Buildings Commissioner Inspires Women Architects

Event: Breakfast Lecture
Location: Center for Architecture, 03.26.08
Speaker: Patricia J. Lancaster, FAIA — Commissioner, New York City Department of Buildings
Organizer: AIANY Women in Architecture (WIA) Committee
Moderator: Nancy Aber Goshow, AIA — Co-Chair, AIANY WIA Committee
Sponsor: Gensler

Patricia Lancaster, FAIA

NYC Department of Buildings Commissioner Patricia Lancaster, FAIA, speaks to the AIANY Women in Architecture Committee.

Jenny Huang

On becoming the NYC Department of Buildings commissioner in 2002, Patricia Lancaster, FAIA, was asked by Mayor Bloomberg to “fix the department” and restore its credibility. She has headed an agency that regulates NYC’s construction industry, and is responsible for enforcing the Building Code and Zoning Resolution for 975,000 buildings and properties. Under Lancaster, Buildings has been brought into the 21st century. She is implementing the International Building Code, come down on areas of the construction industry that needed improvement — from making sure all general contractors who build one-, two-, or three-family homes are registered to changing inspection protocol for tower cranes — and identified employees whose sole aim is to advance safety, transparency, and integrity. Kicking off this year’s AIANY Women in Architecture Committee (WIA) breakfast lecture series, Lancaster shared her story, experiences, and lessons learned with other women in the profession.

Asked to explain her success, Lancaster credited her architecture education, which prepared her to be a multi-tasking problem solver. While at the University of Washington, her thesis professor made students come up with at least 10 solutions for each design problem. Lancaster applies this method to her work, and manages to come up with an array of feasible solutions to each issue.

What drives Lancaster? It’s the need “to make a difference,” despite often having had to work harder and longer than her male colleagues throughout her career. “Success doesn’t happen overnight. Rather, each day counts.” Her advice to women in the profession: craft each day to be full and significant.