York State Urban Development Corporation, and Town of Greenwich. They planned corporate headquarters and office facilities for AT&T, Xerox, Morgan Stanley, McKinsey, Marine Midland Bank, and J. Walter Thompson.  The firm wrote the architectural program for the World Trade Center.

Mr. Becker was also a prominent museum shop planner and designed gift shops and bookstores for the Museum of Modern Art, Metropolitan Museum of Art, Smithsonian Institute, Colonial Williamsburg Foundation and UCLA Hammer Museum. Later in his career, Mr. Becker focused on adaptive redevelopment of historic communities such as St. Georges, Bermuda and Nantucket, where Mr. Becker was Walter Beinecke’s partner and chief planner in revitalizing the commercial waterfront.  

For many years the firm was headquartered in the Seagram Building in Manhattan, with branch offices in London, Paris, and Chicago. In 1972, the firm relocated to New Canaan. Becker and Becker is now located in Fairfield, Connecticut, where it continues under the direction of his son, Bruce Redman Becker.

Nathaniel Becker was the chief editor of Industrial Design in America, a hallmark pictorial survey of outstanding product, facilities and graphic design in the latter half of the twentieth century, and contributed articles to publications such as Architectural Record and the AIA Journal. He was a trustee of Pratt Institute, the Silvermine Guild of Artists and the New Canaan Inn.

It was his strong conviction that design should serve the needs of people, and not become an aesthetic end in itself. He was as concerned with the integrity of the design process as he was with the quality of design. Personally and professionally, he was known for his force of will, commitment to quality, and sense of high style and progressive disclosure.

Mr. Becker is survived by his three sons, Nathaniel Todd Becker, of Hillsborough, California, Kenneth Blair Becker, of San Rafael, California, and Bruce Redman Becker, of Fairfield, Connecticut.  He was interred together with his wife at a private family ceremony. 

Obituary provided by Nathaniel Becker's son, Bruce Redman Becker, FAIA, LEED AP