As more New York firms work globally, the relevance of importing and exporting international design ideas has never been greater. This exchange of ideas will be essential for understanding and solving the critical design issues of our age. As such, it has been a priority for AIA New York’s Global Dialogues Committee, which was co-chaired for the past two years by Jeffrey Kenoff, AIA, and Bruce Fisher, AIA, both directors at Kohn Pedersen Fox (KPF). According to Kenoff, “Our design discussions now coexist in a local as well as a global conversation. The lines defining a subject’s regional impact are becoming increasingly blurred.”
“The 2013 AIANY Presidential Theme ‘Global City/Global Practice,’ spearheaded by Jill Lerner, FAIA, had a big influence on our thinking, with its focus on New York-based architects practicing internationally, particularly in developed financial hubs in Asia,” explains Fisher. “The real message is that the design opportunities offered in international work allow us to explore and import design ideas, influences, methods of working, and knowledge.”
Since 2011, the Committee’s aim has been to present critical, current urban issues and phenomena through a multi-lens, international perspective. Each Global Dialogue panel explores design-related topics from at least three perspectives, giving the audience a broad understanding of the subject while seeking to uncover the essence of the problems at hand. The 10 Global Dialogues so far have touched on more than 100 cities and reached an audience of more than 2,000 people.
These Global Dialogues included “Shadow Cities,” which examined the explosion of unplanned peri-urban growth outside of Nairobi, Rio, Mumbai, and other places that defy formalized design. The event served as a counterpoint to the Center for Architecture’s “Practical Utopias” exhibition, which focused on work by international architects in the hub cities of Hong Kong, Seoul, Shanghai, Singapore, and Tokyo. Some of the Global Dialogues, “Hyper-Public” and “Hong Kong at 15,” to name two, were timed to coincide with current events such as the 2012 London Olympics and Hong Kong’s 15th anniversary.
In “Densify,” panelists Mimi Hoang, AIA, of nARCHITECTS; James von Klemperer, FAIA, principal of KPF; James Russell, FAIA, of Bloomberg News; and moderator Vishaan Chakrabarti, AIA, principal of SHoP Architects and director of Center for Urban Real Estate (CURE), Columbia University, discussed how the success of Global Capital Cities like New York increasingly resides in their respective abilities to meet economic and social demands through initiatives that intensify residential, commercial, and recreational land use.
The recent “Archinomics” panel explored effects of predicted global economic growth on the architecture profession. Moderated by Jesse Keenan, research director of CURE, Columbia University, the panel discussed global shifts in economic growth and the impact these shifts have on architectural practice.
One of the Committee’s most important pair of dialogues was “Viral Voices” and its precursor “Going Viral,” which, in Kenoff’s words, “aimed to go beyond the local audience as it explored the ways that social media, technology, and device culture are combining with blogs, architects’ web sites, and other forms of media to change the way the profession communicates, collaborates, educates, and distributes information.”
The work of the Global Dialogues Committee and the other 26 AIANY committees is both relevant and rewarding. The committees plan hundreds of events each year, bringing together leaders from all areas of practice to discuss a broad spectrum of topics. In Fisher’s words, “Arranging programs and speakers for a panel on an unfamiliar topic is challenging, but a great way to expand one’s knowledge and connection to practitioners one would not necessarily meet in day-to-day work.” Committee involvement represents a rare opportunity for architects to strengthen – and contribute to – the dialogue surrounding important global issues.
As they look to the coming year, Fisher and Kenoff are excited to see the Global Dialogues Committee reach new heights under the leadership of 2014 Co-chairs Hana Kassem, AIA, LEED AP, and Daniel Gallagher, AIA, and President Lance Jay Brown, FAIA, whose theme, “Civic Spirit: Civic Vision,” promises to spark a rich year of global dialogues.
Bruce Fisher, AIA, and Jeffrey Kenoff, AIA, are directors at Kohn Pedersen Fox Associates and former co-chairs of the AIANY Global Dialogues Committee. Gretchen Krueger is marketing coordinator at Kohn Pedersen Fox Associates.