As architects, we understand better than most that no project is ever truly complete. Building phases blend—substantial completion overlaps with punch list, then merges into maintenance and life-cycle concerns. Also, we’re obsessive by nature, and we never stop considering, tweaking, and improving. Commitment is often our blessing and our curse. This is true also of other notable attributes—of focus, values, and leadership, for example. We strive for constant realignment.
Chomping at the hydra’s bit, we sprang into 2022 encouraging our membership to strive for the creation of just environments that promote resilience, health, and well-being for all—that facilitate equity and inclusion, throughout the design and delivery processes with each final product.
By convening thought leaders, practitioners, and experts in symposia and myriad programs, we cultivated information, ideas, and resources for our membership to reinforce a community response to New York City’s housing crisis. To reinforce member efforts to improve the region’s environmental resilience and sustainability, we shared knowledge with local, national, and international collaborators, and reflected on the 10 years that have passed since Superstorm Sandy landed on shore. We hosted a symposium on the topic of incarceration to explore ways architects can address these problems, and testified to the New York City Council against solitary confinement.
This past year we also examined ways our day-to-day lives as professionals can also be more just, welcoming, inclusive, fair and representative of our population as a whole. From engagement with deans of historically Black colleges and universities, to programming collaborations with affinity groups and member committees, we worked to support various ways members can achieve their full potential. And, responding to challenges arising out of the “perfect storm” intersection of workforce insecurity, the ongoing pandemic, and structural inequality, our dialogue surrounding architectural work culture is ongoing and encompasses recent workshops on architects’ mental health, pay transparency, and understanding recent calls for unionization.
And now, as we race headlong into a new-hybrid, still-uncertain 2023, we’ve got to take stock—of both where we are and who we are—in order to proceed. And it’s the where and the who that inform the 2023 AIANY presidential theme of Our City, Ourselves. Appropriated from the 1970 feminist treatise Our Bodies, Ourselves, the theme is posited as both a love letter to New York City, and a call to action. It’s meant to suggest urgency, agency, and a good bit of old-time New York grit. New York had been experiencing radical change—good and not-so-good—well before the pandemic, and that change is not abating. Without falling into overt nostalgia, where’s that unmistakable New York grit that galvanized us during the ’60s and ’70s periods of change and liberation for women, people of color, the LGBTQ+ communities, and all of us “others” who came to New York, as refugees from Warsaw or Wichita, to claim this city for our true, authentic selves? Now, the gulf between rich and poor is ever-widening, and the housing and homelessness crisis for the latter is at a tipping point. The city needs us now more than ever to help create a true New York for all New Yorkers—one that’s replete with values of fairness, equity, and compassion, and still consummately New York—brash, audacious, and unafraid to stand up for what we believe and deserve.
It’s this type of “good trouble”—to steal the late congressman and civil rights activist John Lewis’s famous words—that we want to inject into the agenda at the Center for Architecture and AIA New York Chapter for the coming year and beyond.
We’ve already hosted AIANY’s first LGBTQIA+ Alliance event to begin coalescing a long-overdue group dedicated to addressing issues of identity, visibility, safety, and mental health for the LGBTQ+ community within and surrounding our profession. We want to turn the lens on small and new practices, an often-over-looked major constituency of our profes-sion, who often play outsized roles in their local communities. We want our Chapter and our Center to play a vital role in facilitating ongoing dialogues between our members and the architecture community at large on issues of workplace equity, labor relations, and ending abusive practices that have long pervaded the profession. And we’ll present an exhibition and programming in the fall of this year focusing on ourselves, living and evolving in our city.
So welcome 2023! Let’s go reclaim our city for ourselves. All of ourselves. Every body.