05.25.12: Welcome to the annual AIA Convention Issue of e-Oculus. The 2012 National AIA Convention, themed “Design Connects,” was a whirlwind of workshops, networking, and awards. I hope this issue transmits some of that excitement, as well as the editors’ pride and admiration for AIANY members’ contributions to international architecture culture.

e-Oculus also tweeted at the Convention, so check out our feed to review all that went on in DC! Follow tweets from e-Oculus and the Center for Architecture.

– Daniel Fox

AIA 2012 Convention Special: Resilient Connections, a City’s Strongest Monument

(l-r) Michael Arad, AIA, LEED AP; Robert I. Davidson, FAIA; Steven M. Davis, FAIA; Daniel Libeskind, AIA; Craig E. Dykers, AIA; David M. Childs, FAIA; Santiago Calatrava, FAIA; Joseph Aliotta, AIA; Jeffery Potter, FAIA; William T. Brown, AIA; Debbie Burns, Hon. AIA; Rick Bell, FAIA

Daniel Fox

Event: Architects of Healing: Honoring the Architects Involved in Post-9/11 Memorial and Rebuilding Efforts
Location: Walter E. Washington Convention Center, Washington, DC, 05.19.2012
Speakers: Robert I. Davidson, FAIA, senior vice president, STV; Daniel Libeskind, AIA, principal, Studio Daniel Libeskind; David M. Childs, FAIA, chairman emeritus, Skidmore Owings, & Merrill; Michael Arad, AIA, LEED AP, partner, Handel Architects; Craig E. Dykers, AIA, senior partner/director, Snøhetta; Steven M. Davis, FAIA, partner, Davis Brody Bond; Santiago Calatrava, FAIA, principal, Santiago Calatrava LLC; Robert Ivy, FAIA, executive vice president and chief executive officer, AIA (introduction); Jeffery Potter, FAIA, 2012 AIA President (moderator)
Organizers: AIA 2012 National Convention

The theme of this year’s national AIA convention, “Design Connects,” can have multiple meanings. The concluding keynote, assembling the architects responsible for the various components of the rebuilding of Ground Zero for both ceremony and substance, connected the nation’s architects with New York’s experience and the specific task of rebuilding Lower Manhattan with architecture’s universal mission. “The attacks were not against a building; the attacks were against our freedom, our values,” said Steven Davis, FAIA, whose firm Davis Brody Bond had been engaged with the site since 1992, and whose master plan documents proved invaluable during the response to the initial World Trade Center bombing in 1993. Yet in concrete reminiscences of the events of 9/11 and in moments of somber eloquence about what was lost at the WTC, Shanksville, PA, and the Pentagon – and what was found to be immune to loss – the speakers also emphasized that connections between buildings and values are indissoluble.

After an arresting reading by AIA EVP/CEO Robert Ivy, FAIA, about his immediate experiences of 9/11, the seven honorees (each introduced by a brief video) testified to the overwhelming responsibility and privilege of working on this site. Rebuilding downtown has required an unprecedented combination of gravity, creativity, and collegiality; those recognized here were scrupulous about sharing credit with teammates and honoring the fallen. David Childs, FAIA, appropriately echoed earlier comments by historian David McCullough and Gold Medal recipient Steven Holl, FAIA, respectively, that “all great work is a joint effort” and “architecture is all about collaboration.” (It is no accident that the honorees, for all the patriotic flavor of the proceedings, are a hybrid, hyphenated, international crew. Healing a wounded city takes more than a local community or even a nation; it takes a planet.)

Memories of the emotionally charged atmosphere just after 9/11 may have blurred slightly over a decade, but they remain ineradicable. Restoring essential infrastructure in the wake of the atrocity, recounted Robert Davidson, FAIA, took a heavy personal toll, but also called forth enormous reserves of determination. He singled out Port Authority architect Russell Kriegel, AIA, who overcame nearly paralyzing grief and responded to Davidson’s appeal (“take the weekend, but I need you”), reporting back ready to work on the temporary PATH Intermodal Station, which became the first public facility to reopen at the site, beating its timetable and winning awards as well as relieving the enormous transportation bottleneck caused by PATH’s closure. Daniel Libeskind, AIA, traced his progress as an immigrant drawn by America’s ideals; returning to New York from Berlin after his Jewish Museum had opened the same day as the attack, he devised the master plan whose key details (the descent to bedrock, the preserved slurry wall, the towers’ spiraling gesture toward the Statue of Liberty) remain physically and metaphorically evocative even after a decade of negotiation and revision. These ideas do more than transform “a piece of real estate” into something greater: they strengthen New Yorkers’ connections to the values of tolerance and steadfastness, “the best of America” as this American-by-choice sees it.

Visiting another great civic space, said Michael Arad, AIA (another American-by-choice), strengthened his appreciation of urban community. Biking to Washington Square Park in the days after the attack, he found fellow New Yorkers around the fountain sharing their memories and their resolve. “For the first time I felt at home in New York,” proud of his adopted heritage, and grateful for the opportunities it affords; this appreciation of what public plazas can do to catalyze people’s civility, solidarity, and resilience informed his design of the “Reflecting Absence” memorial. A parallel commitment to built forms supporting free expression appeared in the comments of Snøhetta’s Craig Dykers, AIA, whose initial reluctance to intervene at Ground Zero was overcome by his intrigue with “the idea that New Yorkers had the courage to place a cultural building directly on the memorial,” and by the persistent appeals of his friend Denzil Gallagher of Buro Happold. “We experienced the best and worst of humanity in a single day,” Dykers observed; in the 9/11 Memorial and Museum Pavilion that emerged from the troubled negotiations over the “messy proposition” that culture and memory could share this space, Snøhetta unites another pair of opposites – the retrospective view of the memorial complex and the future life of these facilities in a vibrant city – through forms that amplify the energy of the present. Watching a family’s recent photo opportunity, using the Pavilion’s mirrored surface to shoot themselves rather than asking a stranger to take the shot, Dykers said: “It was then I felt it was all worthwhile.”

Santiago Calatrava, FAIA, was in Athens on September 11, mesmerized like most world citizens by the broadcast images of destruction. Here, he connected modern civic infrastructure with antiquity, referring to the rebuilding of the Acropolis after Athens was invaded in the fifth century B.C. and the subsequent Golden Age of Greek civilization, when arts flourished and democracy took its early form. “The columns of the original Parthenon were saved and reused to buttress the walls of the new Acropolis,” he noted. “To me, these columns link the tragedy and triumph of ancient Athens, and testify to Man’s innate capacity to overcome such events.” Likewise, today’s rail stations and bridges do more than serve literal functions within a transportation system; they have “enormous symbolic value. As gateways, they are the first and last places we experience when entering and leaving the city,” and for hundreds of thousands of people daily, the new Transportation Hub will add dignity to those movements as well as ease.

“Democracy requires bravery,” commented Childs in one of the videos. Bravery appeared rapidly in democracy’s defense on Flight 93; bravery of a different sort, operating on a longer timetable, distinguishes everyone who has labored on the World Trade projects. Bravery, perseverance, and other virtues, long after the moments when they come into play, can elicit such a rhetoric of uplift that a listener is paradoxically overcome by its weight – yet there is something about this site, and the efforts to renew it (now gradually reaching fruition), that overwhelms a dissonant response. A concluding salute by the Cathedral Choral Society and a full stage of honorees, including Joe Aliotta, AIA, LEED AP, AIANY’s president and Rick Bell, FAIA, AIANY’s executive director, and the architects involved with the Shanksville and Pentagon memorials, brought a standing ovation, uninhibited and unforced.

AIA 2012 Convention Special: HUD Secretary Donovan Exhorts Architects to Embrace Community Involvement

Shaun Donovan, Hon. AIANY, gave Friday morning’s keynote.

Daniel Fox

Donovan talks backstage with Rick Bell, FAIA.

Courtesy Rick Bell

Event: Keynote Presentation: The Honorable Shaun Donovan, Hon. AIANY
Location: Walter E. Washington Convention Center, Washington, DC, 05.18.12
Speaker: Shaun Donovan, United States Secretary for Housing and Urban Development (HUD)
Organizer: AIA 2012 National Convention

Shaun Donovan, Hon. AIANY, has a message for architects: listen closely, and listen well. Communities know what they want from their built environment, and it is our responsibility as designers to translate their desires and aspirations into an enlivening constructed reality.

Donovan, current Secretary of the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD), is a trained architect himself, but his philosophy was forged in the crucible of the New York City Department of Housing Preservation and Development (HPD). As Commissioner of HPD, Donovan observed the crumbling decay of 1960s urban renewal firsthand. The failure of those projects generally began the moment that designers imposed their wills, like demi-gods, upon hapless residents.

Fortunately, Donovan was also in the position to seek and implement novel planning strategies and techniques in New York. Under his leadership, the old designer/user relationship was inverted. Deep community involvement in re-development proposals became a central tenet of HPD’s planning philosophy.

Indeed, Donovan alluded to a number of successful projects constructed in the Bronx and Brooklyn utilizing the new model – those collaborations between the architectural profession and community development corporations married the best of community action with the best of private enterprise.

One such example is Via Verde, the New Housing New York Legacy project. As reported in e-Oculus on 05.03.10 at Via Verde’s groundbreaking, “In 2004, AIANY sponsored a competition called ‘New Housing New York.’ With City Council, City University of New York, the NYC Departments of Housing Preservation and Development, City Planning, and Buildings, it solicited proposals for affordable, sustainable housing in three New York neighborhoods. The ideas competition was so successful that two years later, the Legacy Project followed.”

Residents requested a healthy building, and the Grimshaw/Dattner Architects design team responded by giving tenants access to natural light, cross ventilation, and terraced roofs for garden plots. Nearly two years later, the building was completed. The success of such prototypes has led HUD to embrace similar planning principles on a national scale.

Since the least sustainable communities were the hardest hit by the recession, HUD is directing its efforts toward stabilizing fragile districts with already inherent qualities of community and place. The hope is that granular improvements at the neighborhood level will agglomerate to revitalize ailing cities such as Cleveland and Detroit. Interestingly, the federal government views the arts, and thus design and architecture, as powerful vehicles for redeveloping faltering metropolitan areas.

According to Donovan, citing the work of AIANY and its executive director, Rick Bell, FAIA, the way forward for the profession is clear: build what they really want, build it beautifully, and they will come. Listen to the varied voices of the population, and give these opinions equal weight. Design neighborhoods of quality and character, with human scale and interest, and citizens will embrace and love these places for generations.

AIA 2012 Convention Special: Daniel Patrick Moynihan’s Guiding Principles Still Relevant

(l-r) Justice Stephen G. Breyer; David M. Childs, FAIA; Allan Greenberg; Harriet Tregoning; Paul Goldberger, Hon. AIA.

Linda Miller

Event: The Moynihan Symposium on Public Design: The Evolution (and Evaluation) of Public Design
Location: Walter E. Washington Convention Center, Washington, DC, 05.16.12
Panelists: Linda Chero, Acting Commissioner, GSA Public Buildings Service; David M. Childs, FAIA; Stephen G. Breyer, Associate Justice of the U.S. Supreme Court; Allan Greenberg, Allan Greenberg Architect; Harriet Tregoning, Director, Washington, DC, Office of Planning; David Burney, FAIA, Commissioner, NYC Department of Design + Construction (appeared on a later panel.)
Moderator: Paul Goldberger, Hon. AIA, Contributing Editor, Vanity Fair
Organizer: The General Services Administration (GSA), in conjunction with the AIA 2012 National Convention

“The design of federal office buildings, particularly those to be located in the nation’s capital, must meet a two-fold requirement. First, it must provide efficient and economical facilities for the use of Government agencies. Second, it must provide visual testimony to the dignity, enterprise, vigor, and stability of the American Government.” – Daniel Patrick Moynihan, Report to the President by the Ad Hoc Committee on Federal Office Space, June 1, 1962.

Fifty years ago, New York Senator Daniel Patrick Moynihan (1927-2003), then an assistant secretary of labor during the Kennedy Administration, was asked to report on the status of federal office space. What he delivered was Guiding Principles for Federal Architecture.

In honor of the golden anniversary of the three principles, the AIA and the General Services Administration (GSA) convened a symposium to recognize the late Senator’s contributions to the built environment and to discuss the future of public design.

The AIA presented Senator Moynihan a posthumous Presidential Citation for his “renewed promise of this nation’s founders, who believed that what we build should reflect our highest ideals.” The Senator’s daughter Maura Moynihan – a long-standing proponent of transforming New York’s Farley Post Office into Moynihan Station, accepted the citation and quoted her father: “The point about public architecture is that it’s public, with the notion of civitas, of a person to be there and to participate.”

In her welcome, Linda Chero, acting commissioner of the GSA’s Public Buildings Service, said, “Design creates value and by finding inspiration in Senator Moynihan’s legacy, we raise the bar on quality. Today, we must redouble our commitment to his principles. In the early half of the 20th century, Neo-Classical was the official style for federal buildings, yet in the three principles Moynihan countered that ‘the development of an official style of architecture must be avoided and design must flow from the architectural profession to the Government, and not vice versa.’”

Of the Senator, panel moderator, architecture critic, and Vanity Fair contributing editor Paul Goldberger, Hon. AIA, said that “not since Jefferson has there been a highly-placed government champion for architecture. He saw federal government buildings as a way to show what we believe in and what we stand for.”

David M. Childs, FAIA, consulting design partner at Skidmore, Owings & Merrill, actually worked with Moynihan while serving as design director of the Pennsylvania Avenue Commission, spurred in part by Moynihan’s declaration: “We must do something about the north side of Pennsylvania Avenue.” This opened the door to the redevelopment a dilapidated section of the city that much dismayed President Kennedy on his inaugural drive. Childs’s connection to Moynihan continues since it was he who prepared the 2001 design of what is to become Moynihan Station at New York’s main post office.

Stephen G. Breyer, an associate justice of the Supreme Court who had experience working with architects on the design of the First Circuit Federal Court House in Boston when he was a judge, appealed to architects by saying: “The government is a difficult client, but that’s a reason to help – not run away.”

Allan Greenberg of Allan Greenberg Architect, a practitioner of Classism, is in awe of the founding fathers – Washington, Jefferson, and Madison – who were architects, and feels continuity is important and that “contextualism is a quality we have lost.” He also reminded the audience that “We the People” can signify that federal buildings belong to the people and that the original Capitol had an inviting 32 entrances.

When Moynihan wrote his principles, security was of lesser concern and not addressed. It is a more pressing issue, however, for Harriet Tregoning, director of the Office of Planning, who believes that “the welcoming of people to federal buildings is totally gone,” adding that “the federal government came on early with high performance buildings and they can be a leader when it comes to security.”

David Burney, FAIA, commissioner of the NYC Department of Design + Construction and AIANY board member, had written a memo he hoped would be read by President Obama. In it he wrote: “In my opinion, Moynihan’s Guiding Principles needs no improvement. What we DO need is to put in place those best practices by which the Guiding Principles can be fulfilled. These Best Practices have been articulated and practiced by the General Services Administration’s ‘Design Excellence’ program, and by our own Design and Construction Excellence Program in New York (which owes a heavy debt to the GSA program). What is needed is for these Best Practices to become the standard practice for all federal public works so that Moynihan’s vision might be fulfilled.”

AIA 2012 Convention Special: Our Fair Chapter Comes Up Big at Convention

Our new AIA Fellows at the National Cathedral: Daniel J. Kaplan, FAIA; Jonathan Jova Marvel, FAIA; Mary A. Burke, FAIA; Richard Cook, FAIA; Joyce See-yin Lee, FAIA; and Marion Weiss, FAIA.

Daniel Fox

Steven Holl, FAIA, speaks after accepting the AIA Gold Medal.

Daniel Fox

Events: Fellows Investiture Ceremony; 63rd Annual Honors and Awards Celebration
Location: The National Cathedral, Washington, DC; Walter E. Washington Convention Center, Washington, DC, 05.17-05.19.12
Organizers: AIA 2012 National Convention

Our fair chapter – founding, largest and all – was well-represented at this year’s AIA 2012 Convention election and award ceremonies. Susan Chin, FAIA, was elected 2013-14 AIA Vice President. Running on a platform concerned with emerging professionals and member collaboration, Chin is a current AIA National Board member who serves as one of New York’s three Regional Directors; she was also AIANY’s 2005 president. Abby Suckle, FAIA, and Anne Lewison, AIA, RAIC, won an Institute Honor for Collaborative Achievement for their organization cultureNOW, which “uses mapping as a tool to empower people to better visualize the richness and diversity of their community.” Steven Holl, FAIA, was awarded the 2012 AIA Gold Medal. The Gold Medal is considered to be the profession’s highest honor that an individual can receive.

AIANY members were also widely recognized for design excellence. Tod Williams Billie Tsien Architects won an Institute Honor Award for Interior Architecture for the David Rubenstein Atrium at Lincoln Center. Also honored with an Interior Architecture Award was Andre Kikoski Architect for The Wright restaurant at the Guggenheim Museum.

Cooper, Robertson & Partners’ Master Plan for the Central Delaware (also an AIANY 2012 Design Award winner) received an Institute Honor Award for Regional and Urban Design, as did Rogers Marvel Architects for the SandRidge Energy Commons in Oklahoma City. Alexander Cooper, FAIA, founding partner of Cooper, Robertson, was given the Thomas Jefferson Award for Public Architecture in the Private Sector Architect category. Notable New York firms and projects also won Institute Honor Awards for Architecture: Morphosis Architects & Gruzen Samton for 41 Cooper Square, and Ennead Architects for the Standard. Cook+Fox’s Live Work Home was awarded a 2012 AIA Housing Award in the One and Two Family Production Homes category.

And the Fellows! Out of 105 promoted to the College of Fellows, no fewer than 10 – about 10% – were Chapter members. Considering there are around 80,000 AIA members nationally, about 300 chapters, and only 3,000 Fellows, this is an impressive accomplishment. No slouch in the notability department, the 10 Fellows elevated were Timothy Allanbrook, FAIA, Wiss, Janney, Elstner Associates, Inc.; Kevin Bone, FAIA, Bone Levine Architects; Mary A. Burke, FAIA, Burke Design & Architecture PLLC; Richard Cook, FAIA, Cook+Fox Architects; Umberto Dindo, FAIA, Dindo Architect P.C.; Steven Holl, FAIA, Steven Holl Architects; Daniel J. Kaplan, FAIA, FXFOWLE; Joyce See-yin Lee, FAIA, recently of the NYC Department of Design + Construction; Jonathan Jova Marvel, FAIA, Rogers Marvel Architects; and Marion Weiss, FAIA, WEISS/MANFREDI Architecture/Landscape/Urbanism.

AIA 2012 Convention Special: Emerging Professionals Take on the Future of the AIA

Future Now! Emerging Professionals convene at the Convention.

Courtesy AIA National Associates Committee

Despite delivering the sobering statistic that more than 60,000 positions have been lost since the recession, which is equivalent to 30% of architecture staff nationally, AIA Chief Economist Kermit Baker, Ph.D., Hon. AIA, spoke about the promise of the future of the profession. Throughout this year’s convention, the most prominent theme for Emerging Professionals (EPs) focused on maintaining passion for the profession by taking on leadership roles, both at the AIA, as well as within firms and in local communities.

“People often confuse experience with leadership” was a statement repeated at several talks intended for EPs – the message being one does not need many years of experience to demonstrate the qualities of a leader. At the National Associates Committee Directors Roundtable discussion, James Cramer, Hon. AIA, commented that one of the leading struggles for EPs is attempting to understand how they can make themselves relevant. This question becomes more complicated with the expanding definition of practice and changing roles of architects. With the profession in flux and the AIA its Repositioning Architects and the AIA Initiative, EPs should look ahead at what opportunities these changes hold and take advantage of them now.

When the candidates for AIA National office spoke with EPs, there was a consensus that mentoring in both directions is a necessity to sustain the profession. Susan Chin, FAIA, 2013-14 AIA Vice President, commented that more “seasoned” professionals have much to learn from the way EPs collaborate. She asked that EPs think about how the AIA can support their interests, whether it is through funds for programs, ARE exams, and competitions, or by helping create a network of mentors. Helene Combs Dreiling, FAIA, 2014 AIA President, tasked EPs with being proactive about taking on leadership roles to achieve their goals. “Jump in and people will take notice and include you in their endeavors,” she said. With one of the largest turnouts of Associate members in recent history, it seems that EPs are taking the suggestion to heart.

AIA 2012 Convention Special: Citizen Architect: A New Member’s Report

If one could glean a central theme from activities at the 2012 AIA National Convention, it would have little to do with “Design Connects.” Instead, the words “community” and “service” seemed ubiquitous throughout sessions. I might summarize these convention motifs by melding the two words into the elegant phrase popularized by Samuel Mockbee: citizen architect.

As a new member, it was heartening that convention activities evinced the vitality of the citizen architect. Over the course of multiple keynote addresses, 2012 AIA President Jeffery Potter, FAIA, counseled designers to embrace service and collaboration, both at the community and national levels. During the “Architects of Healing” presentation, it was clear that all of the designers participating in the construction of the three September 11 memorials garnered immense personal benefit from dedicating themselves to a common cause. The winners of the 2012 AIA Committee on the Environment (COTE) Awards mixed the concept of citizen architect with that of progressive environmentalist.

Not all designers accept the conjoined concepts of ‘community’ and ‘service.’ As HUD Secretary Shaun Donovan took the stage on Friday morning, not every seat was filled.  Donovan, a self-described ‘lapsed architect’ who has embraced the calling of service in its highest form, delivered inspiring remarks that many did not hear. New members, and those considering joining the AIA or participating in their local Chapters, would do well to model themselves after the Secretary’s lofty example.

On the Ground in the Middle East

Participants including Fred Schwartz, FAIA, Mustafa Abadan, William Menking (Moderator), and Rafi Segal discuss practice in the Middle East.

Berit Hoff

With the reality of limited design opportunities in the US in recent years, practitioners cited the need to “go where the work is.”

Berit Hoff

Event: Practice in the Middle East
Location: Center for Architecture, 05.08.2012
Introduction: Jill Lerner, FAIA, Kohn Pedersen Fox, 2013 AIANY President-Elect
Respondent: Rick Bell, FAIA, Executive Director, AIANY
Panelists: Rafi Segal, Rafi Segal Architects; Anthony Mosellie, AIA, KPF; Anthony Fieldman, Perkins+Will; Jay Liese, Corgan; Fred Schwartz, FAIA, Frederic Schwartz Architects; Ed Mayor, FX FOWLE; Sudhir Jambhekar, FAIA, FX FOWLE; JR Radtke, 360 Architects; Craig Schwitter, Buro Happold; Bryon Stigge, Buro Happold; Michael Kostow, AIA, Kostow Greenwood Architects; Reid Freeman, Jamie Carpenter Design Associates; Kyle Krall, Thornton Tomasetti; Bart Voorsanger, FAIA, Voorsanger Architects; Mustafa K. Adaban, SOM; Ashok Raiji, Assoc. AIA, ARUP
Moderator: Bill Menking, The Architect’s Newspaper
Organizers: The event was curated and organized by Jeffrey A. Kenoff, AIA, Bruce E. Fisher, AIA and Lynn Fritzlen, AIA, LEED AP; AIANY Global Dialogues and Professional Practice Committees; a program of the exhibitions “Change: Architecture and Engineering in the Middle East, 2000-Present” and “City of Mirages: Baghdad, 1952-1982″
Sponsors: A. Estéban and Co. (benefactor); Buro Happold (lead sponsor); Eytan Kaufman Design and Development, FXFOWLE (sponsors); Arup, Columbia University Graduate School of Architecture, Planning, and Preservation, Dewan Architects & Engineers, GAD, HDR, Kohn Pedersen Fox Associates, NAGA Architects, Ramla Benaissa Architects, RBSD Architects, Skidmore, Owings & Merrill, World Monuments Fund, Zardman (supporters)

Inspired by Jill Lerner, FAIA, a principal at Kohn Pedersen Fox and 2013 AIANY president-elect, and AIANY executive director Rick Bell, FAIA, the AIANY Global Dialogues and Professional Practice Committees joined forces to host “Practice in the Middle East.” The event promoted a round table discussion structured by the scope of “CHANGE: Architecture and Engineering in the Middle East, 2000-Present,” now on view at the Center for Architecture. Architects who contributed to the exhibit and local experts working in the Middle East comprised the group, and moderator Bill Menking of The Architect’s Newspaper moderated the discussion that explored how firms practice in the region and the subsequent need to balance risks and rewards with the ever-present challenges and prospects.

Given the extreme economic and cultural differences in the Middle East, it is little wonder that the politics of place was a recurrent theme. Despite the lack of women at the table noted by all, in general participants agreed on many points, emphasizing the design opportunities, high aspirations, and the region’s widespread desire for “something new.” A sustained commitment to the area was described to be the key to success in the relationship-based economy. Sudhir Jambhekkar from FXFOWLE mentioned the US government’s helpfulness when working abroad, and in general, Americans and US-based firms are welcome and appreciated for their skill and expertise. Listening to the discussion, it was clear that in this sense we are cultural ambassadors in the midst of cultural and political change. The impact of the Arab Spring suggested a shift from buildings signifying “greed and gaud,” as one discussant remarked, to a new focus on “projects for the people” such as schools and hospitals.

With the reality of limited design opportunities in the US in recent years, most Middle East practitioners cited the need to “go where the work is.” The greatest opportunities (and greatest need) are noticeably in risky places such as Iraq, Libya, and Egypt, which can pose safety hazards. Difficult contracts were also noted, and while long negotiations were seen as expected, it was evident that negotiating a good contract requires patience, time, and “a lot of tea.”

Many in the room professed, however, aspirations to provide greater good and an improved civic environment through high-quality design. Some on the panel were skeptical of these well-intentioned motives, but all agreed that at our core, the design and engineering communities excel at solving large-scale problems – a skill greatly needed throughout the Middle East.

Hand-Tufted Magic

“New York, New York” – Frederic Schwartz, FAIA 1989, 4’-8 x 8’-6” wool and silk.

Center for Architecture

Guests view Shelton, Mindel & Associates’ “Yellow Brick Road,” 1986, 6’ x 6’ 100% wool.

Center for Architecture

Lee Mindel converses with the panel.

Center for Architecture

Event: “V’Soske Rugs by Architects: Architecture in Transition, 1979-1993,” Panel and Exhibition Opening
Location: Center for Architecture, 05.20.12
Panelists: Tod Williams, FAIA, and Billie Tsien, AIA, Tod Williams Billie Tsien Architects; Frederic Schwartz, FAIA, Frederic Schwartz Architects; Henry Smith-Miller, AIA, and Laurie Hawkinson, Smith-Miller + Hawkinson Architects; Roger McDonald and; Ellen Hertzmark, Directors of Design and Marketing, V’Soske
Moderator: Lee Mindel, FAIA, Shelton, Mindel & Associates, V’Soske exhibition curator
Organizer: AIA New York Chapter and V’Soske, Inc.
Beverages generously provided by: Brooklyn Brewery

Though short in duration, this exhibit (through 05.28.12), the brainchild of Lee Mindel, FAIA, will no doubt leave a lasting impression on those who view the 38 handmade floor coverings V’Soske commissioned between 1979 and 1993 from architects such as Michael Graves, FAIA, Charles Gwathmey, FAIA, Steven Holl, FAIA, Richard Meier, FAIA, Deborah Reiser, Frederic Schwartz, FAIA, Shelton, Mindel & Associates, Smith-Miller + Hawkinson, Tod Williams Tsien Architects, Robert Venturi, FAIA, and Denise Scott Brown, RIBA, Int. FRIBA, and the list goes on…

For those who attended the opening reception – whether on the panel or in the audience – it was an opportunity to recognize, thank, and honor Ellen Hertzmark and Roger McDonald, V’Soske’s directors of design and marketing. Though not bold-faced names per se, the duo are nevertheless credited for inspiring and collaborating with architects at a time when architecture was in transition and the built environment was all but estranged from context and history.

Under their tutelage, Hertzberg and McDonald created an amalgam of thinkers and craftspeople for the benefit of exploring and expressing philosophies in a different way. According to Fred Schwartz, FAIA, “they opened up another dimension of what we could do with texture, material, tufting, and dyes.” Billie Tsien, AIA, remarked that working with V’Soske “opened us up and helped us see what was latent in ourselves.” Perhaps Mindel sumed it up best: “We were safe there. We could express ourselves with Ellen and Roger.”

Mindel, who worked on this exhibit for two years as a labor of love, said that 10 rugs had to be left out due to space constraints. None of the one-of-a-kinds are for sale (though in some cases, two or three might have been fabricated) and are now stored for safe keeping. This is the first time all 38 rugs have been shown together, and Phillips de Pury is expected to hold a second curated show in November. It was Mindel’s wish, however, that this ensemble of floor coverings be shared with museums and art institutes. Unlike anything seen at the Center in some time, the exhibit will be on view until 05.28.

This program was presented as a part of Design Week NYC 2012. Design is everywhere, and during Design Week NYC 2012 the best of design was seen across the City, from the International Contemporary Furniture Fair (ICFF) at Javits, to independent exhibitions and installations in SoHo, West Chelsea, the Meatpacking District, NoHo, the Flatiron District, and Greenwich Village and the Center for Architecture.

Fit City 7: Promoting Physical Activity through Design

The Mayor’s Obesity Task Force Panel brought together representatives from nine city agencies, including Commissioners David Burney, FAIA (DDC; bottom photo, speaking), Thomas Farley, M.D., M.P.H. (DOHMH; bottom photo, right of Burney), Adrian Benepe (Parks; bottom photos, far left), and Edna Wells Handy (DCAS; middle photo, speaking).

Laura Trimble

Event: Fit City 7: Promoting Physical Activity through Design
Location: Center for Architecture, 05.21.12
Panelists: Click here for a full list of speakers
Organizers: AIA New York Chapter, in partnership with the New York City Department of Health and Mental Hygiene

More than 300 people gathered at the Center for Architecture for Fit City 7, the seventh annual conference to examine how design of the built environment can help address today’s epidemics of obesity and chronic diseases. The event brought together architects, planners, public health professionals, and policymakers to discuss the health issues confronting our country due to increasing obesity rates, and the role that design can play in encouraging greater physical activity and improve access to healthier food and beverage options. Two-thirds of Americans are now either obese or overweight, which contributes to life-threatening and costly diseases such as diabetes, heart disease, some cancers, and asthma.

The day opened with remarks from Deputy Mayor for Health and Human Services Linda I. Gibbs, co-chair of the recently-formed Mayor’s Obesity Task Force, which has been charged with developing recommendations to reduce obesity rates in New York City. Representatives from nine city agencies, including Commissioners Farley (DOHMH), Burney (DDC), Benepe (Parks) and Wells Handy (DCAS), then participated in a panel discussion facilitated by AIANY executive director Rick Bell, FAIA. The agencies shared highlights from their Active Design work over the last year, including the opening up of staircases in city-owned buildings to improve access, the East River Esplanade walking and bicycling path, and a Stair Week hosted by the Department of Design + Construction.

Attendees participated in a fitness break.

Laura Trimble

Conference participants also heard about Active Design projects and implementation strategies from Fit Nation and Fit World panels, which featured speakers from the United Kingdom (including RIBA President Angela Brady), Australia, Washington State, and Florida in a panel animated by Jane Brody, the New York Times Personal Health columnist. Alison Cohen, president of Alta Bicycle Share, also shared details about plans for NYC’s new BikeShare system, scheduled to launch this summer.

A collaboration between AIANY and the NYC Department of Health and Mental Hygiene, Fit City events have led to the publication of the award-winning Active Design Guidelines, which provides architects, planners, and policy makers with strategies for designing communities, streets, and buildings to encourage physical activity and improve health outcomes.

This program was presented as a part of Design Week NYC 2012. Design is everywhere, and during Design Week NYC 2012 the best of design was seen across the City, from the International Contemporary Furniture Fair (ICFF) at Javits, to independent exhibitions and installations in SoHo, West Chelsea, the Meatpacking District, NoHo, the Flatiron District, and Greenwich Village and the Center for Architecture.