Robert Cozzarelli ’79 has spent nearly 30 years as a professional, award-winning architect and planner specializing in health care, educational, recreational, institutional and residential design for federal, state, municipal, international and private-sector clients. His extensive expertise with new and renovated projects has earned him recognition in the health care industry. He has served as the 2004 American Institute of Architects (AIA)-NJ President and in 2009 received the honour of AIA-NJ Architect of the Year.
On Feb. 15, 2019, The American Institute of Architects Board of Directors and College of Fellows noticed Cozzarelli that his notable contributions to the advancement of the profession of architecture had resulted in his elevation to The College of Fellows of The American Institute of Architects. Cozzarelli received his Fellowship medal during the Investiture of Fellows Ceremony at the AIA Conference on Architecture 2019 in Las Vegas, Nevada. The ceremony was held June 7, 2019, at the Smith Center for Performing Arts.
A principal of both Nutley-based Cozzarelli-Cirminiello Architects and Bertone Cozzarelli Healthcare Architects, the la er of which specializes in designing long-term care facilities, such as hospitals and nursing homes, he also was recently appointed to serve on the New Jersey State Board of Architects for a term ending in 2020.
Over the course of his decades-long AIA-NJ membership, Cozzarelli has earned many accolades, including his award as AIA-NJ Architect of the Year in 2009 and his 2005 Distinguished Service honour. Other awards include the UNICO Millie Grazie Award for his pro-bono services throughout the state, and his recognition as Columbus Day & Celebration Italian-American Man-of-the-Year. In 2008, he received an Honour Roll medallion from the NJIT Alumni Association for exemplifying leadership in architecture, planning and design.
Cozzarelli is a member and past president of AIA-Newark and Suburban Architects (N&S), one of AIA-NJ’s six local sections, and founded AIA-N&S’s popular CANstrucion event, the charitable design companion arranged by the organization each fall. He earned his bachelor of architecture degree from the J. Robert and Barbara A. Hillier College of Architecture and Design, is a licensed architect in four states and has served the industry for most of his professional life.
Cozzarelli received his Fellowship medal during the Investiture of Fellows Ceremony at the AIA Conference on Architecture 2019 in Las Vegas, Nev.
What are your thoughts about being named a Fellow of The American Institute of Architects?
After graduation, I realized that NJIT provided an excellent platform for me to attain my goal of becoming a registered architect, but I also realized that I needed to be part of my professional organization, The AIA, which would enhance my professional life and I would be able to network with other young aspiring architects, as well as practising registered architects. When I joined The AIA, it began a career lifelong involvement for me in my professional organization, from AIA-New Jersey rising through the offices of the section, chapter, region and to The AIA National level. Needless to say, I absolutely loved participating in and representing The AIA membership in every committee, task force and office that I held. I felt it was extremely important to be involved and to promote architects, architecture and the profession. But, as a young professional, I began to hear about The College of Fellows of The AIA. When I realized who they were and their mission, I revelled in their accomplishments of what they achieved throughout their career, asking myself if I could ever be elevated to such a prestigious honour.
As my career progressed, I learned to have tremendous respect for The AIA Fellows and started to wonder if I had what it takes to be elevated to Fellow. It was something that I always had in the back of my mind, but I knew I would have to work hard and dedicate myself to my profession first before even considering Fellowship. As I went on throughout my career and involvement in The AIA, I began to realize that my curriculum vitae showed my leadership abilities within The AIA, as well as within my community. This led me to start investigating the qualification for Fellowship and it was also the encouragement of many of my architect colleagues and AIA Fellows, who inspired me to apply for Fellowship in Object 3 - Led the Institute. Their confidence in me provided the inspiration for my application.
I dedicated myself to the process and on, Feb. 15, 2019, I received a le er of congratulations from The AIA notifying me that I had been elevated to The College of Fellows of The American Institute of Architects. My ﬁrst reaction, I cried happy tears, and I immediately called my wife, Susan (who I met at NJIT), and thanked her for always believing in me and supporting me throughout my career. I then called my mother and my children, Robert Jr. and Rebecca. I also said a prayer, thanked God and oﬀered my thoughts to my father, who inspired me to become an architect, and may I mention that my father, Frank Cozzarelli Jr. '49,'51, also a ended NJIT (NCE) and was a Fellow of The American Institute of Chemical Engineers. He was my hero, friend and greatest inspiration, who I miss dearly.
As you can tell, my thoughts are many and they are about caring and working hard throughout your career in order to achieve this honour and privilege of being elevated to The College of Fellows of The AIA. But, I must also say that, “I'm not done yet!”
Do you think your NJIT degree helped you in your career?
Yes, absolutely, NJIT has had a tremendous impact on my career and life. NJIT provided the foundation and instilled the desire for me to pursue architecture as a career, to never be content and to continually push forward in making a difference, not only in your own career but, more importantly, to make a difference in life and to take the time to care and to touch hearts. I truly believe that being an architect allows you to design and create architecture that will touch people's hearts and to make a difference in their life. That is a privilege and honour to be able to have that ability, which started at NJIT and was inspired by my father, an NJIT alumnus.
What advice would you give to students who are planning to pursue a similar career path?
I've encouraged many young students and mentored those aspiring to a career in architecture and engineering. I have told them that they must enjoy what they are doing and to work hard every day. Work is a good thing, especially when you help to make the world a be er place. I also have told them that you have to stay current and be progressive throughout their career. Being stagnant is not good. I've told them that the art and science of architecture has changed dramatically and relatively quickly over the last 25 years and at a remarkable pace because of computer-aided design and building information modelling. Further, buildings have become very sophisticated machines now addressing sustainability, resiliency, energy demands and liveability, which has enhanced the value and need for architects. The reality is that architecture sill has to address the basics of health, safety and welfare and it is the architects who provide that service and sophisticated level of design.