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Benjamin Prosky, Assoc. AIA, Executive Director, AIA New York and the Center for Architecture
Benjamin Prosky, Assoc. AIA, Executive Director, AIA New York | Center for Architecture. Photo: Yusuke Suzuki.

As we round out AIA New York’s 2018 theme, Architect|Activist, and look forward to 2019’s theme, Building Community, I am thrilled to observe that our membership continues to be activated and engaged via the myriad of collaborative programs, design excellence competitions, educational activities, volunteer opportunities, and original exhibitions.

As part of a renewed commitment to giving back to our communities, AIANY will host its second annual Day of Service in May 2019. The program will follow the same model as the National Day of Service we organized during A’18, the AIA Conference on Architecture, in New York last June: local design firms will organize volunteer opportunities and lead teams to help organizations do much-needed community work. Projects last year included improvements to community gathering spaces, homeless shelters, and public-school gardens, as well as fresh food distribution to NYC Housing Authority residents. I look forward to seeing what impactful initiatives our community will tackle in 2019.

Now well into its 15th anniversary year, the Center for Architecture will present robust exhibitions with a fascinating range of content, featuring historic and contemporary material, such as unique photos of Syria before the war by Peter Aaron; views into the prolific design careers of Paul Rudolph and Polish architect Jadwiga Grabowska-Hawrylak; and innovative urban research on fringe cities led by MASS Design. We will continue to ask critical questions about equity and social justice through Tony Griffin’s exhibition “Design and the Just City” and through “Community Benefits: Using Our Dollars for Change,” which will map the distribution of resources throughout NYC’s neighborhoods with the help of students from Pratt Institute. We will complement all these exhibitions with related programing, including lectures, symposia, and original K-12 educational content.

Additionally, I would like to take this opportunity to celebrate Oculus magazine’s 80th birthday! Started as a modest but informative membership newsletter, Oculus has remained a trusted and consistent method for the Chapter to relay news, milestones, hardships, research, imagery, and original reporting about architecture and architects to its membership. Though we now have many more efficient ways to convey information—such as our redesigned website, email newsletter, and ever-expanding social media networks—a print publication offers a unique opportunity to focus a reader’s attention on thoughtfully curated thematic content. Some would argue that print publications are no longer essential, or even sustainable, so it is important that we see Oculus as something special, an archive of sorts, containing content and images worth keeping.

AIANY has been lucky that, over the years, Oculus has benefitted from a legacy of smart and talented editors and writers. The list of the publication’s contributors, past and current, is impressive—too long to list—but deserving of acknowledgment. This is a testament to our readership’s focused point of view and to the many talented and persuasive editors who have shaped the publication. The Oculus name is also consistently recognized among the finest critics via the annual Stephen Kliment Oculus Award, named for one of the publication’s prolific past editors. Each year at the Chapter’s Honors and Awards Luncheon, the award is conferred on a critic who has been integral to shaping the way the public understands and sees architecture. Though writing for Oculus is not a requirement, many of the winners have indeed contributed to the publication.

I am happy that many back issues of Oculus have now been archived online for all to access free of charge. This important initiative, the USModernist Library, spearheaded by George Smart, aims to preserve architectural publications from the 20th century. To pore over the back issues, visit www.usmodernist.org.

Finally, congratulations to this year’s Design Awards winners! These outstanding projects will be featured in our Spring issue and celebrated at our annual Design Awards Luncheon, April 15.

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