Rebuild Renew Re-Create: A New York State Convention Report

Arriving late can be unsettling; arriving late to the opening keynote presentation of the 2013 AIA New York State Convention by Roman Mars, host of99% Invisible,” felt a bit like landing on the Red Planet instead of in the home of the “Syracuse Orange.”

Mars’ radio show about architecture, design, and all the thought that goes into the things that most people don’t even think about, provided a wide-ranging, follow-my-lead-but-keep-thinking tone that prepared one for the broad array of programming, awards, and interactions that followed over the next three days. Throughout the presentation, snippets of image, voice, interview, story-telling, and rock music were integrated like the many elements to building, street, and community that AIA members leverage for their projects. This method of holding together threads that are not always thought of at the same time continued throughout the convention as programs explored the theme “Rebuild, Renew, Re-Create.

On the “Renew” front, programs about urban development for outdated infrastructure followed hard on the heels of discussions about the changing format of the National AIA Board of Directors, as presented to the AIA New York State Board at its quarterly meeting by 2013 National AIA President Mickey Jacob, FAIA. The purely built, such as the Magnusson Architecture and Planning and CAPSYS Corp.’s modular housing in East New York, vied for attention with programs aimed at young professionals about internship and licensure, and a Women in Architecture panel, which included speakers from multiple generations, each highlighting important opportunities for and stumbling blocks to their careers. In this context, Jill N. Lerner, FAIA, 2013 President of the AIA New York Chapter, spoke about the importance of the pipeline of women advancing to leadership positions, mentoring, and young professionals stepping forward.

The “Re-Create’ was taken up, in part, by I-81 Viaduct research led by UPSTATE and Syracuse University, and specific case studies presenting the role of design in public/private partnerships by David Thom, AIA, and Geoff Doban, AIA, of IBI Group/Gruzen Samton. These were balanced by sessions in the Architects Fast Track Leadership Series, which were transplanted from the AIANY Chapter Professional Practice committee through the committee leadership of Stephen Hegeman, AIA, and Lynn Fritzlen, AIA; these programs advocate a continual re-assessment of the firm and practice, and are early signs of efforts to travel strong chapter-to-chapter programs. These efforts to foster an environment of statewide knowledge sharing were a theme touched on by the new AIANY State Executive Director, Georgi Ann Bailey, CAE, Hon. AIA NYS.

Of course, much of the “Rebuild” discussion was focused on the most prevalent of recent disasters to affect our region – Hurricane Sandy. As described by Daniel Horn and Alex Alaimo, Assoc. AIA, the NYIT student-led 3C: Comprehensive Coastal Communities Global Design Competition provided immediate explanatory materials, and is seeking to bring innovative visioning to particular Rockaway communities. Their efforts continued on 10.10.13 with “Meta-Resiliency,” an NYIT TEDxMIT program. Meanwhile, a team from Mancini Duffy | TSC outlined opportunities for architects to stake a strong claim on leading clients to plan for obsolescence and re-booting to strengthen their resiliency. The closing remarks by Henk Ovink, senior advisor to the Hurricane Sandy Building Task Force, put rebuilding into a broad context to plan + develop + respond. The Task Force plans to use federal innovation funds for a competition will bring the best minds to bear on the issues to research and develop strategy, and then let the private market build/implement the best practices.

In and around these provocative theme-based conversations, many members and friends of the design community were recognized for their particular contributions. Click here to see the full list of winners. But of particular interest, Susan Chin, FAIA, was awarded the James William Kideney Gold Medal Award, and Anthony P. Schirripa, FAIA, IIDA, received the Del Gaudio Service Award at the opening ceremonies. At the Awards dinner, New York City firms were well represented, with SHoP Architects receiving the Firm Award. A standout at the dinner were comments by the Honorary AIA New York State members: Michael De Chiara, Esq., noted, “When archaeologists research ancient societies, the architecture is one of the first fields explored. The type of buildings and the way they are constructed are strong indicators of the values of a society. We hope that modern-day architects will be recognized [in] that role.” Robert Haelen, general manager of the State University Construction Fund, speaking of funding allocations for capital projects, said, “I see too many uneducated people and not enough pot holes”. If we do not value cars more than a skilled work force, Haelen encourages AIA members to engage public officials and to be advocates for educational budgets. This advocacy theme has been a major platform of 2013 New York State President Eric Goshow, AIA, and wove throughout the program.

Stepping back from the convention specifics, I think a quote by a Syracuse resident best encapsulated the people-oriented goal embodied in the “Rebuild, Renew, Re-Create” theme: “We love the [Erie Canal pathways] park! It is beautiful because [the designers] left the industrial history and just paved the path and inserted benches for us to enjoy the landscape.”

Suzanne D.H. Mecs, Hon. AIA NYS, is AIANY Director of Member Services.

Event: AIA New York State Convention
Location: Syracuse, New York, 09.25.13-09.25.13
Speakers: For a full list of speakers, please view the AIANYS Convention website
Organizers: AIA New York State