06.22.10 Editor’s Note: To serve our membership better, the AIA New York Chapter is soliciting thoughts and opinions on OCULUS, the Chapter’s quarterly print magazine, and e-Oculus. Please full out an online survey here: http://www.surveymonkey.com/s/Oculus. There are three brief sections: Format, Content, and Frequency. The survey will remain open until 07.02.10. Thank you in advance for your time!

Also, check out today’s NorthJersey.com to read John Zeaman’s article, “Boat tour offers a look at Manhattan architecture,” on the AIANY Boat Tours offered throughout the summer.

– Jessica Sheridan, Assoc. AIA, LEED AP

Note: Be sure to follow Tweets from e-Oculus and the Center for Architecture.

And check out the latest Podcasts produced by AIANY. New this week: Archiculture filmmakers and 2010 Brunner Grant winners, Ian Harris and David Krantz.

Note: This letter is in response to “43-Year Watch,” by John Morris Dixon, FAIA, published in the Spring 2010 issue of OCULUS.

To the Editor of Oculus:

My colleague John West, who was a Sr. Urban Designer in the Mayor’s Office of Lower Manhattan Development (OLMD), and I, who served as a Sr. Urban Designer in The Office of Midtown Planning and Development (OMPD) and later as Deputy Director of OLMD, were delighted to read John Morris Dixon’s article “43-Year Watch” in the Spring ’10 issue of Oculus.

After four decades the Urban Design Group (UDG) and the precedent it set for design and good government is overdue for such recognition. However, the article only covers half of the urban design commitment in the Lindsay years. The Paley Commission, referred to in Dixon’s article, actually went beyond just the formation of the UDG. In order to elevate the role of urban design politically, it also called for the establishment of an urban design presence within the mayor’s office. This recommendation was adopted and five offices were created. In Manhattan two offices were established: The Mayor’s Office of Midtown Planning and Development, led by Jaquelin T. Robertson, FAIA, and The Mayor’s Office of Lower Manhattan Development, under the leadership of Richard Weinstein. The other three were established in the CBD’s of Brooklyn, Queens, and Staten Island.

The Midtown Office not only established special districts such as the Theater and Fifth Avenue Special Zoning Districts, it also greatly influenced the massing and relationship of new buildings to their urban context including Olympic Towers and 622 Fifth Avenue, along with many others.

In Lower Manhattan, OLMD, through the introduction of extraordinary zoning and financing, was responsible for the creation of the South Street Seaport. OLMD was also responsible for initiating the rezoning of Battery Park City that led to the highly successful Cooper Ekstut plan, and the rezoning of Tribeca legalizing residential use of the loft buildings.

The UDG and the five Development Offices did, indeed, make significant improvements to New York City, influenced other cities such as San Francisco and Chicago to follow suit, and were actually involved in the development of Form Based Zoning well before it even had a name.


Terrance R. Williams, FAIA
Professor of Architecture & Urban Design
The Catholic University of America
President , American Institute of Architects, 1984-85
John Pettit West III, AIA

Pink Asks Architects: What is Your Sentence?


Courtesy AIA

After his opening day keynote address, Daniel H. Pink became a hot topic of conversation throughout the convention. Pink is a Washington, DC-based, New York Times bestselling author of four books about the changing world of work. His book, A Whole New Mind: Why Right-Brainers Will Rule the Future (Riverhead Trade, 2006), which explains the rise of right brain thinking in modern economies, was completely sold out before the end of the convention.

According to Pink, the era of left brain dominance, and the Information Age that was born out of it, are giving way to a new world in which right brain qualities — such as inventiveness and empathy — predominate. Routine work is being outsourced offshore, and software has replaced many functions that were performed by accountants and lawyers in the past. “In the future,” said Pink, “people who can integrate right and left [brain functions] will flourish.”

How does this right brain/left brain talk pertain to architects and “Design for the New Decade,” the theme of this year’s convention? “To be in this business,” said Pink, “you must be literate in design. The future will be sharply influenced by the role of right brain thinking and right brain thinkers. Architects must be able to focus on the real challenges of affordable housing, better schools, and public buildings. Of equal importance, they need to have the capability to verbalize them to the general public.” Moderator Susan Szenasy, Hon. AIANY, Hon. ASLA, editor-in-chief of Metropolis, elaborated: “The story of architecture is a human story. You can speak your priestly language to each other, but shouldn’t to the average person.”

For guidance, Pink recommended that architects clarify their message. Rather than trying to accomplish too many things at once, which often results in muddled communication, he referenced Clare Booth Luce’s question to President Kennedy: “What is your sentence?” Design makes architects relevant and, indeed, essential in the new decade. The goal is to not lose the depth of meaning in the translation.

Today’s the Day to Join Together to Overcome Catastrophe

“Today we pay a price for our past and present excesses,” began Ted Landsmark, Assoc. AIA, at the second keynote presentation, “Community Design for the New Decade: Consumerism and Responsibility.” He noted we must change our self-centered ways and start thinking of our impact on the larger, local and global, community.

Until relatively recently, artist Chris Jordan lived a “detached, disengaged life,” perhaps typical of contemporary lifestyles. He saw recycling as a nuisance and found it difficult to truly understand his personal impact on climate change. But his life changed once he began photographing piles of waste. His work now centers on trying to quantify mass consumption. In what Jordan called “transcalar imaginary,” he emphasized the importance of both zooming in and out to see details but also get a perspective from afar.

“It all adds up to a catastrophe,” stated Jordan. Yet, “it’s not about blaming. The generation before us didn’t know better.” We are the first generation as a collective to understand the enormity of what we face in a world of environmental depletion, he posited, and that is a good thing. It is our responsibility to allow ourselves to try to comprehend communally how to make change. Our world view must shift; it is not too late.

Bohlin Urges Architects to Use Their Pencils

“We aren’t changing half as quickly as our environment. The question is, can we catch up?” asked Peter Bohlin, FAIA, recipient of this year’s AIA Gold Medal Award. While he may be a great admirer of Modern architecture, he has always criticized its negligence to address the way people actually live. Through his designs, he tries to enable groups to have a greater quality of life. For him, it is a search that is both intuitive and intellectual.

But not every architect has the same strengths. He acknowledged the wide range of career paths for architects, and urged individuals to discover what they personally can bring to the profession. “We are all unique with different talents, interests, and abilities. We are lucky to be able to dance between people and places and make sense of it all.” Whatever path you choose, however, Bohlin cautioned, “if you don’t love it like a great hobby, do something else.”

When asked to give advice to emerging architects (via Twitter), he responded with the following:
– Find where you fit
– Start wondering
– Don’t believe what everyone tells you
– Read a lot
– Get used to stumbling and finding your way
– Don’t just be computer-based

Bohlin ended his talk by pulling out a pencil from his shirt pocket emphatically exclaiming: “And please use one of these!”

Bang Zoom! To the Moon Associates!

Should Associates Members of the AIA be able to serve as Regional Directors on the Institute’s Board of Directors? The passions about Bylaws Amendment 10-D animated The Fillmore Miami Beach Jackie Gleason Theater in a way that will long be recalled by those attending and those impacted by the vote.

The cover of the Delegate Information Booklet 2010 of the AIA 2010 National Convention is bright yellow, and the bold black lettering of its title seemed large and clear. Convention Resolutions were easily passed by majority vote, allowing for proxy voting, convention location planning, and recognition of those who had become licensed in 2009. But there were four bylaws amendments under consideration — one controversial. Three of the amendments received the necessary two-thirds majority of those accredited to vote. Proposed Bylaw Amendment 10-D did not. Easily passing muster were bylaws changes allowing for abbreviation in nomenclature; electronic voting at meetings; and, importantly, a continuation of the Member Dues Payment Plan, which allows those experiencing hardship to pay yearly dues in partial installments.

The most controversial debate at the Annual Meeting (as it was last year) was Amendment 10-D, allowing Associate Members to serve as Regional Directors on state boards. Associate Members — the fastest growing category of AIA membership — does not only consist of intern architects pursuing architecture; it includes urban designers, educators, engineers, and writers, some who have worked in the profession for more than 20 years who never intend to pursue licensure. This resolution would have given each component the opportunity to nominate the most qualified member to serve as Regional Director.

Those in opposition stated that only architects should be serving in national leadership roles, as it is the American Institute of “Architects.” For local leadership positions, however, the opposition was split. Delegates in favor of the Amendment 10-D stated that it is important to support the future of the profession — Associates — and, since the National Board is a representational board, it should be up to the region to decide who is most qualified. Some referenced Resolution 09-1, the adoption of the “Gateway Commitment,” which passed earlier at this meeting, specifically stating the importance of “learning from other colleagues and related organizations that have successfully addressed diversity issues.” Proponents argued that by passing Amendment 10-D, the AIA would be showing it truly supports diversity within the profession.


AIA Elections Center on Service, Community, Education, Design

The voting for officers took place in the AIA Town Square on the AIA Expo2010 floor of the Miami Beach Convention Center. Delegates who were accredited to vote cast their ballots after seeing many of the booths on the trade show floor. It was good to see those whose support of the AIA, nationally and locally, has made it possible for the Institute to do as much as it does in these challenging times. People voted with their feet, stopping to visit with old AIA friends, including Hafele and Trespa, and new ones, such as Toto and Onyx. Eventually the great majority of delegates, if not all, found their way to the voting booths, where Pam Day, Hon. AIA, and Jay Stephens, Esq., assured that no electioneering took place, and that the voting was conducted in a reasonable and linear fashion — no hanging chads for the AIA in Florida!

The AIA New York Chapter cast its votes based on collegial discussions with our colleagues in the New York State caucus, and after a close read of the candidates’ materials. The speeches and responses to questions also helped clarify leadership potential and vision for the future. Dreiling stressed the importance of AIA members and her long experience as both a volunteer as the National Board Vice President, and service on national staff. Andrejko spoke of the need for better communication, collaboration, and connection to community. Padilla addressed the importance of early design education for students in Kindergarten through high school, as well as the role of AIA Components. Potter spoke of the importance of design, the need to help emerging professionals, and how professional advocacy and affirmation can be used to advance our ethical posture. Voting as a bloc has become something of a tradition in New York State, yet a vibrant debate informed the decisions made by each Chapter and its delegates.

Election results were announced at a gathering on the mezzanine level of the Loews Miami Beach Hotel. Those elected were:
– Jeffery Potter, FAIA, AIA Dallas, for First Vice President/2011 President-elect
– Dennis A. Andrejko, FAIA, AIA Buffalo/Western New York, for Vice President
– John A. Padilla, AIA, AIA Santa Fe, for Vice President
– Helene Combs Dreiling, FAIA, AIA Blue Ridge Chapter, for Secretary

They, and the candidates who did not succeed in gathering enough votes for election, including Pamela J. Loeffelman, FAIA, of AIA New York; Frederick F. Butters, Esq., FAIA, of AIA Detroit; and David Del Vecchio, AIA, of AIA New Jersey, all ran spirited and intelligent campaigns, marked by a focus on real issues.

The process of voting was easier than in prior years. The good choices presented, including the candidacy of a favorite daughter of AIA New York, made the decisions harder than ever.

Flew in from Miami Beach: Russian Architecture Redefines Convention


The UAR’s exhibition at the Miami Beach Convention Center.

Rick Bell, FAIA

One of the major highlights of the 2010 AIA Convention was an exhibition, in the second floor west gallery of the Miami Convention Center, consisting of 24 extraordinary and unconventional projects from the Russian Federation. The vibrant show was sponsored by the Union of Architects of Russia and organized by Brian Spencer, AIA, IAA, PAACH. Spencer, an architect in Carefree, AZ, had curated exhibitions of American architecture at the two most recent annual Zodchestvo festivals in Moscow. He was the first curator of architecture at the Milwaukee Art Museum, and is an Honorary Professor at both Belgorod State Technical University and the Rostov Institute of Architecture in Russia.

The work shown featured new housing, including the Stella Maris Residential Building by Project Bureau Evgeniy Gerasimov & Partners; the Avangard Residential Complex by Sergey Kiselev & Partners; and the Cooper House Residential Complex by Sergey Skuratov Architects. Commercial space was represented by the Four Seasons Shopping & Leisure Center by V. Plotkin, the Gorki Entertainment Complex by A. Kukovyakin, and the Kitezh Commerce & Business Center by Andrey Bokov, President of the Union of Architects of Russia. Bokov spoke about his work during a well-attended global exchange panel moderated by Thomas Fisher, Dean of the College of Design at the University of Minnesota.

Other colorful projects included the Cocoon Restaurant in Moscow by V. Savinkin, the Peter Fomenko Studio Theater by S. Gnedovskiy, and a “picturesque bridge” by N. Shumankov. There was also a project by Sergei Tchoban, lead curator of Factory Russia, the 2010 Russian pavilion at the Venice Biennale. Mr. Tchoban will be speaking at the Center for Architecture at 6:00pm on Friday, 07.09.10 Click here to RSVP.

Whispered gallery comments: “this could fit in anywhere in the world” and “structural expressionism is alive and well.”

2010 Fellow Reports from Investiture

Fellowship inductees, 134 of us, were arranged in glistening, dark-robed rows on one of the curving blond-wood tiers of the Knight Concert Hall at Miami’s Adrienne Arsht Center for the Performing Arts (Pelli Clarke Pelli, 2006). The long road to this ceremony required all of us, including 14 successful candidates from the AIA New York Chapter, to consider deeply where our careers had led, both the gratifying accomplishments and the professional ditches we drove into along the way.

Still, I didn’t know what to expect somehow. The ceremony itself mixed metaphors. An elegant organ blast set an ecclesiastical mood. The chancellors and past presidents, hung with medals, suggested Masonic exclusivity and secrecy. Strolling across the stage to receive my medal and be handed a hefty volume listing illustrious fellows of the past, I was reminded of graduations. There were many radiant smiles as my fellow Fellows trod the stage — along with some artistically significant footwear under the rustling robes.

For all the formal trappings, there was not a speck of pomposity. I was happy to be among colleagues I’ve long known, but perfect strangers enthusiastically congratulated me, which was gratifyingly unexpected. Warm wishes flowed across the room for everyone in waves. On my way up to the stage, the formidable officers greeted me with the easy familiarity of old friends and the wise admonition to take the time to recognize the significance of the honor and be present for the moment.

Each of us must have thought again about how we got here. As a young architect in the 1980s, the last thing I could have predicted was that I would be accepting this medal — as a journalist yet — and that I would receive this extraordinary honor in the same year as my employer at the time, Peter Bohlin, FAIA, would receive the AIA’s Gold Medal.

Editor’s Note: The AIA New York Chapter would once again like to congratulation the 14 Chapter members elevated to the College of Fellows this year: Christine J. Bodouva, FAIA, LEED AP; Michael F. Doyle, FAIA; Donald Fram, FAIA; Lia Gartner, FAIA, LEED AP; Stephanie Gelb, FAIA; Samuel Alexander Klatskin, FAIA; Joan Krevlin, FAIA, LEED AP; Sandro Marpillero, FAIA; Bernard A. Marson, FAIA; Bogdan Z. Pestka, FAIA; James S. Russell; FAIA; Anthony P. Schirripa, FAIA, IIDA; Walter Sedovic, FAIA, LEED AP; Yvonne Szeto, FAIA, LEED AP.

Convention Highlights Sustainability at All Levels

Sustainable Design for the New Decade: Deep Dive on Issues and the Role of Design
What will sustainable design mean — and look like — in the next decade and beyond? For moderator Susan Szenasy, Hon. AIANY, Hon. ASLA, editor-in-chief of Metropolis, “LEED has taken the profession into the sustainable world. Now we have the foundation and are ready to go beyond LEED and come up with design solutions that are carbon neutral.” The three panelists put forth presentations that helped define carbon neutrality and what the A&E industry has achieved — and still needs to accomplish to reach such an increasingly necessary goal.

Yale School of Forestry’s Stephen Kellert linked crises in both natural and built environments, explaining that the separation and alienation of people from nature is critical to rebuilding our degraded and depleted natural systems. He called for moving towards “restorative environmental design,” that combines low-impact, LEED-type design with biophilic design. As examples, Kellert compared Yale’s new Kroon Hall and UC Santa Barbara’s Bren School of Environmental Science & Management. Both serve similar clientele, and both are LEED Platinum, but “which one makes you want to be in it?” His answer: Kroon has “more restorative environmental/biophilic design features,” while the Bren building actually turns its back on its ocean views. (According to Kellert, Kroon Hall “is using more energy than anticipated because students won’t leave the building.”)

Robert Drew, LEED AP, associate principal of Busby Perkins+Will, presented Dockside Green in Victoria, BC, as a case study of how large-scale development can achieve carbon neutrality. The 15-acre waterfront brownfield site is being developed into a 1.3-million-square-foot mixed-use neighborhood (35% is now built out). The design team “moved the focus from buildings to community,” he said, working from a “triple-bottom-line approach” of economic, environmental, and social assessments. Key to the aim of achieving LEED ND Platinum is the development’s self-sufficiency. Dockside built its own biomass and waste water treatment plants, and a planted greenway that supports storm water management. But a key ingredient has been to “empower the user.” Residents can learn what will save energy through the smart metering system installed in every unit that measures a number of metrics, from electricity usage to a greenhouse gas emissions profile.