Portrait of Matthew Bremer walking his two dogs in front of a bright mural
Matthew Bremer, AIA, President, AIA New York. Photography: Bisher Tabbaa.

Happy Summer! I hope this letter finds you coming home from a bike ride in Brooklyn’s Shirley Chisholm Park, a Yankees game in the Bronx (sorry, Mets fans), or a day of catching some rays at Sheep Meadow in Central Park. Wherever you are, I hope this summer brings you joy, health, and some respite from the intensity of daily life. I hope it also serves as a reminder of why you’ve opted to live and practice in New York City, a place where the breadth of hu-man and human-built diversity is always present. Whether we’re riding on a float or participating even momentarily in the Puerto Rican Day Parade, Juneteenth, or Gay Pride while on our way to see friends, we can’t help but be reminded that our diverse city is our strength. It’s something we should remind ourselves of continually. Most of us feel it in our veins; we thrive off the city’s energy and camaraderie. Diversity is everywhere. But what about equity? Accessibility? Inclusion? We still have much to learn and a lot of work to do.

As members of the American Institute of Architects (AIA)—and particularly as members of the AIA New York Chapter—we have an obligation to reflect on whether we are succeeding in integrating the tenets of Diversity, Equity, Accessibility, and Inclusion at our Chapter and our national institute. As it happens, AIANY and the Center for Architecture are currently undergoing a leadership transition while simultaneously initiating independent strategic planning processes. A requirement for AIA chapters, the strategic planning process helps us assess how our mission and goals align with our core values, allowing us to take stock of where we’ve been, where we are, and where we want to go. We hope this commitment to self-examination will help us become the best version of ourselves.

And when I say “we,” to whom am I referring? I would like to think “we” refers to the broadest swath of New York’s architecture and design community. More realistically, however, “we” refers to the AIA members reading this issue of Oculus. I recognize that we’re missing many young professionals, academics, small firm members, and sole practitioners who wonder, What can AIA do for me? In fact, I thought this myself for much of my career. And even though AIANY, by far the largest chapter in the country, operates from a uniquely privileged position—with our own Center, a brilliant and dedicated staff of more than 25, and 26 program committees building much-needed bridges between our communities—I don’t think we’re quite as representative as we want to be yet. What about the smaller firms that can’t justify the cost of membership, or the younger practitioners and students who don’t think AIA’s values align with their own? And what about our fellow members in chapters that simply don’t have the resources we do? Aren’t we simply one AIA, and can’t we examine how membership can be made more equitable—and more valuable—across our city and our discipline?

The Summer 2023 issue is all about education. As architects, we know that to do our jobs well, we must never stop learning or mentoring. In this issue, Jesse Lazar, our interim executive director, talks about the Center’s extraordinary K-12 program, which is the envy of other design education programs in the country. As AIANY members, we—myself included—still have lots to learn about the current workings and the potential of our Chapter and its sister organization, the Center, which is now celebrating its 20th anniversary. Both organizations have deeply inter-woven missions and goals, and both can have a major impact on New York City. AIANY can empower design profes-sionals to become engaged in their communities and advocate for policies that combat climate change and help build a more beautiful and equitable city. Meanwhile, the Center can continue to reach ever-broadening, more diverse audiences through its exhibitions and programming.

Over the last few months, the AIANY and Center boards have been working hard, reflecting on tough questions about our organizations and how we relate to each other. I can promise you we’ve been learning a lot about ourselves—and, by extension, about our city. I hope you will, too. That is at the core of my challenge to you in this year’s theme, Our City, Ourselves.

Yours, in education and in practice,

Matthew Bremer, AIA
2023 AIANY President


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