As leaders of AIA New York, we strive to push the profession forward by developing programming and initiatives that challenge us all to engage within the field and beyond. While these initiatives may change and evolve, we are committed as an organization to demonstrating our profession’s civic and social impact. As the gavel passes from one president to the next, we are pleased by the continuity of our presidential themes, both of which, at their cores, promote initiatives that prove the importance of design.
Through Guy’s 2018 AIANY presidential theme, Architect|Activist, we invited architects to apply their skills to help tackle the many issues faced by our society. This year’s programming fostered civic engagement and responsibility among professionals, helping architects develop tools to advocate for the issues that inspire and concern them. In conjunction with Manhattan Borough President Gale Brewer, we developed a program to recruit AIANY members to serve on their community boards. We also worked to ensure that architects are better represented within city government, even suggesting changes to the New York City Charter to require that certain positions be held by architects. In 2018 we expanded the AIANY Civic Leadership Program, which educates members about how to develop the skills to become political advocates.
Our exhibitions also contributed to our activist toolkit: Designing Waste: Strategies for a Zero Waste City showed us how, as designers, we can advocate for a greener future, and Close to the Edge: The Birth of Hip-Hop Architecture explored how hip-hop culture, a movement that was established by Black and Latino youths of the South Bronx, played a role in the design and evolution of our urban environments. Even the awards we conferred at our Honors and Awards Luncheon and at the Heritage Ball—to renowned figures like artist and activist Ai Weiwei and gender-equity advocate Beverly Willis, FAIA—presented us with examples of leaders who stand up for their beliefs.
The A’18 Conference on Architecture, held in New York City, was another opportunity to show our membership at large how we can engage in activism. Members visiting from all over the country heard the call of the Voices of Plurality Flash Mob, 100 men and women who demanded the pursuit of equitable practices in the profession. Our own chapter organized one of the conference’s final events, the Day of Service, during which New York City-based firms partnered with community organizations to execute much-needed service projects with AIA volunteers. Look for AIANY’s next Day of Service in May 2019!
Focusing on architects’ potential for activism challenges us to think about how we engage civically. Under Guy’s leadership, AIANY helped members develop tools for activism. Hayes’s theme for 2019, Building Community, asks that we maintain that spirit of activism and refine those skill sets, while also thinking about how we are engaging professionally, both within our design community and externally with the broader community at large.
Building Community is about how the repercussions of architecture ripple far beyond the immediate boundaries of project sites and their neighborhoods. In the summer of 2019, we will present “Mapping Community: Public Investment in NYC Since 2000,” an exhibition examining how our public projects impact communities throughout the city.
AIANY will continue to grow our membership in 2019, while deepening existing connections. We will conduct outreach to revitalize participation among professionals who have not been directly involved with AIANY. We will also increase the opportunities to contribute to discussions at the Chapter, including via open calls for Oculus magazine submissions. More information on this to come!
For 2019, we have also identified key moments in the span of an architect’s career during which we can work together for the benefit of our membership. Broadening our community begins with engaging young people to consider architecture as a potential career. Our Discover Architecture! program will offer high-school students career discovery placements at architecture offices around the city. To address the next stage in the development of an architect’s career, we will launch a mentorship program, building bridges between emerging professionals and our AIA Fellows. We will also continue to celebrate the successes of our seasoned members, drawing from their experiences to benefit the AIANY community.
Thank you for your continued support and engagement throughout the year. We look forward to working with all of you to accomplish the Chapter’s ambitious goals in the coming months. There are many ways for us all to become more active in our profession and within our communities.