Editor’s Note

After almost three years at AIANY, and over a year as its communications director and editor-in-chief of e-Oculus, life beckons in Washington, DC. Although I will be staying within the AIA world as the assistant director of AIA|DC, I will miss the Center for Architecture’s unique vibrancy and character.

After this issue, e-Oculus will take a late summer vacation and return on September 11 under the interim editorship of Camila Schaulsohn, currently an e-O contributing editor and AIANY’s office manager.

It has been an honor letting you all know about the things happening here and in New York architecture. And I encourage even the most dyed-in-the-wool New Yorkers (like myself) to hop on a bus or train to DC — there’s lots to do and see! — Daniel Fox

The Accelerating Spread of the Active Design Meme

Just a few weeks after the official launch of the Center for Active Design, the national media have already begun repeating a meme that compresses the scope and complexity of the active-design movement to one line: “Mayor Bloomberg wants you to take the stairs.” He does, of course, and so do thousands of specialists in disciplines from epidemiology to architecture. But there’s a lot more to it than the common-sense stair prompts posted throughout the city’s buildings. The Fit Nation movement is going truly national, with regionally-appropriate interventions and adaptations appearing at sites with a wide range of densities and urban designs. It’s less a matter of New Yorkers spreading prescriptive advice than one of multiple centers of expertise linking up to share best practices. In fact, AIANY Executive Director Rick Bell, FAIA, noted in his introduction that the FitNation exhibition will be travelling to a dozen other US cities, including five made possible by AIA National’s Fund to Fit grants. Continue reading “The Accelerating Spread of the Active Design Meme”

CACE Study

The Council of Architectural Component Executives (CACE) – AIA National’s staff association – had its annual meeting the weekend of 08.04.13 in Atlanta. Mickey Jacob, FAIA, 2013 AIA President and Robert Ivy, FAIA, AIA National EVP/CEO, were there to discuss the Institute’s Repositioning initiative and to announce eight innovation grants to Chapters including Seattle and Chicago.

“Fund-to-Fit” grants, intended to support the installation of AIANY’s “FitCity” exhibition at five smaller Chapters, were awarded to AIA Birmingham, AIA Columbus, AIA Eastern Oklahoma, AIA North Dakota, and AIA Phoenix. The announcement’s location was appropriate considering one of the 33 projects in this exhibition, now on view at the Center for Architecture, is Atlanta’s partially-opened BeltLine. When complete, this radial park will link some 35 neighborhoods as it defines a green perimeter of the city.
Continue reading “CACE Study”

How the Informal City Got Its Voice Back

In a street market in Bangkok, the lives of two men – Ae, a former business manager turned earring salesman, and Niyom, a sugar cane vendor from the north – intersect as they attempt to make a living as street vendors. “I know it’s not constant, it’s not secure, my life,” says Ae, a savvy well-dressed man from a middle-class background. But to Niyom, the money he makes selling the sweet beverage means that he and his family can survive. In another part of the city, a woman and her community, evicted from their settlement, successfully lead a resettlement process that allows them to decide where and how they want to rebuild their homes. Farther away, in Accra, a group of head porters are striving to improve their lives with the help of informal savings banks.

Stories like these are the driving force behind the Informal City Dialogue, a collaborative project between the non-profit media organization Next City and the Rockefeller Foundation, an institution whose weighty influence on urbanism dates back to the 1950s, when it made a grant to a then-obscure writer named Jane Jacobs. Homing in on six cities – Accra, Bangkok, Chennai, Lima, Manila, and Nairobi – this year-long project is fostering conversations about the informal urban realm, allowing stakeholders to create narratives for their urban future and inspire positive change in their communities. Continue reading “How the Informal City Got Its Voice Back”

“Post-Sandy: The Effect on the URBAN” Symposium and Workshop

After Superstorm Sandy, it is more apparent than ever before: we are building back for a disaster-prone future. We must adapt our building habits to reflect this future, as rebuilding to existing standards is no longer sufficient. Leaders from AIANY, AIANJ, and AIACT worked together as part of the AIA Regional Recovery Working Group to organize a full-day symposium and workshop to discuss and develop strategies to enable the rapid and smart recovery needed in the region.

On 07.09.13, Post-Sandy: The Effect on the URBAN Symposium and Workshop, hosted by the New Jersey Institute of Technology, addressed pressing issues in Newark, Hoboken, and Jersey City. The program drew interdisciplinary professionals from New York, New Jersey, and Connecticut to highlight efforts across the region. The day acted as a forum to share local design and policy initiatives, applied strategies and efforts, and lessons learned; to ignite conversation; and to find creative, practical, and far-reaching recovery solutions that communities can implement in their current planning processes. Continue reading ““Post-Sandy: The Effect on the URBAN” Symposium and Workshop”

Three City Pecha Kucha

On 08.01.13, inquisitive design enthusiasts gathered at a trio of AIA spaces – the Center for Architecture in New York, the BSA Space in Boston, and AIA Los Angeles at the Haas Audio Showroom – for a fast-paced, virtual pecha kucha. Presented by cultureNOW, the evening offered rapid-fire presentations on a host of design-related topics and significant projects by 30-plus industry veterans. The event served as a window into the past few months in the lives of 11 international students selected by cultureNOW to travel between these cities and engage great design minds.
This program’s aspiration: create a Museum Without Walls. “Our summer was all about keeping our eyes open, as you can imagine given the wide range of projects presented tonight,” said Blanca Abramek, one of the students participating in the program. Continue reading “Three City Pecha Kucha”

AJAP in New York

“AJAP/Les Albums des Jeunes Architectes et des Paysagistes” is an award given every two years by the French Ministry of Culture and Communication to professionals under 35 in the field of architecture and landscape design. It was created in 1980 by Joseph Belmont, an architect known for his public projects, notably the French Embassy in Japan. Not just a marketing vehicle for the new generation, its larger goal is to facilitate access to public works commissions and to foster dialogue and exposure at the regional and international levels through a traveling exhibition.

The AJAP jury was chaired by the Ministry of Culture and Communication, co-chaired by Frederic Borel, 2010 Grand Prize of Architecture, and by Michel Desvigne, 2011 Grand Prize of City Planning. On 03.28.12, 17 teams (14 architectural and 3 landscape designers) were selected from 240 entries. All but one team already had a built project in its portfolio, perhaps indicating these young designers’ commitment and willingness to take risks. Continue reading “AJAP in New York”

“Architalker” Iris Alex passes

AIANY recently learned of the passing of Iris S. Alex, FAIA. Though she was not able to be active in the profession in the last few years, Alex had a career that was oriented to the public good through long-term work with the YWCA and other social welfare organizations. She served on many Chapter and National committees, was Secretary of the AIANY Board in 1979, and was one of the weekly volunteer “Architalkers”  – docents who teach visitors about the Center for Architecture’s mission, design, and exhibitions – when the Center for Architecture first opened in 2003. Continue reading ““Architalker” Iris Alex passes”

Bridge Bonanza at the Center for Architecture

The Center for Architecture’s youth and family programs took an engineering turn as both our FamilyDay@theCenter program on 07.27.13and week-long Summer@theCenter camp explored bridge structure and design. Eighteen families, with kids ranging in age from 3-13, attended the two-hour Saturday Family Day workshop where they learned how different types of bridges support weight and span a distance. Images of bridges around the world illustrated each bridge type, then young participants were called up to test large structural models of beam, truss, arch, and suspension bridges. Kids were able to feel and better understand the forces at work as they stood in for the towers, anchorages, and piers of different bridges. Continue reading “Bridge Bonanza at the Center for Architecture”