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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.

The AIA New York Chapter welcomed 736 guests to Cipriani Wall Street’s grand Beaux Arts hall to applaud this year’s three honorees and 35 AIANY Design Awards winners. A number of distinguished guests joined the annual celebration of design excellence in New York, including NYC Department of Housing Preservation and Development Commissioner Vicki Been; NYC Housing Authority Chair Shola Olatoye; NYC Department of Design + Construction Deputy Commissioner for Public Buildings David Resnick; NYC Department of Transportation Assistant Commissioner for Urban Design and Art Wendy Feuer;= Manhattan Deputy President for Policy and Budget Joseph Garba; and Robert Tierney; Hon. AIA, Chair of the Landmarks Preservation Commission. Washington Fajardo, special advisor for urban affairs for the mayor of Rio de Janeiro, sat with AIANY 2014 President Lance Jay Brown, FAIA.

Also joining the festivities were AIA National board of directors members Don C. Brown, FAIA; Russell A. Davidson, FAIA; Gabriel Durand-Hollis, FAIA; and Burt Roslyn, FAIA, 2013-2015 AIA Regional Director for New York. Regional AIA leadership was also represented by AIANYS President Raymond Beeler, AIA; and AIA Brooklyn President Ida Galea, AIA.

In his introduction, Brown noted that awards programs “are an important way of assessing where we are and where we are going over time.” This sentiment was shared by Donovan, a self-described “lapsed architect,” during his keynote address: “I will tell you honestly that one of the reasons my career has taken a different path is the disillusionment I felt about where too many architects were focused. We had left behind the core of our passion for what we could do to make this world a better place for everyone. This work we are celebrating today has restored my faith in what this profession can do to move this world forward.”

With a new-found belief that design matters, Donovan sketched out the road he believes architects should be taking, urging those in the room to continue their work on resilience. He used his experience working in communities that have been severely impacted by climate-related events as an incitement to action, stating, “Far too many times I’ve had to look into the eyes of families who in just a few seconds or minutes have watched their homes be destroyed…neighborhoods have been reduced to rubble, utilities washed away…entire communities destroyed.” Besides thanking AIANY for its leadership and applauding the AIANY Post-Sandy Initiative’s holistic approach to short-term recovery and long-term resilience, Donovan also gave a special shout-out to Merit Award Winner Burney, former NYC Department of Design + Construction (DDC) commissioner, current AIANY President for Design Excellence, and “fellow Brooklyn soccer dad, colleague in the Brooklyn administration, and friend.”

Despite Donovan’s warm praise, Burney remained humble while accepting his award, acknowledging the collective effort behind the DDC’s successes. Burney noted, “It’s a little embarrassing to be receiving an award that is really the efforts of a collective group, particularly when many of those in that group are having lunch in front of me.” Burney asked those involved in various city programs to raise their hands, claiming that his award was dedicated to them as well.

Although Scott Brown and Venturi were unable to attend. Scott Brown spoke remotely as the couple’s son, Jim Venturi, accepted the award on their behalf. The architect reminisced on the beginnings of her professional partnership with her husband, noting that they were “very intertwined philosophically,” and thanked the AIANY for honoring their collaboration.

The 35 Design Awards were announced by Design Awards Co-chairs Karen Fairbanks, AIA, and Alexander Lamis, AIA. In the spirit of collaboration, Brown reminded the audience that “no project is designed by an individual. We also recognize the client, the engineers, the landscape architects, the consultants, and the contractors that bring these projects to life.”

Although the program’s Medal of Honor recipients were not in the room, their spirit permeated the hall. Speaking only briefly about controversial topics like RIBA’s resolution to expel Israeli architects from the UIA or the future of the American Folk Art Museum’s façade, AIANY Executive Director Rick Bell, FAIA, ended the program by quoting the closing paragraph of Architecture as Signs and Systems by the influential pair of influential teachers:

“Design is an adventurous journey that should be allowed to have a surprising end point: arriving, perhaps at wild, unexpected beauty, or an agonized one, as when the situations are dire and imagination draws hard truth from difficult reality. This serious beauty may lie in what you see and cant, at first, accept. It will lie, too, in the community that can be engendered, the options made available and the conversations enabled, perhaps a hundred years from now, by the connections we’ve not closed off, the potential we’ve managed to create.”

Event: Honors and Awards Luncheon 2014
Location: Cipriani Wall Street, 04.23.14
Honoring: Denise Scott Brown, RIBA, Int. FRIBA, and Robert Venturi, FAIA, Int. FRIBA, 2014 Medal of Honor; David Burney, FAIA, 2014 Award of Merit; Susan Szenasy, Hon. AIANY, 2014 Stephen A. Kliment Oculus Award; and the 2014 AIANY Design Awards Winners
Speakers: Lance Jay Brown, FAIA, AIANY 2014 President; Shaun Donovan, Hon. AIANY, Secretary of the US Department of Housing and Urban Development (Keynote); Ann Rolland, AIA, LEED AP, and Marcy Stanley, Hon. AIA, AIANY 2014 Luncheon Chairs; Karen Fairbanks, AIA, and Alexander Lamis, AIA, AIANY 2014 Design Awards Chairs; and Rick Bell, FAIA, AIANY Executive Director
Sponsors: Extell, Porcelanosa (Patrons); AKF Group; Arup; B.R. Fries & Associates; Boston Properties; Davis Brody Bond Architects and Planners; Ennead Architects; Ferrandino and Son Contractors; FXFOWLE Architects; Gensler; Handel Architects; Ibex Construction; Ingram, Yuzek, Gainen, Carroll & Bertolotti; International Association of Lighting Designers (IALD); Jaros, Baum & Bolles; JFK&M Consulting Group; Kohn Pedersen Fox Associates; Langan; Mancini Duffy; MechoSystems; Pei Cobb Freed & Partners Architects; Perkins+Will; Port Authority of New York and New Jersey; Sciame Construction; SHoP; Skanska; Skidmore, Owings & Merrill; Studio Daniel Libeskind; STV Incorporated; Syska Hennessy Group; Thomas Phifer and Partners; Thornton Tomasetti; Tutor Perini; VHB; Weidlinger Associates; WSP; Zetlin & De Chiara (Sponsors)