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Some outstanding projects from 2020 and some new ways to get involved in 2021.
Photo: Sam Lahoz.
Photo: Sam Lahoz.

The year 2020 wrapped up with our first virtual Board Inaugural, where we celebrated the achievements of 2020 and looked ahead to 2021. I want to express my heartfelt gratitude to 2020 President Kim Yao for her incredible leadership and dedication, as well as her marvelous sense of humor, as we navigated the uncharted territories of running AIA New York Chapter amidst the COVID-19 pandemic! At the event we also inaugurated 2021 President Kenneth Lewis. I look forward to working with Ken in a year that I hope will be the yang to the yin of 2020—starting out locked down, but with the promise that we will end the year together at the Center for Architecture.

This year has demonstrated that the energy, expertise, and good will of AIA members and our extended community are what make AIANY strong. I would like to share three efforts led by our committees, the conduits for our exceptional programming, which were recognized at the inaugural:

The 2020 Citation for Design Excellence was given to Recipe for a Room: A Design Contest, organized by the Interiors Committee. In just few months this spring, members developed a competition-festival-fundraiser mashup that paired architecture students with mentors to create a model of a restaurant using only edible materials. Entertaining, creative, and beautifully produced, the com-petition also exposed students to the design process. Profits from the event were directed to the NYC Restaurant Employee Relief Fund.

The 2020 Citation for Public Outreach was given to The BQE in Context, a project created to better inform Transportation and Infrastructure Committee members and other professionals about the history and urban potential of the Brooklyn Queens Expressway, as the city prepared to address its state of disrepair. The project included a digital publication and a suite of programming that advanced the discussion among diverse stakeholders.

The 2020 Citation for Professional Development was given to the Diversity and Inclusion Committee for its broad, timely, and impactful response to this year’s intensified calls for social justice. Spurred by the mounting racial injustices, the committee quickly convened a 100-person meeting with an agenda that sought to transform priorities within the Chapter and design community. As part of this, the members issued a call to action for our committees to raise inclusion standards for participation and content. One working group has already completed a framework, The Baseline 5, to support design firms internal equity, diversity, and inclusion initiatives.

As we look forward to next year, I want to draw your attention to a few of the many AIANY activities that will help our community access resources and gain skills to rebuild their businesses and our city:

In 2021, we will offer Retrofit Now! on a monthly basis. This comprehensive course will position attendees to comply with Local Law 97 and make significant contributions to energy and carbon reductions.

As the pandemic persists, the Design Corps, a collaboration with the NYC Economic Development Corporation and NYCxDesign, will continue to tap into New York City’s design community to help struggling small businesses comply with the changing rules and regulations. I urge those with time to get involved.

We know that our member firms—small, medium, and large—continue to require support as they respond to the current economic downturn. To better guide us through our collective recovery, AIANY has created a new committee focusing on the Future of Practice, drawing on the expertise of the Professional Practice, Technology, and New Practices committees to strategize about new models for operations and business development.

Lastly, I would like to share my sincere gratitude to our members, board, and incredible staff. Everyone’s efforts kept us going in 2020, and I know they will collectively help us forge on in 2021. I wish our community a much healthier 2021, and I look forward to seeing you online and, before long, back at the Center for Architecture!

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