Jan Hird Pokorny (1914-2008) was a Czech-born architect, preservationist, and former commissioner on New York's Landmarks Preservation Commission. He was well regarded for his ability to fuse old and new styles of architecture and for restoring and adapting historic buildings for reuse.
Though born in Brno, Czechoslovakia (now the Czech Republic), Pokorny was educated and raised in Prague where he graduated from the School of Architecture and Civil Engineering at the Czech Technical University in 1937. After graduation, Pokorny practiced architecture briefly in Czechoslovakia, designing the Sykovec Hotel in the Czech-Moravian Highlands. In 1939, Pokorny left Prague for the United States in order to flee from the German occupation. Entering the U.S. on a student visa, Pokorny enrolled in Columbia's School of Architecture graduating with a master's degree two years later.
In 1946, after a brief period with the office of Skidmore, Owings & Merrill, Pokorny established the architectural firm Jan Hird Pokorny with Elizabeth Hird (his first wife). The firm became known for restoring, redesigning, or modernizing various historic buildings in New York City such as Columbia University's Lewisohn Hall, Schermerhorn Row block at the South Street Seaport, Brooklyn Historical Society building, National Lighthouse Museum on Staten Island, Battery Maritime Building in Lower Manhattan, and Bohemia National Hall. The firm also designed buildings at such educational institutions like Centenary College in Hackettstown, N.J., State University of New York at Stony Brook, and Lehman College in the Bronx.
Alongside his design work, Pokorny was also a professor of architecture and preservation studies at Columbia University, member of the Art Commission of the City of New York from 1973 to 1977, and commissioner of the New York City Landmarks Preservation Commission from 1997 to 2007. Pokorny died in New York in 2008 at the age of 93.