June 2, 2023AIANY WIA S, M, L, XL Firm Tours
To highlight women leadership and designers in small, medium, large, and extra-large firms in New York, AIANY WIA organized four firm tours on May 18, 2023, and visited Andrea Steele Architecture (ASA), MARVEL, Diller Scofidio + Renfro (DS+R), and SOM. We are grateful to each firm for their generosity in hosting this event and showcasing their office and work. They presented extraordinary projects that contributed to the built environment and shared their initiatives to champion equity in their practice.
Andrea Steele Architecture (ASA)
Andrea Steele and her diverse community of practitioners welcomed WIA members into their Chelsea office to learn more about their unique approach to the firm’s many mission-driven projects. The Chelsea office is home to roughly 15 practitioners, including Andrea, in an open studio that is alive with beautifully crafted models and carefully considered materials. Andrea shared the process outline she and her team use to learn what is at the heart of each project’s objectives and how the ASA team can help clients to unlock more from their projects than originally imagined. With the help of Dichen Ding and Xinyang Chen, Andrea used the NASA Glenn Research Center, Casita, and Make the Road New York projects as examples to demonstrate how centering the end user in the design process translates to beautiful buildings that foster profound connections and community. Following the process-centered project presentations, the ASA team opened the office for drinks and conversations about the details of the projects, models, and materials in the works as well as managed to stay connected as a team while working mostly remotely.
MARVEL partners Lissa So and Annya Ramirez explained that 56% of the 160-people firm are women, and women leadership in the director’s position make up 50%. They foster a hands-on design culture and collaborative work environment and even offer a chef-prepared lunch for all the team members at their 7 Lispenard storefront location every Wednesday! Their biophilic office at 145 Hudson is filled with beautiful models that exude design and creativity. Jennifer Olson and Elisa Testa presented the design of Uris Hall, a complete renovation from an existing Business Building at Columbia University to a lively, light-filled Arts and Science Building. Sharon Kim and Emily Richardson talked about how empowering it is to work with an all-women team, including the client, consultants, and a large women construction crew, for the KIPP: NYC school, while Annya Ramirez and Carolina Cohen displayed their design passion on the prominent new entrance for the Bronx Museum Visitors Wing. Ishita Gaur showcased MARVEL’s planning process for Pier 107. Sami Sikanas and Yang Zhao wrapped up the firm presentation with their ongoing renovation design for the Norris and Pennyback Park Playgrounds. MARVEL hosted a lively reception at 7 Lispenard and even celebrated a birthday with a delicious chocolate cake! Joining us were Siete and Nueve, two friendly rescue cats, MARVEL’s permanent in-house guardians.
Diller Scofidio + Renfro (DS+R)
DS+R was represented by women architects at every level of experience, several of whom started out as fresh graduates and grew within the firm. The evening was kicked off by co-founder and Partner Elizabeth Diller, who spoke about DS+R’s history and growth from a 12-person to a 100+ person firm. Associate Principal Zoe Small talked about the firm’s design ethos and project types comprising various disciplines, scales, and formats. Associate Principal Holly Deichmann and Associates Anahit Hayrapetyan, Bo Liu, and Katrina Collins discussed the firm’s culture and horizontal structure, enabling every team member to have a voice and a seat at the table. Furthermore, they introduced their internal mentorship program focusing on cross-pollination and encouraged attendees to identify mentors. Kaitlin Faherty, Anahit Hayrapetyan, Magdalena Sadykov, and Holly Deichmann then presented selected upcoming confidential projects, reflecting DS+R’s emphasis on excellence and innovation in design, engineering, adaptive reuse, accessibility, and community involvement. The evening continued with a tour of the office led by Rocio Brizzio, Maya Shopova, Susana Holguin-Veras, and Ana Goga. The tour was a journey through design and construction models placed around the office; including the notable High Line, Columbia University Vagelos Education Center, and Broad Museum; demonstrating the meaningful impact DS+R has made on the built environment. The horizontal structure of the firm was reflected in the fact that the Partners did not sit in enclosed offices. The evening concluded with stimulating conversations accompanied by drinks.
SOM welcomed WIA members into their new office at 7 World Trade, a building designed by SOM. Marisol Brito kicked off the evening, welcoming our visitors into their office forum space, a double-height space where SOM schedules many events. She introduced SOM Partner Carrie Moore, who spoke about SOM’s culture and its wide range of Employee Resource Groups, which include the Asian Alliance, SOM NOMA, the Women’s Initiative, SOM Pride, and SOM Arquitectos. Ellen Abraham talked about SOM’s Equity Design Lab, which keeps the firm accountable with the equity toolkit, a way of tracking the firm’s efforts and measuring progress on equity. Associate Principal Amy Garlock and Principal Yasemin Kologlu presented their projects, the restoration and renovation of the Lever House and Urban Sequoia, respectively. The Lever House project is unique in that SOM also designed the original building. Urban Sequoia is a carbon-absorbing building and showcased SOM’s efforts in materials research. Marti Gottsch ended the evening by giving the WIA group a tour through the firm’s two floors at 7 World Trade Center, focusing on the collaborative spaces located at the office’s perimeter. The tour went through SOM’s model gallery, which along with many of SOM’s famous buildings, included a rainbow tower that was built for Jonathan Van Ness of Queer Eye. Jonathan visited the office when he featured SOM on his show, Getting Curious with Jonathan Van Ness.