Happy Spring, and happy AIA New York Chapter Awards Season! I notice trees around the city budding early; meanwhile, we’d barely seen a snowflake stick to the sidewalk this winter. While we all eagerly await the soft gusts of fresh spring air and thick cotton-candy blooms on our streets and in our parks, I can’t help but muse about our chosen city in spring, in all its glory and vulnerability.
These quotes come to mind, by two of my favorite queer New York authors:
“I love New York, even though it isn’t mine, the way something has to be, a tree or a street or a house, something, anyway, that belongs to me because I belong to it.”
“There are some things you learn best in calm, and some in storm.”
The first reads like the beginning of a love letter to the city; the second, as a call to action. We need both. Both describe the fire in our bellies that is necessary to create change—that my 2023 theme, Our City, Ourselves, is meant to elicit. And, what needs to change, along with the cold weather? Well, fighting the great inequities that plague our city and many others: addressing social justice, prison reform, workplace equity, and the housing crisis. We must learn how we can use the radically decreased demand for commercial office space to our benefit by creating new mixed-use neighborhoods to support hybrid lives. And, perhaps most urgently, we must continue to fight climate change.
These goals require critical self-assessment, of our city and of ourselves. We must hold each other and our leaders accountable. Is post-pandemic New York on track to meet the provocative changes and social justice shake-ups of the past years? Are we doing enough to push for the transformations we seek? How can we evaluate whether or not we’re on track? We know there’s a lot of work to be done and some significant hurdles (read: building codes) to reimagining all the empty or half-empty office space as livable, affordable housing communities.
We know that the outdoor dining structures launched during COVID are not suitable or safe long term, and we’re waiting to see what new regulations will be put in place, and what city agency will manage this transition. (Ideally, it will be an agency with professional design oversight.)
This critical self-assessment is something we must strive to do in our personal lives as well as in our communities. As humans, we’re ripe for reinvention and retooling. Our institutions are no different. One important exercise in critical self-assessment has just gotten underway at the Center for Architecture and AIANY, as we undertake a strategic planning exercise for both institutions, while commencing a search for new leadership. It’s particularly exciting, as our Center on LaGuardia Place turns 20 years old, to be in a position to ask ourselves, “What do we want to be as we grow up?” Indeed, both AIANY and the Center launch these strategic planning processes from an overall position of strength and success. But what more can we do? How can we grow? I have my thoughts, and I bet our 5,000+ membership does as well. I’d love to hear from you, so please reach out to me at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Spring is also our very own Awards Season, and this year we’re celebrating four honorees at our annual Honors and Awards Luncheon: Andrew Bernheimer, FAIA; New York Review of Architecture; Richard C. Yancey, FAIA; and WIP Collaborative. I’m particularly thrilled with the fact that each of the four represents a true commitment to our city, befitting the time we’re living in and the issues we face. Read more about them and why they are deserving of our recognition on page 12 of this issue. In addition, on the following pages you’ll see 18 extraordinary projects that were selected as this year’s Design Awards winners by a distinguished all-female international jury. As well as honoring a new commitment to sustainability, resiliency, and social equity that is now embedded in the AIA Design Awards Common App, the jury specifically sought out projects that were publicly transformative in one way or another.
Let’s get inspired. Let’s remain a bit dissatisfied. Let’s aim higher. Let’s work together to rebuild and grow our city while honoring the qualities that have attracted so many here—its energy, its intensity, its culture, its diversity, its queerness.