Ubiquitous NYC Architect Karl Fischer Dies at 70 [Updated]


Karl Fischer, a prolific architect whose residential buildings across New York City were often criticized as uninspired, died last week at age 70.

The wildly productive designer passed away in Vermont on March 12 surrounded by family, according to an obituary posted on Goss Funeral Services’ website. Although the immediate cause of death wasn’t clear, Fischer had been fighting pancreatic cancer for the past nine years, according to Fariba Makooi, an architect and principal in his New York City firm. She had already taken over running Fischer + Makooi Architects and will take on the rest of his ongoing projects, she told Commercial Observer. The Real Deal broke the news of his passing this afternoon.

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Fischer’s family escaped the Hungarian Revolution during his childhood in 1956 and made their way to Montreal, where he got into playing rugby, per the notice. He attended McGill University, earned two architecture degrees, and founded his eponymous architecture firm in Montreal in 1984.

He expanded to New York City in 1999 and has designed more than 200 residential buildings across Manhattan and Brooklyn, according to a 2011 New York Post article. In recent years, the two branches of his business, Karl Fischer Architect, split and merged with other firms to become Fischer Rasmussen Whitefield Architects in Montreal and Fischer + Makooi Architects in New York City. 

During the early 2000s and the recession, Fischer became a mainstay for residential developers who wanted economical designs. He was well known for his work in Williamsburg, Brooklyn, including the 350-unit rental building at 101 Bedford Avenue, a collection of rental buildings at 20, 30 and 50 Bayard Street, and Schaefer Landing at 440 Kent Avenue. More recently, his firm has designed condo buildings at 302 East 96th Street on the Upper East Side and 2100 Bedford Avenue in Prospect-Lefferts Gardens, Brooklyn. Although the Post once called him “NYC’s most loathed architect,” many builders considered him the consummate developer’s architect—functional, fast and adaptable. 

“A lot of times good design and practical field measures don’t always align, but with Karl they aligned very well,” BFC Partners‘ Don Capoccia told The New York Times in 2010, referring to Fischer’s work on BFC’s 350-unit Schaefer Landing project on the Williamsburg waterfront.

He is survived by his wife of 47 years, Pamela; his children, Alison and Daniel; his grandchildren Amelia, Clara and Maelyn; his brother, George; his sister, Kathy; and his mother, Elizabeth. A private memorial will be held later this spring in Montreal.

Update: This post has been updated with details from Fischer’s New York City partner, Fariba Makooi.