Associate Professor Nathan Shapira established himself as a professor at UCLA in 1963 up until 1998 for a 35-year period. As a Professor Emeritus, Shapira was still very active at UCLA up until his death in May of 2009. In 1963, Nathan Shapira was hired as a UCLA when Henry Dreyfuss was the Department Chair. Henry Dreyfuss, very much like his NewYork contemporary Raymond Lowey, was another hallmark iconic American designer. Henry Dreyfuss, also had a very successful practice in New York, Henry Dreyfuss and Associates.
Nathan Shapira’s permanence and lifetime affinity with California – “Los Angeles,” was established in 1963 upon his arrival as an Industrial Design Professor at UCLA. Los Angeles and UCLA was to be Nathan’s “destiny” despite the efforts of one of the iconic pioneers of Industrial Design in America, Raymond Lowey’s solicitation for Nathan to work in his New York office. As Nathan had shared with me, he had already set his sights to being in California. I believe Nathan preferred the boundless visionary outreach and intellectual prestige of academia. In addition, I believe looked at himself as being a Design Pioneer, seeking to establish design beyond its conventional commercial boundaries and esoteric constituency. He certainly he established by the end of his life, his legacy as a Design Ambassador and advocate. In fact the name he coined his design consultancy firm was “Design Advocacy.” Nathan Shapira took design in a explorative manner, that was not so much about just creating objects but seeing how design could become a mainstay in sustaining global needs in our society. As a design ambassador he did not see himself being centered in one place, nor creating design for his own self-satisfaction, never seeking to establishing himself as a center of attraction. Nathan believed design had to be outreaching, whether it was his initial architectural design studies in Milano, going to Israel, coming to America. For Nathan Shapira coming to America had all of the pioneering intrigue and adventure from his landing New England to his Commonwealth Fellow ventures through America’s urban concrete jungles across its southern landscape and vast western expanse. It was Prof. Shapira’s inquisitive, curios, exploratory mindset that inspired his provocateur, exploratory, “don’t know ‘No’ persistence.”