From left to right: Daria Pahhota and Molly Heintz with committee members Sara Jayazeri and Vivian Lee. Photo: Courtesy of Sara Jayazeri.
From left to right: Daria Pahhota and Molly Heintz with committee members Sara Jayazeri and Vivian Lee. Photo: Courtesy of Sara Jayazeri.

The Women in Architecture and Marketing and Communications Committees co-hosted a sold-out panel discussion in March at the Center, “Success Starts with Strategy: Tips for Fierce Marketing and Communications.” The speakers—Carol Doscher, Tami Hausman, Daria Pahhota, and Yeng Wu—are all top-of-their-game communications professionals from different corners of the architecture world, and I was honored to moderate the discussion, which included topics such as how to command a room and how to work with press. In putting together this special Design Awards issue of Oculus, I recalled the comments of Daria, who is chief communications officer at BIG – Bjarke Ingels Group. She underscored the value of celebrating milestones during the life of an architecture project, which may take several years to evolve from concept to completion.

I thought about the value of milestones when I read a comment from New York Magazine art critic Jerry Saltz about the city’s mega-development Hudson Yards, which held opening festivities in mid-March. Saltz, who is highly critical of the whole project, wrote on Instagram, “Where were all the architecture critics for the last 12 years?” If we step back from Hudson Yards itself, it’s fair to say that any such monumental urban project demands an ongoing civic conversation that extends beyond the immediate stakeholders. Perhaps because Hudson Yards was conjured up ex nihilo on top of the West Side rail yards by a private developer, a robust public debate on its merits never truly happened—even though all New Yorkers have skin in the game in the form of developer tax incentives and government infrastructure assistance (the 7 train) totaling nearly $6 billion, according to a recent New York Times analysis.

Project milestones over the last decade were missed opportunities to have more in-depth conversations about Hudson Yards at large. As Saltz says, these conversations might have been instigated by architecture critics, yes, but also by architects themselves. In an effort to offer architects a platform to begin conversations like these, Oculus is launching an open call for op-eds to be included in future issues, starting with Summer 2019. We’ll select at least one op-ed for every print issue, and also publish these online. Op-eds should be no more than 800 words and be submitted to The deadline for Summer issue submissions is April 22. The topic is up to you, but perhaps you have something to say about Hudson Yards, professional practice, or another subject that relates more broadly to our Summer issue theme, “The Inclusive City.”

Considering project milestones also led me think that how the industry bestows design awards—primarily on completed work and from submissions—tells only a fraction of the project’s story, which often omits accounts of the hurdles, roadblocks, and problem-solving that went into ultimately making the project a success. The same goes for awards to individuals. Cindy Allen, editor-in-chief of Interior Design magazine, is this year’s Stephen A. Kliment Oculus Award recipient. Most people know Cindy from the polished, lively, and smart publication she produces monthly—a must-read for any professional working in architecture and interiors. Having been involved with the development and writing of a handful of Interior Design stories over the years, I’ve seen firsthand how Cindy and her editorial team operate: The standards are stratospherically high, and any image or phrase that doesn’t meet them is redone or reworked until they do. As AIANY President Hayes Slade told me, “She is a tireless advocate for design across disciplines. To say she is enthusiastic would be an understatement.” Beyond the publication (which was a pioneer in establishing an online presence beyond print), Cindy has launched an iconic series of annual international awards and events that celebrate design and, just as importantly, bring design professionals together in a supportive network. Thank you, Cindy, for your vision, leadership, and the untold hours of hard work behind them.


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