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Photo: Sam Lahoz.
Photo: Sam Lahoz.

At a time when going to school, entering an office, or even eating out feels like a brave physical act, architects continue to have faith in design—employing design tactics in new ways to help enhance our lives, keep us safe, and foster interaction, albeit distanced. Amidst all this, the Center for Architecture has remained dedicated to providing our community members with a range of ways to interact with architecture and the city around them. Whether through our new K–12 Architecture at Home resources or the addition of several virtual exhibitions, there is much to do at centerforarchitecture.org, while the Center remains closed.

And, despite the challenges of 2020, Archtober turns 10 this year! This edition of our month-long celebration of architecture and design is responding to the times, pivoting its focus to provide virtual, safe, self-led activities to mark our landmark anniversary.

The festival’s over 60 partners contributed virtual tours, online exhibitions, self-guided walking tours, and other safely distanced opportunities. Taking advantage of our digital reality, Archtober’s new “Travel To” series transports participants to sites across the country, providing an opportunity for architectural tourism from the comfort of our homes. Beyond timed and ticketed activities, this year’s Archtober website also includes new resources for architecture lovers of all ages. Please dive in at archtober.org.

Turning to other important work also happening during these unprecedented times, I want to draw your attention to the enhancements made to the five-year strategic plan of the American Institute of Architects (AIA) for 2021–2025. Released in April 2020, the plan reaffirms the need for architects and the organization to be active in the urgent issues of our time, particularly climate action and equity.

As an example of these focused efforts, AIA’s “The Climate Imperative” plan, published in July 2020, declared the goal to exponentially accelerate the decarbonization of buildings, the building industry, and the built environment by declaring an urgent climate imperative for carbon reduction; transforming the day-to-day practice of architects to achieve a zero carbon, equitable, resilient, and healthy built environment; and leveraging support of all potential partners, including peers, clients, policymakers, and the public. Resources gathered on the AIA website will provide tactical support to architects seeking to implement the goals and to broadly distribute best practices. In September, AIA also released equity-focused resources, including tools to help bridge the gaps between complacency and knowledge, knowledge and action, and action and progress.

In this season, it is imperative to engage with policymakers and to understand how legislation is impacting the built environment. The 2020 AIA Policy Platform, developed by members for distribution to lawmakers and activists, identifies meaningful policies and commits to better buildings that will sustain a healthy country. AIA New York Chapter, with its newly launched Political Action Fund, is continuing to stay active in advocacy, ensuring that our community has a voice in the many policies that will emerge as our city rebuilds itself amidst and post pandemic.

So far, 2020 has brought on a crippling pandemic and acts of brutality that have exposed racial injustice throughout our society. But these have served as a call to action, asserting that we must collaborate with all communities, working with many stakeholders to recreate and sustain the city we all want to live and thrive in. AIANY and the Center for Architecture are collectively responding to this call, defining steps to increase equity in our community. We challenge each firm, architect, and constituent to also consider how to apply their skills to these pressing issues.

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