Road Map for the Future of the City: Jill Lerner and Lance Jay Brown in Conversation

Each chair at the 05.03.13 “Future of the City” exhibition preview at the Center for Architecture – presented as a part of the IDEAS CITY Festival – was loaded with publications. A jam-packed schedule for the festival lay in between copies of AIANY’s Post-Sandy Initiative Report, along with its A Platform for the Future of the City.

Friday’s preview made it clear that a great deal of preparation preceded the exhibition opening and symposium, which took place 05.11.13 at the Center. Heightened significance in the wake of Hurricane Sandy, and in this year of a mayoral election, the Center used the annual IDEAS CITY Festival as a vehicle to highlight environmental and social issues crucial not only to architects and planners, but to the entire population of New York City and the region. Our historical moment poses many problems, but Jill N. Lerner, FAIA, 2013 AIANY President, and Lance Jay Brown, FAIA, 2014 President-Elect and co-chair of the AIANY Design for Risk and Reconstruction Committee, both agreed that “we’re not at a bad place, but we are at a critical one.”

Lerner called the exhibition and accompanying book “a road map for the future,” which, for her, has much to do with New York’s place in the larger global context. Emphasizing the important relationship between marketing and policy, she pointed to New York’s interconnectedness, both in mining from global cultures and exporting global models, that keeps the city thriving.

Brown also favored policy over images and physical plans, which architects tend to use as problem-solving tools. He said that to avoid the risk of fantasizing the future, the goal of the exhibition and accompanying literature is not to envision the future, but to affect it.

One of the platform’s sections, “The Architecture of Well-Being,” focuses on health and aging-in-place, a category whose mounting relevance has brought it greater scrutiny in recent years. As all New Yorkers now know, quality of life is also affected by environmental patterns more than we previously realized.

The Q&A also touched on the relevance and urgency of the AIANY’s sponsorship of FAR ROC [For a Resilient Rockaway], a two-phase design competition for ideas and workable models for Far Rockaway after Superstorm Sandy.

Brown had an idea for a “Commissioner of the Public Realm” (a title which actually does exist in Zurich, Switzerland) who would coordinate the various forms of public space. “There is a whole city of retrofit waiting to happen,” he said of the integration of public spaces.

Perhaps a Commissioner of the Public Realm would be helpful just to understand the broad and expanding topic of urbanity and the future.

Event: Future of the City Preview – IDEAS CITY Festival
Location: Center for Architecture, 05.03.2013
Speakers: Jill N. Lerner, FAIA, 2013 AIANY President, and Lance Jay Brown, FAIA, 2014 President-Elect and co-chair of the AIANY Design for Risk and Reconstruction Committee
Moderator: Rick Bell, FAIA, AIANY Executive Director
Organizer: Center for Architecture