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Werner Seligmann Papers

An inventory of his papers at Syracuse University

Finding aid created by: DO
Date: Dec 2002

Biographical History

Werner Seligmann (1930-1998) was a German-American architect, urban designer, and educator.

Werner Seligmann was born in Osnabrück, Germany in 1930. Surviving the Holocaust, he emigrated to the United States in 1949 and was naturalized in 1955. He married the former Jean Liberman of Cortland, New York in 1954 and had two children, Sabina and Raphael. In 1961 he founded Werner Seligmann and Associates, Architects and Urban Designers (WSA). He died in 1998.

Seligmann received his bachelor's degree in architecture from Cornell University in 1955. He spent the next two years as an instructor at the University of Texas at Austin as one of the "Texas Rangers," a group of architects that also included John Hejduk, Lee Hodgden, Bernhard Hoesli, Colin Rowe, John Shaw, Robert Slutzky, and others. He completed his graduate study at the Technische Hochsschule in Braunschweig, Germany and then taught at the Eidgenössiche Technische Hochschule (ETH) in Zürich, Cornell University, and Harvard University.

He served Syracuse University first as the Dean of the School of Architecture, 1976-1990, then as Distinguished Professor of Architecture until his death. In addition, he held several other appointments including Thomas Jefferson Professor of Architecture at the University of Virginia School of Architecture. He was a juror, guest lecturer and visiting critic at several institutions and received numerous awards throughout his career for his work. In 1998 he was awarded the Topaz Medallion for Excellence in Architectural Education from the Association of Collegiate Schools of Architecture (ACSA) and the American Institute of Architects (AIA).

Influenced by Frank Lloyd Wright and Le Corbusier, Seligmann was known for his synagogues, public buildings, housing, and urban design work in the central New York region. His major built works include: Beth David Synagogue, Binghamton, NY; Science Building II, State University of New York, Cortland; Temple Brith Sholom, Cortland, NY; Ithaca Scattered Site Housing - Elm Street (also known as West Village) and Maple Avenue (also known as Maple Hill Apartments), Ithaca, NY; Willard State Hospital Administration Building, Willard, NY; Olean Central Fire Station, Olean, NY; Ithaca Commons Center (also known as Center Ithaca), Ithaca, NY.

Scope and Contents of the Collection

The Werner Seligmann Papers span the years 1948-1998 (1955-1998 bulk) and are arranged in two series: Projects and Writings and Biographical Material. The collection comprises drawings, presentation boards, slides, models, photographic materials, specifications, competition programs, newspaper clippings, articles, reports, studies, monographs, and scrapbooks.

There is very little material regarding the business or financial aspects of Werner Seligmann and Associates, Architects and Urban Designers (WSA) or Seligmann's personal or faculty life. No employee or job lists were found. The bulk of material is project related and represents all phases of the architectural process, in particular the design development and construction phases. Documented are Seligmann's built and unbuilt projects and the competitions he participated in under WSA or with colleagues and students.

Seligmann-assigned project names, abbreviations, and job numbers were often used inconsistently. Project names created during the processing of these papers for those projects with no discernable names are noted with an asterisk. Completion dates for built works or competition dates are assigned if determined.

Seligmann's work from the mid 1950s into the 1960s includes private residences and businesses, a few competitions, and one major built religious work, Beth David Synagogue in Binghamton, New York. The papers also include a few drawings from his 1955 thesis work at Cornell University, a proposed hotel for Cortland, New York.

Most of the material dates from the late 1960s through early 1970s, highlighting the public and urban design work of WSA. Major clients include the Binghamton Urban Renewal Authority (BURA), the New York State Urban Development Corporation (UDC), the New York State University Construction Fund, and the New York State Health and Mental Hygiene Facilities Improvement Corporation. Major built projects completed during this period include Temple Brith Sholom, in Cortland, Ithaca Scattered Site Housing (Elm Street and Maple Avenue), the Science Building II (SUNY Cortland), and Willard State Hospital in Willard, New York. He also worked on several small residential projects, most notably a residence for astronomer Carl Sagan, which was not built.

The material from the mid 1970s to 1998 centers on residential and business projects and work for the municipalities of Olean and Ithaca, New York. Major works built during this period include the Olean Central Fire Station, the North Barry Street Community Building, also located in Olean, and the Ithaca Commons Center. In the 1980s and 1990s he entered several national and international competitions.

The strength of this collection lies in the many original sketches on trace for competitions such as the Arizona Historical Society and Museum, the Cardiff Bay Opera House, the Felix Nussbaum House, the National Museum of Korea, Roosevelt Island, and the Topography of Terror. Original sketches also exist for a few private residences and major projects such as Ithaca Commons Center, Olean Central Fire Station, and Temple Brith Sholom.

Projects (1948-1998; bulk 1955-1998) includes drawings, presentation boards, photographic materials, specifications, competition programs, newspaper clippings, articles, reports, studies, correspondence, slides, and models. Some of the material is in German or Italian and is noted in the inventories. Drawings may be duplicated in a variety of formats throughout the collection. Project not built are noted as "(not built)" and project type is given in square brackets, e.g. "[Government]".

Projects are further broken down by type of material. Drawings (span dates: 1948-1993) consists of approximately 6,200 plans, elevations, sections, perspectives, axonometrics, maps, studies, sketches, preliminary, presentation, working, mechanical, electrical, structural, landscaping, and as-built drawings. Models (not dated) exist for Beth David Synagogue, Congregation Beth Sholom Addition, East Syracuse Library, Felix Nussbaum House Competition, Rosefsky Summer House 4a, b, Temple Brith Sholom and the Willard State Hospital Rehabilitation Center. Presentation boards (span dates: 1955-1993) vary in size up to three by nine feet and comprise photographs, site maps, descriptive text, and drawings. Project materials (span dates: 1954-1998) includes professional photographs, snapshots, negatives, positives, or photocopies of the site or drawings. May also include sketches, small presentation boards, specifications, competition programs, newspaper clippings, articles, reports, studies, correspondence, or other miscellaneous items. Approximately 4,400 Slides (span dates: 1955-1987) depict plans, elevations, sections, perspectives, referential images, earlier existing structures, interiors and exterior views and details, analytical or explanatory drawings, models, construction, and some text.

Writings and biographical material (span dates: 1966-1998) includes published and unpublished magazine articles and newspaper clippings by or about Seligmann and his work, lists of competitions and exhibitions, awards and honors, page layouts for proposed book, and a videotape of the American Institute of Architects Topaz Award Introduction and text of Seligmann's acceptance speech. The five monographs on architecture are located in the Department of Special Collections. Arranged by date or project.

Arrangement of the Collection

Project materials are arranged alphabetically by project. Drawings, housed in tubes 1-177, are arranged by project. Presentation boards 1-89 are arranged by project. Slides are arranged alphabetically by job name. Although box numbering appears to run from Box 1 to Box 95, there are in fact only 83 boxes; boxes 5, 7, 21, 27, 32, 33, 39, 41, 43, 49, 56, 68, 69, 71, 73, 74, 75, 77, 78, 80, 83, 84, 85 have been consolidated as file folders within Box 95.


Access Restrictions:

The majority of our archival and manuscript collections are housed offsite and require advanced notice for retrieval. Researchers are encouraged to contact us in advance concerning the collection material they wish to access for their research.

Use Restrictions:

Written permission must be obtained from SCRC and all relevant rights holders before publishing quotations, excerpts or images from any materials in this collection.

Related Material

Published monographs on Seligmann have been transferred to Rare Books for cataloging. Please refer to the Classic Catalog to locate these items.

Special Collections Research Center has more than thirty collections relating to architecture, including the papers of Marcel Breuer, Pietro Belluschi, William Lescaze, and Richard Neutra. Please refer to the SCRC Subject Index for a complete listing.

Subject Headings


Seligmann, Werner.

Corporate Bodies

Werner Seligmann and Associates.


Architects -- United States.
Architectural design -- Competitions.
Architectural design.
Architectural drawing -- United States -- 20th century.
Architectural firms.
Architectural practice.
Architecture -- Designs and plans.
Architecture United States History 20th century.
Architecture, American.
Architecture, Domestic.
Church architecture -- United States.
City planning -- United States.
German Americans.
Synagogue architecture.

Genres and Forms

Architectural drawings (visual works)
Blueprints (reprographic copies)
Clippings (information artifacts)
Detail drawings (drawings)
Exterior perspectives.
Interior perspectives.
Schematic drawings.
Slides (photographs)



Administrative Information

Preferred Citation

Preferred citation for this material is as follows:

Werner Seligmann Papers,
Special Collections Research Center,
Syracuse University Libraries

Acquisition Information

Gift of Jean L. Seligmann,

Table of Contents

Project records

Writings and biographical material