4 presidents zoom

Let us take a moment to collectively exhale with a huge sigh of relief that 2020 is over. It was a year that kept on giving—pandemic, lockdown, the ghastly deaths of George Floyd and many others, leading to civic unrest and massive protest—all in the context of the fastest collapse ever of our city’s economy. As we close out the year, it feels like there might be light on the horizon, with vaccine distribution and a new administration in the White House that believes in cities and science.

What does this mean for New York City? Charting NYC 2020, last year’s presidential theme, asked us to look back and reflect to chart a new path forward for the city. The urgency of this work  is made greater by the challenges of  the past year. Visualize NYC 2021, the culminating research and data visualization project, positions AIA New York Chapter to advance robust advocacy efforts in 2021—just in time for historic citywide elections and an opportunity to transcend a return to “normal” and instead envision a return to “better.” We are at the brink of the 20th anniversary of 9/11, a critical point in AIANY’s 163-year history. While it is our nature as architects to look forward and propose solutions, we should also take a moment to pause and contemplate how we arrived at this point. Perhaps we will use this opportunity to understand our patterns of inspiration and creativity, as well as our blind spots and complicities, but also to look forward to new solutions, to inflect, and to change. And thus, the presidential theme for 2021 is Reflection/Inflection.

In addition to Visualize NYC, we will reflect further on our governance and policies regarding systemic racism, and continue recasting the board to accurately reflect our community and city. As is our obligation to the future of the profession, we will seek means to support the path to the profession by Black, indigenous, and people of color, who are so poorly represented in our membership, with the specific goal of doubling Black members of our profession by 2030.

We will further our engagement with our community, our partners, our colleagues at the New York Chapter of the National Organization of Minority Architects, and the universities in our city to expand and deepen conversations on systemic racism in our profession, schools, and housing. While supporting work on a carbon neutral future, we will continue to examine the disproportion-ate impact of climate change on poor and underserved communities. Our committees will support our emerging professionals and practices with activities, training, and mentorship through small- and medium-firm roundtables, and make the Center for Architecture available for pop-up gallery events and both digital and in-person meetings. We will also take the time to remember our colleagues lost to COVID-19, persons lost to unjust criminal justice and systemic racism, and responders and workers lost on and after 9/11.

Impactful change occurs with great effort, as exemplified by the projects and people covered in this issue. AIANY is committed to upholding the AIA Code of Ethics “to design buildings and spaces that will enhance and facilitate human dignity.” With that commitment, AIANY’s Board of Directors has asked our members to refrain from designing spaces of incarceration until there is measurable reform in the American criminal justice system. We encourage members to support the creation of new systems, processes, and typologies based on prison reform, alternatives to imprisonment, and restorative justice, and we are committed to ongoing discussions of these complex issues at the Center for Architecture.

It bears repeating that the pandemic, the Black Lives Matter movement, and the economic downturn have illuminated the importance of AIANY and the Center to our profession, our communities, and our city. And so we look forward to 2021 with the great hope of seeing all of you, virtually and in person, at 536 LaGuardia Place.


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