Editor’s Note

Friday 05.09.14 marks the beginning of NYCxDESIGN 2014, a citywide event showcasing all disciplines of design, from graphics and fashion, to architecture and urban planning. It offers a platform for cultural and commercial opportunities, elevates established and emerging practices, and increases awareness of and appreciation for design. The Center for Architecture will kick off the design celebration with the opening of “ENCOUNTERS,” an exhibition featuring the work of the Spanish practice luis vidal + architects. For a full list of NYCxDESIGN events, which run through 05.20.14, click here.

Additionally, don’t miss out on your chance to participate in Archtober 2014 as the architect of a Building of the Day! The deadline for submissions has been extended to 05.08.14. Submit one photo with credit and a brief (225 word) description of your built project to archtober@aiany.org. We are looking for buildings located in all five boroughs.

Ethics and the Road to Convention: Durban and Chicago

As we prepare for the next meeting of the International Union of Architects (UIA) in Durban, South Africa, this August, we are confronted with a proposal that demands we take an immediate position. Reporter Harriet Sherwood wrote about the proposal on 03.20.14 in London’s The Guardian. Since the matter surfaced, there have been endless articles, e-mails, and calls. While some think it may all blow over, we cannot allow it to be floated without immediate objection.

The Royal Institute of British Architects (RIBA) plans to bring a proposal to the floor of the upcoming 2014 bi-annual meeting of the UIA. The RIBA has demanded the suspension of the Israeli Association of United Architects (IAUA) from the UIA, saying it is complicit in the construction of illegal settlements in the West Bank and East Jerusalem, and other violations of international law. While former RIBA President Angela Brady told a meeting of its council how important the proposal was, other council members pointed to human rights violations in other parts of the world, such as North Korea, which is a member of the UIA, asking why they should not be held to similar standards. Notable architects and members of AIANY have spoken out or written against the RIBA proposal, including Richard Meier, FAIA, and Daniel Libeskind, AIA.

AIANY Executive Director Rick Bell, FAIA, and I drafted a letter denouncing the RIBA proposal. The grounds upon which our draft was based centered on inclusion and dialogue, as opposed to exclusion and highly prejudicial, selective condemnation. The letter was put before the AIANY Board at its last meeting on 04.22.14. While certain details and some personalization were criticized, the general sense of the letter was approved. All thought it inappropriate for the RIBA to exclude an entire country’s architects – both Israeli and Palestinian – because the RIBA takes issue with the politics of that country. As the mission statement of the UIA is “to unite the architects of the world without any form of discrimination,” it should be obvious that excluding one country’s architects defeats the purpose. Continue reading “Ethics and the Road to Convention: Durban and Chicago”

Honors and Awards Luncheon 2014: Design Matters

“If you’re ever going to get an award from the AIA New York Chapter, this was the year to do it.” No one can deny the truth spoken by honoree David Burney, FAIA, winner of the Chapter’s Award of Merit, in extolling this year’s impressive line-up for the Honors and Awards Luncheon, which included Metropolis Magazine Editor-in-Chief and publisher Susan Szenasy, Hon. AIANY, winner of the Stephen A. Kliment Oculus Award; Medal of Honor honorees Denise Scott Brown, RIBA, Int. FRIBA, and Robert Venturi, FAIA, Int. FRIBA; and a special keynote from Shaun Donovan, Hon. AIANY, Secretary of the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development. Continue reading “Honors and Awards Luncheon 2014: Design Matters”

Shared Voice: Satellite Culture

As part of its superbly meandering ART² detour into questions about “Museums Today,” the Arts Department of the French Embassy has been organizing important debates on the cultural identity of museums in the 21st century. Presented in collaboration with the Institut français, the French Ministry of Culture and Communication, and FACE (French American Cultural Exchange), the month-long visual arts festival has been exploring ideas and themes paramount to the international art world, working with 42 partner museums, galleries, universities, and non-profit spaces through the month of April. The endeavor was conceived as a French-American exchange of views centered on issues that drive museums and private foundations alike. Topics of discussion during the Museums Today program included exhibiting collections, new perspectives on art history, the production of contemporary art and opening of satellite museums in an effort to globalize a museum’s presence. Programs have taken place at the Judd Foundation (winner of a 2014 AIANY Design Award), the French Embassy, MoMA and the Guggenheim Museum.

At the Guggenheim’s newly renovated Peter B. Lewis Theater, Sophie Claudel, the French Embassy’s cultural attaché and head of its Arts Department, moderated a panel discussion on satellite museums that included the directors of three major museums building and operating facilities far from their home base. Richard Armstrong, director of the Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum, spoke about the Bilbao Effect and how it has changed notions throughout the museum world about global outreach and collection accessibility. Armstrong, who has served as the Guggenheim’s chief since November of 2008, preferred the word “constellation” over “satellites” when describing the relation of different components of the Guggenheim. He also spoke of being “transnational” rather than “universal” in appeal. Talking about how to attract contributors and sponsors, he contrasted the National Gallery’s recent “takeover” of the Corcoran Gallery, across the street from the AIA’s headquarters building in Washington, DC, saying that the Guggenheim “would go to another city in America only if it were utterly irresistible.” Continue reading “Shared Voice: Satellite Culture”

Lobby from Albany; Learning from Piers

AIA New York State 2014 Albany Lobby Day took place on 04.29.14. With a series of important issues to press, an enthusiastic delegation from AIANY took to the Capitol.

All of our meetings were informative and productive, but our meeting with Assemblymember Deborah Glick was particularly significant because she is chair of the Assembly Higher Education Committee, the committee currently considering passage of the Good Samaritan Act. This legislation would provide protections for architects who volunteer necessary services to the public during disasters and emergencies, as determined by the governor. Following Superstorm Sandy, the need for this legislation was made very apparent when willing architects hesitated to respond without proper protections. This bill needs a final push to get it through the Assembly Higher Education Committee. Continue reading “Lobby from Albany; Learning from Piers”

Lead Us Not Into Penn Station…

There may be only one proposition that every sentient being in the tri-state region would agree on: Penn Station, as we know, it has to go. As Margaret Newman, FAIA, noted at the “Transportation as Cultural Identifier: Penn 2023” on 04.19.14, the station was built under the twin erroneous assumptions that New York City and rail travel were both in conditions of irreversible decline. Penn Station is slightly smaller than Bryant Park – about 8½ acres, or 368,000 vs. 418,000 square feet – yet the number of people passing through it daily, reported Newman, is roughly equivalent to the population of Denver, some half a million. And pass through it is all most of them do: it is no place to linger, the opposite of a welcoming space, disliked as widely as its lamented predecessor was admired. As Chris Sharples, AIA, hardly needed to remind this audience, it is a place where “we use the word ‘flee’; Vincent Scully probably would use the word ‘scurry.’” “If you think it’s bad now,” added Thomas Wright of the Regional Plan Association (RPA), “you ain’t seen nothing yet,” considering the rising numbers of users at this confluence of multiple transit systems. (Some 80% of Manhattan’s entering commuters now come from west of the Hudson, feeding New Jersey Transit’s growth over the past two decades, with the Long Island Rail Road holding steady, and true high-speed rail for the Northeast Corridor a possibility.) Endure it though we all do, the situation is critical. Continue reading “Lead Us Not Into Penn Station…”

Henk Ovink: A Dutch Resiliency Perspective

On Earth Day, 4.22.14, AIANY and the AIANY Design for Risk and Reconstruction Committee (DfRR) hosted Henk Ovink, former Acting Director-General of Spatial Planning and Water Affairs for the Netherlands Ministry of Infrastructure and the Environment and current senior advisor to U.S. Housing and Urban Design Secretary Shaun Donovan, Hon. AIANY. In the aftermath of Superstorm Sandy, Ovink emerged as a central figure in shaping the future of the entire region affected by the storm by leading the HUD Hurricane Sandy Rebuilding Taskforce. As a nation, the Netherlands has formally addressed issues of flood prevention and protection for more than 900 years. Through Water Boards, a system of regional water authorities introduced in the 13th century, formerly separated communities have worked together to address regionalized environmental issues associated with water management. Today, nearly 300 Water Boards actively continue their ancestors’ work by crafting collaborative strategies for water management and extreme weather adaptation throughout the Netherlands. While “resilient” design strategies have become increasingly significant in the wake of Sandy, Ovink has leveraged his experience to introduce a new era of holistic and collaborative responses to extreme water events intensified by climate change. Continue reading “Henk Ovink: A Dutch Resiliency Perspective”

Landscape as Playscape

Ana Kučan, professor of Landscape Architecture at the University of Ljubljana, Slovenia, and founder of Studio AKKA, is deeply involved in mixing theory and practice, using an abstract framework as a leaping-off point for conceptualizing physical landscapes. At the Center for Architecture on 04.09.14, she provided the audience with a rich theory base, and then described actual projects that encompassed those ideas. Her talk, in celebration of Landscape Architecture Month, was part of the AIANY Architecture Dialogue Committee’s “Beyond New York” series. Continue reading “Landscape as Playscape”

Doing Good is Good Business

The Professional Practice series “Transforming Architectural Practice” presented the second of five lectures on 03.31.14, addressing the topics of transparency, engagement and sustainability through a discussion of B Corps. Put simply, “B Corp is to business what Fair Trade certification is to coffee or USDA Organic certification is to milk,” or, in architecture, what Living Building Challenge certification is to the built world. B Corps are certified by the nonprofit B Lab to meet rigorous standards of social and environmental performance, accountability, and transparency. Continue reading “Doing Good is Good Business”