Architecture Needs Students to Stay Relevant

At this year’s Deans Roundtable, Rice University’s Sarah Whiting, Assoc. AIA, posed the question: “How do we make architecture relevant again?” She posited that it is time to move beyond social responsibility and instead focus on making architecture more socially relevant. As the discussion shifted from Occupy Wall Street to the impact each school is making in its respective community (see “Deans Discuss Relevance of Architecture,” by Jacqueline Pezzillo, Assoc. AIA, LEED AP, in this issue), I was pleased by the general consensus among the deans that community engagement is a major part of the discourse in academic circles.

However, something about social engagement struck me during the discussion. A couple of the deans talked about the Solar Decathlon, and their surprise when they arrived in Washington, D.C., to see the amount of research and knowledge the students had about sustainable design and technology. While I’m sure they meant to compliment the efforts, as they continued to praise the enthusiasm and excitement radiating from each team member, I began to question the respect given to architecture students while they are in school.

When I was in graduate school I remember all too well being made to feel by my professors that I did not have enough knowledge to truly understand the field of architecture. The pressure on architecture students to pull all-nighters and prove that they have what it takes to last in the profession is enormous, but rarely do professors give students positive reinforcement and encouragement that their perspectives are important. At least that was my experience.

I think of programs outside of architecture, programs such as those in the sciences, where graduate students are tasked to complete important research for their professors. The work that those students are doing directly contributes to the advancement of their fields… and they know it. Architecture students are taught to develop their designs and work through problems in studio, but the work they do is hardly ever then related back to society (with a few exceptions).

While architecture schools may be incorporating more community-based design studios with the intention of helping students understand the relevancy of the profession, as the Deans Roundtable suggested, the true change needed in architecture school is toward the students themselves. Professors have to enable students and give them confidence to continue in the field. Professors need to show their students how they can significantly contribute to their communities when they graduate. The only way to make architecture relevant again is to help architecture students understand that their views are important, their knowledge is valid, and, ultimately, they are the future of the built environment.

The winners of the 19th Annual NYC Canstruction competition, co-sponsored by the Society for Design Administration and AIANY, are (for images, see Sighted): “Loaded Dice” by Gensler and WSP Flack + Kurtz (Jurors’ Favorite); “Suspending Hunger” by Skanska (Structural Ingenuity Award); “Root Against Hunger” by Dattner Architects (Best Meal Award); “QR-CAN: Link to Fight Hunger” by Gruzen Samton – IBI Group (Best Use of Labels Award); “Shredding Light on Hunger” by Leslie E. Robertson Associates (Honorable Mention); and “NepTUNA the HippoCANpus Against Hunger” by Gilsanz Murray Steficek (Honorable Mention). This year, Eleanor Roosevelt High School was the first high school to participate in the competition, teaming with Sandra Forman Design. The team won the Cheri Award for “Strike Out Hunger.” The jury included Mary-Jean Eastman, FAIA, MRAIC, IIDA, of Perkins Eastman, and Richard Hayden, FAIA, of Swanke Hayden Connell Architects…

Winners of the AIA Long Island Chapter 47th Annual “Archi Awards” include special citations for Nobel Halls by Goshow Architects (Benjamin Moore — Color Award), and Mercedes-Benz Manhattan by Spector Group (Enterprise Lighting Sales — Lighting Award Commercial); Kerns-McCall Residence by Narofsky Architecture (Archi, Residential — Single & Multi-Family); Lieb House (House #9) by Frederic Schwartz Architect (Archi, Historic Restoration/Adaptive Re-use); Forrest Solutions Group by Spector Group, and Apella Conference Center by Bentel & Bentel Architects (Commendations, Interior Architecture); Center of Excellence in Wireless & Information Technology — SUNY Stony Brook (Archi, Educational), and SUNY Stony Brook Southampton Campus by Mitchell/Giurgola Architects (Commendation, Educational); Nobel Halls — SUNY Stony Brook by Goshow Architects (Commendation, Institutional); North Shore LIJ Katz Women’s Hospital by Skidmore, Owings & Merrill (Archi, Unbuilt); and Suffolk County Community College New Science Building by Spector Group (Commendation, Unbuilt)…

The honorees of the Concrete Industry Board’s 50th Annual Roger H. Corbetta
Awards for Quality Concrete include the World Trade Center Greenwich Street Corridor (The Annual Award); Croton Water Filtration Plant by Grimshaw Architects and the National September 11 Memorial & Museum by Michael Arad, AIA, Peter Walker, ASLA, Davis Brody Bond, and Snøhetta (Awards of Merit with Special Recognition); and MiMA by Arquitectonica, Ten 23 by Gerner Kronick + Valcarcel Architects, The Beatrice by Perkins Eastman with Philip Koether Architects, and The Setai by Gwathmey Siegel Kaufman & Associates (Awards of Merit)…

The 2011 SARA PA Council Professional Design Award winners include the Gansevoort Park Hotel by Stephen B. Jacobs Group, Saratoga Avenue Community Center by George Ranalli Architect, and Louis Nine House by Edelman Sultan Knox Wood/ Architects (Awards of Honor); and Penn Medicine Translational Research Center and Perelman Center for Advanced Medicine by Rafael Viñoly Architects (Award of Special Recognition)…

The Council on Tall Buildings and Urban Habitat (CTBUH) named Eight Spruce Street/ New York by Gehry the Best Tall Building in the Americas…The New York City Economic Development Corporation (NYCEDC) announced the winners of the NYC BigApps 3.0 Hackathon, including Can I Park Here? by Eric Rafaloff (Grand Prize); Scene Near Me by Avi Dabir, Luis Miranda, and Dan Blumberg (2nd Prize); and NYC Taxi Tracker by Alastair Coote (3rd Prize)…

Gensler Founder M. Arthur Gensler, FAIA, was honored with the Star Award in Architecture by the Fashion Group International (FGI) at the organization’s 28th Annual “Night of Stars” event… Paola Antonelli, Senior Curator of Architecture and Design at the Museum of Modern Art, received the Art Directors Club Manship Medallion…

Jill H Gotthelf, AIA, has been elevated to the College of Fellows of the Association for Preservation Technology International… Maxinne Leighton, Assoc. AIA, has been named Northeast Region Business Development/Marketing Manager in the New York office of Parsons Brinckerhoff…

EOA / Elmslie Osler Architect announced the launch of Grow Studio, an in-house urban agriculture design consultancy…BAM Architecture Studio has opened a new office in Durham, North Carolina…

12.05.11 Call for Entries: 13th Annual Residential Architect Design Awards

01.03.12 Call for Applications: Loeb Fellowship — Harvard Graduate School of Design

01.13.12 Call for Entries: Contemporary Architecture and Engineering in the Middle East

01.13.12 Call for Proposals: Greenbuild 2012 Presenters and Reviewers

01.13.12 Call for Entries: Friends of the Upper East Side Historic Districts 2012 Annual Awards

01.15.12 Call for Entries: AIANY New Practices New York 2012

01.16.12 Call for Entries: AIANY ENYA The Harlem Edge | Cultivating Connections

01.20.12 Call for Ideas (Deadline Extension): The Core Project — International Design Competition, Sebastapol, CA

01.25.12 Call for Entries: 2012 Congress for the New Urbanism Charter Awards

03.01.12 Call for Entries: Re-Thinking Shanghai 2012

11.15.11: The “Zoning the City” conference sponsored by the NYC Department of City Planning, Harvard University Graduate School of Design, and The Steven L. Newman Real Estate Institute of Baruch College took place at the McGraw-Hill Conference Center. Co-chaired by NYC Planning Department Director Amanda Burden, FAICP, Hon. AIANY, and Harvard University Professor Jerold S. Kayden, the daylong event addressed the role that zoning plays into meeting challenges in NYC.


Co-chairs Jerold S. Kayden, and Amanda Burden, FAICP, Hon. AIANY.

Rick Bell, FAIA

11.17.11: The NY Chapter of NOMA hosted a seminar, “LEED-ing Affordable Housing,” at the Steelcase Showroom.

(L-R): David Danois AIA, Danois Architects; Victor Body-Lawson AIA, Body-Lawson Associates; and Terrence O’Neal AIA, LEED AP, TONA-Terrence O’Neal Architect.

Heather Philip-O’Neal, AIA

11.21.11: NYU School of Professional and Continuing Studies (NYU-SCPS) dedicated its newly redesigned building by Mitchell | Giurgola Architects at 7 East 12th Street.


(L-R): Carol Loewenson, AIA, Partner, Mitchell | Giurgola Architects; Ife Onatunde, NYU-SCPS Undergraduate Student Council President; Dr. Bjorn Hanson, Interim NYU-SCPS Co-dean and Divisional Dean of the NYU-SCPS Tisch Center; Congressman Jerrold Nadler; and Dennis Di Lorenzo, Interim NYU-SCPS Co-dean and Associate Dean of Administration.

©NYU-SCPS / Mark McQueen

11.02.11: The Design Trust for Public Space’s 2011 Art+Design Benefit Auction was held at Center 548 in West Chelsea.


(L-R): Joshua David, Friends of the High Line co-founder; Design Trust board member Claire Weisz, AIA; Friends of the High Line Co-founder Robert Hammond; Design Trust Founder Andrea Woodner; and Design Trust Executive Director Susan Chin, FAIA.

Courtesy Josh Wong Photography

11.03.11: Blair Kamin, the Pulitzer Prize-winning architecture critic for the Chicago Trubune, presented In Terror and Wonder: Architecture in a Tumultuous Age as part of the monthly Oculus Book Talk series.


Kamin with Kirsten Sibilia, Assoc. AIA, chair of the AIANY Publications Committee.

Kristen Richards


Kamin with Tracy Hummer and Frederic Schwartz, FAIA.

Kristen Richards

11.14.11: The winners of Canstruction NYC were announced at the annual gala, benefiting City Harvest.


Suzanne Mecs, Hon. AIA NYS, AIANY Director of Member Services; Jennifer Greene, Assoc. AIA; Kristen Richards, Hon. AIA, Hon. ASLA; and George Calys, Architecture Critic for the San Francisco Examiner.

Sunny Norton


“Loaded Dice” by Gensler and WSP Flack + Kurtz (Jurors’ Favorite).

Canstruction/Kevin Wick


“Suspending Hunger” by Skanska (Structural Ingenuity Award).

Canstruction/Kevin Wick


“Root Against Hunger” by Dattner Architects (Best Meal Award).

Canstruction/Kevin Wick


“QR-CAN: Link to Fight Hunger” by Gruzen Samton – IBI Group (Best Use of Labels Award).

Canstruction/Kevin Wick


“Shredding Light on Hunger” by Leslie E. Robertson Associates (Honorable Mention).

Canstruction/Kevin Wick


“NepTUNA the HippoCANpus Against Hunger” by Gilsanz Murray Steficek (Honorable Mention).

Canstruction/Kevin Wick


“Strike Out Hunger” by Eleanor Roosevelt High School / Sandra Forman Design (Cheri Award).

Canstruction/Kevin Wick


11.11.11 This issue celebrates Heritage Ball honorees Gary Barnett, Leslie Koch, and Janette Sadik-Khan. Enjoy!

Also, OCULUS is still looking for NYC-based single practitioners and small firms to submit article suggestions to its Spring 2012 issue, “Small is Big: Can small firms act big?” Go to the New Deadlines section for more information.

– Jessica Sheridan, Assoc. AIA, LEED AP

Note: The digital edition of the Fall 2011 issue of OCULUS magazine, “Interior Motives,” is online now! Click here to read.

Energy Strategies Approach New Rigor

Event: Buildings=Energy: Design for a Change Symposium
Location: Center for Architecture, 11.05.11
Keynote: Stephen Selkowitz — Building Technologies Department Head, Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory
Speakers: Colin Cathcart, AIA — Partner, Kiss+Cathcart; Rebecca Craft — Director of Energy Efficiency Programs, Con Edison; Michael Colgrove — Director of New York Office, New York State Energy Research and Development Authority (NYSERDA); Kevin Kampschroer — Director of the Office of Federal High-Performance Green Buildings, U.S. General Services Administration; Tiffany Broyles, LEED AP — Associate Principal, Environmental Specialist, Kohn Pedersen Fox; Dr. Jane L. Snowdon — Senior Manager, Industry Solutions and Emerging, Business Energy & Environment: Smarter Building Research, IBM T. J. Watson Research Center; Mustafa Abadan, FAIA — Design Partner, Skidmore Owings & Merrill; Mahadev Raman — Principal, Arup; Zachary Tofias — Climate Positive Development Program Manager, Clinton Climate Initiative
Moderator/ Introduction: William J. Worthen, AIA, LEED AP — Director, Resource Architect for Sustainability, AIA
Welcome: Margaret O’Donoghue Castillo, AIA, LEED AP — 2011 AIANY President
Organizers: AIANY in collaboration with the Center for Architecture Foundation
Sponsors: Underwriters: Arup; Con Edison; Perkins + Will; Lead Sponsors: Buro Happold; STUDIOS Architecture; 3M Window Films; Energy Products Distribution/3M Company/APG Sponsors: MechoShade Systems; Robert Silman Associates; Trespa; Supporters: Acheson Doyle Partners Architects; DeLaCour Family Foundation; Ibex Construction; KPF; Syska Hennessy Group; Friends: 1100 Architect; Bleecker Area Merchants & Residents Association; Brenda Levin; Capsys Corporation; Community Environmental Center; Helpern Architects; Hugo S. Subotovsky AIA Architects; Levien & Company; New York Building Congress; Oppenheimer Brady Vogelstein; P.W. Grosser Consulting; Swanke Hayden Connell Architects; Viridian Energy & Environmental

Center for Architecture

The proportion of energy consumption attributable to buildings in NYC reaches 95%, noted 2011 AIANY President Margaret Castillo, AIA, LEED AP. “It isn’t just big corporations that pollute; architects do, too,” she said. Less widely recognized is the array of design and operational strategies that make carbon-neutral and net-zero-energy buildings achievable goals. Some are grounded in technologies, standards, and codes; some require social engineering on various scales, from restructuring interdisciplinary collaborations to training contractors and occupants in energy-conserving best practices. They’re all essential if the U.S. is to transform itself from a global laggard to a leader in mitigating and remediating environmental damage.

The watchwords include performance, measurement, and building science, suggested Moderator and AIA Director and Resource Architect for Sustainability William Worthen, AIA, LEED AP, who recommended abandoning the language of greenness and sustainability, and instead emphasizing “high performance” and “best value” in communications with developers and other partners. Despite setbacks — e.g., the Commercial Buildings Energy Consumption Survey (CBECS), the basis for the Architecture 2030 Challenge, which fell victim to congressional budget cuts last summer — Worthen described efforts by AIA National, the Department of Energy, and others to develop and disseminate robust benchmarks for a broad range of building types as a critical step toward making high performance the norm rather than an exception.

Net zero is the right goal, observed Keynote Speaker Stephen Selkowitz of Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory’s Building Technology Department, and verifiable operating numbers for buildings’ energy use are essential. “We know conceptually what we need to do, basically,” he said, but the real challenge is scaling up efficiency gains from the single-building scale to the societal level, combining the deep but narrow savings seen in a few hundred net-zero buildings nationwide. Improvements in the 10-20% range are possible with checklist approaches; reaching goals of 60-80% requires a detailed knowledge of sites and climates, building-information-management tools, specific metrics, and a willingness by architects to enter other elements of buildings’ life cycle: construction, commissioning, occupancy, operations, and renovation/decommissioning. Selkowitz cited sharp gains in refrigerator efficiency after the mid-1970s oil shock as evidence that policy changes and standards can drive measurable change. What we did with fridges (even while making them larger) we now need to do with buildings, and with the complex relationships modeled by instruments like the forthcoming Simergy open-platform interface for EnergyPlus.

Case studies and organizational perspectives presented on the local, national, and international panels evinced progress on multiple fronts, from one-off innovations to an inside look at Con Edison’s “peak shaving” and demand-forecasting strategies by Energy-efficiency Director Rebecca Craft. SOM’s Mustafa Abadan, FAIA, offered a range of design models from nature and nonindustrial cultures as inspiration for the Burj Khalifa, Seoul’s DMC Landmark Tower, and other advanced skyscrapers. Among the KPF works presented by Tiffany Broyles, LEED AP, the Centra at Metropark in Iselin, NJ, stood out as a radical retrofit that turned an unloved suburban commercial building to a bold icon, notable for its asymmetric trusses and daylight-harvesting excavation — a visible argument that performance and design can coexist. Arup’s Mahadev Raman put the hazards of trend prediction into historical perspective while conjecturing that the future will call for expanded uses of the ground, intelligent transportation, “smart skins,” and better use of the developing world’s “low-tech but high-performance” local knowledge.

Colin Cathcart, AIA, spotlighted Kiss + Cathcart’s projects from the Coney Island train station’s photovoltaic roof to a Lower East Side multi-family residence providing ample onsite parking — for bikes. NYC residents have one-third the per capita carbon footprint found in the rest of the nation, he noted, but on the broader 12,000-square-mile metropolitan level, we’re “no better than anybody else in the country, and internationally we stink.” Still, even if our environmental self-regard isn’t always justifiable, the city’s wealth, density, and forms of cognitive/cultural capital make it a pivotal test bed for the urbanist adjustments the future requires: “Our first, last, best hope to turn this planet around is right here in NYC.”

Barnett Predicts Future of Development in NYC

Event: A Conversation with Gary Barnett, Extell Development Company
Location: Center for Architecture, 10.26.11
Speakers: Gary Barnett — President, Extell Development Company
Organizer: Center for Architecture
Sponsor: Kramer Levin

“It’s not just about design; it’s about design and function,” said Gary Barnett, president of Extell Development and one of this year’s Heritage Ball honorees, about his take on real estate development. During the company’s 22 years in business, Extell has developed more than 20 million square feet and worked with an impressive list of architects and interior designers.

Barnett admitted that, although Extell likes to work with a continually expanding and diverse group of firms, the company does have its favorites. SOM, one of those favorites, designed The International Gem Tower, under construction since April. Atelier Christian de Portzamparc with executive architect SLCE designed One57, the 90-story hotel/condominium currently rising on 57th Street. The trio is banding together again to design the remaining portion of Riverside South, from 65th to 59th Streets, one of the last large undeveloped sites in Manhattan. Even though Extell works with high caliber designers on all projects, its in-house architects always perform due diligence to ensure that the properties will be functional, economic, as well as attractive, according to Barnett.

Citing the twin opponents of development in today’s recession — generally longer construction times (up to 30% by Barnett’s estimate) and a retreat in financing — Barnett remained optimistic. Despite the decreased number of building permits issued, smaller, non-union projects are the way to build because they’re faster and cheaper, he said. Meanwhile, larger building projects will return slowly, he predicted.

Koch Brings New Art Forms to NYC By Jacqueline Pezzillo, Assoc. AIA, LE

Event: Leslie Koch in Conversation with David Haskell
Location: Center for Architecture, 10.24.11
Speakers: Leslie Koch — President, Trust for Governors Island; David Haskell — Features Editor, New York
Organizer: Center for Architecture
Sponsor: Kramer Levin

Governors Island.

Courtesy Trust for Governors Island

Under the leadership of Leslie Koch, a 2011 Heritage Ball Honoree and recipient of the Center for Architecture Foundation Award, Governor’s Island has changed from a sleepy former military base into a thriving art incubator that attracts nearly half a million people annually. Koch, President of the Trust for Governors Island, attributed the Island’s success to the ability to experimental nature. Without a budget or curatorial staff, Koch initially found it difficult to lure established art institutions as exhibitors on Governors Island. “Orphan organizations” were the first transplants to the island.

The haven spirit of the island continues to welcome various creative events and exhibitions through a permit process and collaborative programming with Koch and her team. “Programming is at the heart of what we do,” said Koch, who compares Governors Island to a summer vacation place. “We have a sense of democracy… the island belongs to everybody. Programs that embrace that spirit of shared privilege work the best.”

Perhaps the most successful endeavor of Koch has been to bridge the psychological gap that surrounds Governors Island. While only 800 yards from Lower Manhattan, and even closer to Brooklyn, many New Yorkers and visitors struggle to associate the destination with the life of the city. By cultivating a place, ironically without introducing any new architecture, Koch created a cultural magnet for visitors. Her ability to watch and learn how people utilize space and then adapt to those lessons has led to many successful developments on the island, including free bicycles, hammocks, and moveable furniture.

Five years after Koch assumed her position the public eagerly waits for Governors Island’s annual open season and its events, which have included sculpture installations by Mark di Suvero, open artist-in-residence studios by the Lower Manhattan Cultural Council, and the annual FIGMENT arts festival (including the FIGMENT/ENYA/SEAoNY City of Dreams Pavilion Competition for the last two years).

Sadik-Khan, Byrne Discuss Infrastructure, From NYC to Bogotá

Event: Oculus Book Talk: Janette Sadik-Khan in Conversation with David Byrne, Bicycle Diaries
Location: Center for Architecture, 10.24.11
Speakers: Janette Sadik-Khan — Commissioner, NYC Department of Transportation; David Byrne — Musician, Visual Artist, Filmmaker, Author, Bicycle Diaries
Organizers: AIANY Oculus Committee; AIANY Public Architecture Committee
Sponsor: Kramer Levin; McNally Jackson Books

Pedestrian plazas and new bike paths are improving NYC.

Jessica Sheridan

It was apparent during the discussion between David Byrne, artist and author of the Bicycle Diaries, and NYC Department of Transportation Commissioner Janette Sadik-Khan that positive change is happening on a global scale due to multi-modal transportation strategies implemented in cities of all scales. For Byrne, his realizations solidified as he recently biked through Bogotá, Columbia; for Sadik-Khan, it is continues as improvements are made throughout the city.

As Byrne biked through Bogotá, he saw first-hand how infrastructural improvements have helped improve favelas. Paved bicycle and pedestrian paths have given downtown access to inhabitants, allowing them to find work in the city that was inaccessible in the past. “Improvised bike repair stations” — individuals who sit curbside with tools to help repair bikes — are now scattered along those paths. In addition, the TransMilenio bus system is a viable alternate to owning a car, as express bus lanes give uncongested priority on highways leading to downtown. Community centers are also popping up in the form of large-scale libraries. Byrne cited the Biblioteca El Tintal, designed by local architect Daniel Bermúdez, as an example of a library/auditorium/meeting space/cafeteria that is part of this new network, which has also become a source of pride for local communities.

Although NYC may not appear to have gone through major infrastructural change, Sadik-Khan pointed to Times Square just a few years ago, before the pedestrian plazas were established. She recalled naysayers who were concerned about increased traffic congestion and those who did not believe the plazas would improve the cityscape. Now, visitors and locals alike regularly meet up and spend time in Times Square; safety has improved dramatically with fewer accidents caused by automobiles; and traffic has not become more congested along the periphery, she noted. Throughout the city, new bike lanes and pedestrian plazas have made the city much more livable. Next summer, with the launch of a bike share program, which has received positive reviews at the pop-up information sessions, Sadik-Khan is looking forward to seeing New Yorkers take to the streets on two wheels and enjoy the increasingly fresh air.