And just like that, it’s fall in New York. Packed subways, snarled traffic, ubiquitous school buses, competing deadlines and priorities, an hour wait at your favorite neighborhood dinner joint—such are our common bonds of New York in autumn. And speaking of a common bond, the Center for Architecture’s fall fête, to benefit its K-12 Learning By Design initiative, is just around the corner. Common Bond: The Center for Architecture Gala will again take place at Chelsea Piers, on Thursday, October 26, and I hope to see you all there. What could be a better cause than youth design education? This year we’re honoring four truly extraordinary individuals who have committed themselves to transforming New York for the better:
Rohit T. “Rit” Aggarwala, an Indian-American environmental policy adviser, transportation planner, and historian, and New York City’s chief climate officer and commissioner of the NYC Department of Environmental Protection for the Adams Administration;
Jeanne Gang, founder and principal of Studio Gang, the Chicago-based firm with a growing New York studio and presence, whose new Gilder Center for Science, Education, and Innovation at the American Museum of Natural History opened this year to widespread praise;
Jolie Milstein, a licensed architect and the president and chief executive officer of the New York State Association for Affordable Housing, executive director of House New York Inc., and a managing member of Closing USA Affordable Housing, who has focused her career on addressing the daunting affordable housing crisis in New York and beyond through the lens of housing equity;
And lastly, we will celebrate the extraordinary legacy of Joan K. Davidson (1927–2023), president emeritus, J.M. Kaplan Fund. As her New York Times obituary noted, she was a “philanthropist who championed New York. As president of a foundation established by her father, she focused her grant making on issues related to the city’s architecture, design and quality of life.”
I also feel compelled to make another worthy mention, and perhaps, a formal introduction, of someone who actually needs no introduction to most of you: Jesse Lazar, the new executive director of the AIA New York Chapter and the Center for Architecture! Most of you have at least met Jesse around the Center or the city sometime over the past 15 years. Yep, Jesse entered the Center for Architecture in 2008 as director of programs, and has become a powerful and indispensable component of our sibling institutions on and off for a decade and a half, with intermediate stints to get an MBA, and to serve New York Economic Development Corporation as a project manager.
What I can promise all of you—having been more involved in this search process than I ever expected to be—is that the Center and AIANY have an extraordinarily knowledgeable and dynamic person at the helm, with an eye on the sea changes ahead. Jesse brings a steady hand and an ambitious appetite for sustainable growth to both the Center and AIANY, as both organizations prepare to undergo strategic planning in the coming months. At first glance, Jesse comes from outside the conventional “walls and halls” of the architecture discipline, but at second glance, he’s been at the crossroads of architectural academia, the profession, and the culture for years. Soon, we’ll launch a search for a new director of programming and curatorial affairs, who will guide the Center and Chapter in lockstep with Jesse, a dedicated and talented staff, and brilliant boards, along new paths. In short, we want to remain relevant, ambitious, and indispensable to the New York City design community as well as to our city, especially its most vulnerable citizens, and, of course, the broader public beyond.
As architects in New York, we know we have a commitment to ensure that the city will support all New Yorkers, and be its best self. Our city is blessed with a bounty of incredible non-profit organizations dedicated to architecture and the built environment. We welcome collaborations and discussions across all non-profits, and are thrilled to be connecting more closely with our sibling AIA borough chapters. We must all de-silo ourselves, and figure out how, in a world more connected than ever, to better share in setting and working toward our collective goals as a city. We want to elevate the ecosystem for all to thrive even more, and to be songbirds for Our City and Ourselves.
Matthew Bremer, AIA
2023 AIANY President