Meet George Ranalli: A New York City architect with Bronx roots

One of George Ranalli's newest projects is a design of a food kiosk at Morningside Park in Harlem.
One of George Ranalli’s newest projects is a design of a food kiosk at Morningside Park in Harlem.
Rendering courtesy George Ranalli Architect

For George Ranalli, architecture is not just a simple case of surface-level design. It represents so much more. 

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

One of the city’s top Manhattan-based architects who has worked on all sorts of projects, Ranalli, 76, carries a lot of inspiration from his home borough of the Bronx.

He said while growing up in Parkchester, and then moving to Pelham Bay when he was older, he’d marvel at the design of the New York Botanical Garden, conservatories, Grand Concourse and the Bronx Zoo. 

“Those are the repository of my architectural memory, and it was all from the landscape, the buildings, the people, and it was just a great borough to grow up in,” said Ranalli, who founded George Ranalli Architect in 1977. “It’s been a long relationship with the architecture of the borough.” 

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

Pictured here is a kitchen designed by George Ranalli in a West 24th Street apartment.
Pictured here is a kitchen designed by George Ranalli in a West 24th Street apartment. Photo courtesy George Ranalli Architect

Then one day in high school while at a friend’s house, his whole future pivoted on its axis. His friend’s dad asked if Ranalli wanted to see an elaborate architectural model he was constructing upstairs. 

“He was making a model for Huntington Hartford’s Paradise Island, the entire island,” Ranalli said. “It was this huge 30-foot long, magnificent architectural model and it just piqued my interest.” 

Hartford was a wealthy American businessman and heir to the Great Atlantic & Pacific Tea Company grocery chain who bought an island in the Bahamas — coined Paradise Island — before he lost the majority of his money with risky investments.

But ever since Ranalli saw that Paradise Island model, he was hooked.

He started networking with other architects and then eventually went on to study it in college and graduate school. He said it offered him a different career than music could. “It was superb education,” Ranalli said. “It turned out to be a great choice.” 

Since receiving his licensure, the architect has worked on many different projects — from institutional and commercial buildings to residential complexes and exhibits. Some of his New York City designs 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 borough. 

“The Bronx had some of the most remarkable art deco buildings in New York,” Ranalli said, taking note of the difference in planning models compared to Manhattan. 

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

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

Now, he and his partner Anne Valentino — a psychologist who specializes in the personal relationships people have with their favorite buildings and dwelling places — are working on a few projects in Harlem, Flushing Meadows and Buffalo in upstate New York. Ranalli also said he hopes to work on more Bronx projects, including at Orchard Beach. 

This story was updated on Jan. 18 at 4:10 p.m.

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

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