Modjeh Baratloo: A Honor to Have Known Her

Modjeh Baratloo passed away this week.

Modjeh Baratloo

How do you explain the methods by which someone keeps you alive? With a laugh full of affection while shaking her head at your foolishness. With a fierce intensity for any activity she committed herself to. With a demand that you and everyone else think harder and stop being slightly lazy. With her joy in making any meal special with one or many friends. With her trust in you when she called to say: who do you know that can really help?

Strangely, I never knew what she was actually doing for any artistic or architectural venture. She always worked with others, especially her former husband, Clif Balch, and her students or former students at Columbia University and elsewhere. I never asked because I did not care. I knew in my soul that without her in the mix, the project would have never happened or never happened like it did.

Sometime in the last ten years, she formed the company URGe with Justin Garrret Moore, Philip Tidwell and Ward Verbakel. I can’t imagine a better name for her – to urge. She gave the company a subtitle: “Envisioning Environment Everyday” and a mission: “URGe brings positive, new and lasting influence to cities and communities” Really, can anyone in the city planning or artistic intervention in the built environments make a clearer statement of the profession’s goal.

My first experience with Moji was as a founding boardmember of the
Storefront for Art and Architecture in 1984. I don’t know if the
Storefront would have survived the early days without her support and critical thinking. I also wonder if Kyong Park and Shirin Neshat would have had the same careers without her consistent friendship in those days of youth.

One of my last experiences with Moji was walking along the lower
Manhattan waterfront with her. She was explaining the changes to the city and waterfront combining aesthetic evaluation with political stories. At one point we encountered an embedded participatory artwork in the concrete. Together we danced following the light pattern. Typical of her to be mentally engaged at the largest scale, but attracted immediately to the intimate invention.

Here she is again. I was having a very difficult time truly engaging in my writing for Aesthetic Grounds. Now with her death, she reminds me — that only the work that touches your heart and motivates your head while making the work has real self value. And the possibility to be valuable to others.

Below are some other thoughts and stories about her. Personally, I was engaged with her as a curator for “Adam’s House in Paradise” at the Storefront in 1984, “Critical Regionalism: New York” at Gallery 400, Chicago and “Fabrications and Understatements” at PS 1 in 1988. More recently, I was able to hire URGe to plan the downtown pathways for the City of Coral Springs, Florida in 2007.

In Memoria
Michelle Young, Untapped Cities

Early Work primarily with Clif Balch
URGe with Justin Garrret Moore, Philip Tidwell and Ward Verbakel

Angst Cartography on Amazon


Fabrications and Understatements invitation, PS1 1988


Fabrications and Understatements, Moji Baratloo and Clif Balch at PS 1, 1988


Floor plan for Set Design for Cesc Gelabert and Dancers, 1980


Monumental Propaganda, Exhibition Design, 1993

Dia 1991

Rooftop Urban Park Project (in collaboration with Dan Graham) Dia Center for the Arts, NYC 1989-91



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  1. says

    I am saddened to hear of Modjeh’s passing. She was such an inspiration when we spent a day together in Auckland a few years back. Such a rare talent and a special and truly beautiful soul.

  2. says

    With her extreme exuberance and warmth, Modjeh inspired us all to be inquisitive, creative and by far collaborative. She lead by example. Note the program at GSAPP in legacy of her.

    On Saturday, November 9, GSAPP will celebrate the legacy of longtime faculty member Mojdeh Baratloo with a symposium entitled “Beyond the Studio,” examining the critical impact of Moji’s unique pedagogical approach to urban design with former colleagues, collaborators, and students who have continued to callenge and redefine the profession. The symposium will be followed by the opening reception and launch for Rebooting Urban Design. The event will begin at 1:00pm in Wood Auditorium, Avery Hall.


    Ana María Durán Calisto
    Anne Gatling Haynes
    Ashley Spatafore (MsAUD ’09)
    Billie Tsien
    Brian McGrath
    Casey Jones
    Dan Wiley
    Dongsei Kim (MsAUD ’09)
    Justin G. Moore (MsAUD + MArch ’04)
    Lee Altman (MsAUD ’08)
    Marielly Casanova (MsAUD ’09)
    Marina Marquez (MsAUD ’12)
    Michelle Young (MsUP ’12)
    Nickie Huang
    Richard Plunz
    Sagi Golan (MsUD ’13)
    Scott Archer (MsUD ’13)
    Ward Verbakel (MsAUD ’03)
    Wassim Shaaban (MsUD ’12)

    For more information, email Dongsei Kim at dk2449@columbia.edu01

    – See more at:

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