Topics

  • July 20, 2021
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    On Tuesday, July 13th the AIANY Emerging New York Architects (ENYA) and Women in Architecture (WIA) committees co-hosted a panel discussion, ‘Founders’ Showcase: Women-Owned Firms In The Spotlight’, highlighting female founders of firms ranging from less than 10 years to Fellows who have been heading their practice for decades. Their stories inspire and lead the way for a new generation of design professionals.

    The speakers included Roberta Washington, FAIA, NOMAC, Principal, Roberta Washington Architects; Laura Heim, FAIA, LEED AP, Principal, Laura Heim Architect PLLC; Sara Jazayeri, AIA, Founding Principal, Studio 360; Julie Torres Moskovitz, AIA, Principal and Founder, Fete Nature Architecture; and Inés Guzmán Mendez, Director and Partner, Taller KEN. Their diverse backgrounds, paths and viewpoints resulted in an enriching and engaging conversation. Event moderator, Andrea Steele, AIA, Founding Principal, Andrea Steele Architecture did a marvelous job guiding the conversation and weaving the stories and themes together with her own experiences.

    The speakers shared their motivations for starting their own firms. They shared some of the challenges they faced with workplace culture, racial and gender bias, not being recognized for their contributions, and family planning – and how those experiences shaped their decisions as well as the values of their practices.

    A common vision and passion emerged for building and healing communities, social impact, client engagement, creating partnerships, and mentorship. We were inspired to focus not on limitations, but on possibilities and opportunities.  We understood the importance of empathy, critical thinking, perseverance, tapping into resources, learning, communication, and acknowledging the value of our work.

    We are grateful for the speakers’ time, leadership, and contribution. We also thank all those who attended and participated in the Q&A.

    We invite everyone to contribute to the WIA Programs and Events Survey to help make our future programs and events more relevant to your interests and professional development goals in the upcoming year. The survey closes on August 20. We also encourage emerging professionals to apply for the TORCH Mentorship Program, the deadline for which is August 1, 2021. Please follow the ENYA and WIA Committees on social media and register for upcoming events!

  • July 1, 2021
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    In celebration of Pride Month, the AIANY WIA Committee facilitated a discussion at our June committee meeting, around the use of the non-gendered linguistic identifier “Womxn”. The term can be used to signal the inclusion of those who have traditionally been excluded from the feminist discourse. We hosted designers that shared their experiences of being members of the LGBTQIA+ community in the AEC industry, as well as potential solutions for a more inclusive industry.

    Our speakers included Vanessa Hill, RA (she, her, hers) Senior Principal, Robert John Hill; A.L. Hu, AIA, NOMA, EcoDistricts AP (they, them, theirs) Design Initiatives Manager, Ascendant, and Sami Sikanas (she, her, hers) Intermediate Landscape Architectural Designer, Marvel Architects. Sara Ngan, AIA, LEED AP, (she, her, hers) Senior Associate, FXCollaborative and Advisory Board Member of the AIANY WIA Committee moderated the conversation. She started the discussion by clarifying terms such as ‘sexual orientation’, ‘gender identity’ and ‘gender expression’, and thoughtfully guided the conversation.

    Each of the speakers shared their professional coming our story, and how it affected their personal and work lives, as well as their relationship with the term ‘womxn’. We learned how stereotypical gender binary perceptions can affect the way people are expected to behave, to how they dress in the workplace.  The panelists spoke about the mental health challenges, inner conflict, social stigma, and discrimination one may have to deal with as a member of the LGBTQIA+ community. They also provided insights into ways in which support and allyship can manifest such as the addition of pronouns in emails; supporting legislation for equal rights; inclusive company policies and healthcare (medical and mental); equitable recruitment; transitioning in the workplace guidelines, representation on panels, speaking engagements and interviews (all year round and not only during Pride Month); mentor shadow programs; Employee Resource Groups; and intentional efforts in self-education.

    We are grateful to the speakers for their time and contribution, for answering the audience questions, and for showing us that when you have the freedom to express who you are, you bring your best and authentic self not only to work, but to your family, friends, and society. We are positive that the industry is evolving in the right direction and look forward to continuing this very important dialogue and becoming a more inclusive, empathetic, and diverse community. We thank everyone for their participation!

    Some resources shared at the event:

    The AIANY WIA June Committee meeting agenda, around town & related events, topics, good reads, speaker bios as well as a reference for gender sensitive terms can be viewed and downloaded here.

    The following job opportunities were shared by our members:

    Firms interested in participating in a ‘Return To Work Survey’ conducted by Cameron MacAllister Group may contact Annelise Pitts at pitts@cameronmacallister.com.

  • June 30, 2021
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    On Thursday, June 3, AIANY WIA was pleased to host “In Dialogue with: Stacy Smedley and Betty Rexrode on their Paths to Net Zero.” Our speakers shared a passion for reducing carbon footprints on both a personal level and an industry scale.

    Stacy Smedley grew up living partially off the land in a rural environment and developed a passion for sustainability at a young age. Her family eventually sold the farmland and she watched the fertile ground turn into suburban developments.  As she grew up and attended architecture school, she realized that not everyone has access to this relationship with nature. She made it her mission to address collective impacts on the environment to preserve natural habitats and resources. Stacy began her journey by developing open-access software called “Embodied Carbon in Construction” EC3 that enabled companies to track embodied carbon use at an industrial scale including supply-chain analysis.  It was critical that the software was easy to use and free. Eager to apply her findings to wider industry, Stacy grew into the role of Executive Director of Building Transparency and Director of Sustainability at SKANSKA. She is able to provide the tools for companies to procure, track, and reduce carbon footprints at industry scale.

    Betty Rexrode, AIA, Principal of Rexrode Chirigos Architects shared her family’s journey of establishing a net-zero lifestyle on Oak Island in the Great South Bay of NY. When she embarked on this journey, many of today’s efficient technologies for harvesting solar power and the trend for eating locally did not exist. Betty walked us through the trials, tribulations, and long-term rewards of pursuing this lifestyle. The family came to understand the privilege of water we enjoy in this country after exclusively using rainwater harvesting for two and a half years. Today Betty’s family is able to live entirely off the land including food and water. They maintain a fruit & vegetable garden, sustainably farm & harvest mollusks, forage, capture wild game, and carefully track their collective impact on the land. They are stewards of the environment, working to preserve and restore biodiversity in the Great South Bay.

    While recognizing that net-zero living is not a goal for every client, Betty emphasized the importance of establishing criteria for project-based decision-making that is right for any project regardless of ‘points.’

    While preparing for this dialogue, our speakers collaborated on a carbon-tracking / habit correcting app concept for individuals called “NILCH” that would help people make incremental changes in their lifestyles.

    We learned that we can examine our own environmental footprints, identify our personal tipping points, and make environmentally responsible choices.

  • May 27, 2021
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    In honor of Asian/Pacific American Heritage Month, the AIANY WIA Committee hosted a forum at our May committee meeting to support our AAPI colleagues and friends. The focus of the discussion was to shed light on the experiences of our Asian peers, elevate their voices, and open up a conversation to learn how to be empathetic allies through these challenging times.

    We invited Bianca Weeko Martin, M. Arch Candidate at University of Waterloo and Publications Manager at RAP/LASG; Amanda Miller, AIA, NOMA,  Project Architect at Hoffman Architects and Co-Chair, AIANY Diversity & Inclusion Committee; Sara Ngan, AIA, LEED AP, Senior Associate at FXCollaborative; Mindy No, AIA, LEED AP BD+C, Principal at Perkins Eastman and Ayumi Sugiyama, AIA, LEED AP BD+C, Former Director of Cultural Projects at SHoP. The speakers represented architects and designers at different stages in their careers, with East and Southeast Asian ethnic heritages. Each of them generously shared with our members their personal stories with candid insights and observations.

    For this timely forum, AIANY WIA offered a safe and supportive space for sharing important cross-cultural perception information and bringing an understanding of the current social and professional biases to the forefront.

    Statistics of an uptick in Anti-Asian crimes in the past year, and references to the proportion of Asians and Asian architects in New York and the US provided context to the event.

    Kerry Nolan, AIA, Senior Associate, Beyer Blinder Belle and Advisory Board Member of the AIANY WIA Committee moderated the conversation. She posed sensitive questions about the speakers’ upbringing and their professional environments, emphasizing their unique narratives and breaking the stereotypical perception of the Asian community as a monolith. While our panelists all had experiences that shaped them differently, the conversation underscored similarities in biases they have faced in the workplace and beyond, especially in the past year amid the pandemic and the rise of attacks against Asians. Sara and Ayumi shared their thoughts on the model minority myth and how it affects womxn in the workplace. Amanda spoke about being a transracial adoptee. Bianca reflected on the need within education to broaden the western canon of architecture as the cultural norm, to include more typologies that speak to other parts of the world. Mindy and Sara also stressed the importance of mentors and role models that are representative and supportive of one’s identity while sharing ways in which firm leadership and professional organizations can support Asian professionals and show intersectionality within industry groups.

    We are so grateful for an engaged audience, many of whom shared relevant resources, some of which are:

    We hope to continue this conversation to encourage representation and celebrate diverse voices in our profession.

    You can access related AAPI resources and references, compiled here.

    For WIA’s upcoming events, good reads, related events across town, and relevant topics shared at the meeting, please view our May committee meeting agenda here.

  • May 23, 2021
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    On Thursday, May 13, the AIANY WIA Committee was delighted to host the women-led project team of the recently completed Ford Foundation Center for Social Justice. We learned about the process and challenges that transformed the Foundation’s workplace and public spaces into a manifestation of its mission: to promote the inherent dignity of all people.

    The speakers included Denise Ferris, Associate Vice President Design Management, Columbia University, Manhattanville Development Group; Maureen Henegan, Chairman & Chief Executive Officer, Henegan Construction; Lisa Kim, Gallery Director, Ford Foundation; and Bevin Savage Yamazaki, Senior Associate and Firmwide Leader for Foundations, Associations + Organizations (Culture + Museums), Gensler, who also moderated the conversation. They presented the story of the Ford Foundation building, how an exercise in upgrading a Landmark building to current codes and standards grew in scope, into a complete “renewal” with a holistic vision. The Guiding Principles, established at the beginning of the project—of an inclusive, and welcoming design; a commitment to social justice; sustainable planning; and stewardship of people and the environment—provided the critical framework for decision making and direction for every phase of the complex project. The result was a building that evolved to greater social relevance, one that is more accessible, accepting of diversity, and advocates for a better future. All of this was accomplished while navigating strict building codes and Landmark requirements.

    Through each of their unique lenses—Client, Owner’s Representative/Project Manager, Construction Manager, and Design Manager—we learned about inclusive design features and collaborative workplace space planning; responsible building and landscape refurbishment; non-traditional employment of women and under-represented groups; and community engagement through artwork and public spaces— demonstrating how the project embodied its Guiding Principals at every level.

    We thank the speakers as well as all those who attended and participated in the Q&A. We are motivated by the mission-driven approach to design and construction and hope to see more architectural projects embodying the principles of inclusion, equity, diversity, and social justice.

    Follow the Ford Foundation Gallery on their Website or Instagram page.

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