A New York architect with Bronx roots – Bronx Times

For George Ranalli, architecture is not just a case of superficial design. It represents so much more.

“People’s expectations and how they view architecture really melds with their personal experiences,” he said.

Ranalli, 76, one of Manhattan’s top architects who has worked on all sorts of projects, takes a lot of inspiration from his home borough of the Bronx.

He said growing up in Parkchester and later moving to Pelham Bay, he marveled at the design of the New York Botanical Garden, the Winter Gardens, the Grand Concourse and the Bronx Zoo.

“This is the repository of my architectural memory, and it was everything from the landscape, the buildings, the people, and it was just a great neighborhood to grow up in,” said Ranalli, who founded George Ranalli Architects in 1977. “It’s a long association with the district’s architecture.”

But he didn’t become interested in the field until late in high school. Ranalli actually started studying music performance at school when he was in elementary school, recording the drums and working with acclaimed artists like Etta James and Richie Havens when he was younger.

Shown here is a kitchen designed by George Ranalli in an apartment on West 24th Street.
Shown here is a kitchen designed by George Ranalli in an apartment on West 24th Street. Photo courtesy of George Ranalli Architect

Then one day in high school, while he was at a friend’s house, his whole future revolved around her axis. His friend’s father asked if Ranalli would like to see an elaborate architectural model that he was building upstairs.

“He built a model for Huntington Hartford’s Paradise Island, the whole island,” Ranalli said. “It was this huge, 30 foot long, magnificent architectural model that caught my interest.”

Hartford was a wealthy American businessman and heir to the grocery chain Great Atlantic & Pacific Tea Company, which bought an island in the Bahamas before him – coined Paradise Island lost most of his money on risky investments.

But ever since Ranalli saw this Paradise Island model, he’s been hooked.

He began to network with other architects and eventually studied it in college and graduate school. He said it offered him a different career than music. “It was an excellent education,” said Ranalli. “It turned out to be a good choice.”

The architect has continued to work since receiving his license to practice medicine many different projects — from institutional and commercial buildings to residential complexes and exhibits. His designs for New York City include his work on the Italian American Museum of New York in Little Italy and the London Towers Terrace apartment building in West Chelsea.

But when he thinks of the architecture that inspires him, he often thinks of his home district.

“The Bronx had some of the most notable Art Deco buildings in New York,” Ranalli said, noting the difference in planning models compared to Manhattan.

“The Bronx had a different model and these huge esplanades and parkways that ran right through the middle of the borough,” he said. “It was a beautiful planning model for the district and it was very, very interesting.”

George Ranalli, right, and Anne Valentino are partners at Manhattan-based George Ranalli Architect.
George Ranalli, right, and Anne Valentino are partners at Manhattan-based George Ranalli Architect. Photo courtesy of George Ranalli

Now he and his partner Anne Valentino — a psychologist who specializes in people’s personal relationships to their favorite buildings and places to live — are working on a couple of projects in Harlem, Flushing Meadows, and Buffalo, New York State. Ranalli also said he has had preliminary meetings with the City Department of Parks and Recreation regarding the Bronx’s Orchard Beach renovation project.

Reach out to Camille Botello at [email protected]. For more coverage, follow us on Twitter, Facebook and Instagram @bronxtimes