Headshot of Greg Switzer
Gregory Switzer, AIA, NOMA, NCARB, 2024 President, AIA New York. Photo: Courtesy of Greg Switzer.

The focus of the 2024 AIA New York Presidential theme, Belonging and Beyond, is community engagement. A crucial aspect of physical and social-emotional wellness and resilience for individuals and communities, “belonging” is the sustained connection with social groups, individual or collective experiences, and/or physical spaces.

It takes collaborative thinking and action to create conditions conducive to community-level belonging—manifesting as people’s sustained connection to physical places and to one another, bringing widespread joy. Architects undoubtedly have a role here.

This year’s theme urges us towards collaborative cycles of listening, workshopping ideas, and mapping and sharing suggested pathways—and developers, urban designers, community board leaders, and public officials have indicated that they share these priorities. Hence, the theme’s accompanying program series won’t convene architects alone; our intention is to include additional types and numbers of stakeholders, including proximate stakeholders and local voices.

To kick off this initiative, a few handfuls of practitioners with community engagement expertise gathered for an exploratory brainstorm session on what AIANY, and perhaps AIA more broadly, can and should do to amplify and deepen our knowledge and efforts towards this objective. In the months ahead, I’ll be sharing session topics and opportunities for involvement. It’s an exciting agenda, and enthusiasm and creativity are already emerging. This will be augmented with another series sponsored by the Cultural Facilities Committee titled The Future of Public Space and Art. This series will focus on history and memory, new perspectives on public space, and new directions, which will concentrate on trends, craft, and technology.

In my roles as both president and chair of the Honors Committee, I am delighted to see this year’s AIANY Design Awards honorees highlight the crucial role architects and developers can play in nurturing a sense of belonging within the physical and virtual spaces they create for individuals and communities. Recognizing this profound connection to space involves prioritizing the amplification of voices, especially those addressing issues such as housing insecurity and climate change. Madame Architect, Marvel, Nina Cooke John, AIA, NOMA, and Jonathan Rose collectively showcase the myriad ways we can enhance individuals’ well-being and sense of belonging within the environments they design. My hope is that their examples illuminate the concept that prioritizing “belonging” in all facets of our work can manifest in diverse forms. May they inspire you to discover your own unique approach to fostering a similar sense of belonging.

As many of you are aware, AIANY and the Center for Architecture are currently undergoing a strategic planning process. This effort is progressing well, and in the upcoming weeks, we will convene a town hall to provide a brief update on our progress. This town hall meeting will serve as an ideal platform to gain insight into how the Chapter can better address the issues that matter most to you while bridging to the theme of National President Kimberly Dowdell: More in ’24. I would love all of you to participate, as your voice matters and is of the utmost importance.

I wish to especially thank those of you I call upon as advisors—the committees, staff, and board—for your support and the outstanding work you do. You make my job so much easier, and your efforts are much appreciated. I look forward to a year of curiosity, growth, discernment, and impact.


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