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November 27, 2018
by Ashly Chirayil
Civic Impact in Practice panel at the Center for Architecture. Image credit: Center for Architecture.
Civic Impact in Practice panel at the Center for Architecture. Image credit: Center for Architecture.
Civic Impact in Practice panel at the Center for Architecture. Image credit: Jenna Wandishin.
Civic Impact in Practice panel at the Center for Architecture. Image credit: Jenna Wandishin.

On November 1,  the 2018 AIANY Civic Leadership Program class showcased results from their Civic Engagement Survey at the Center for Architecture. The Civic Engagement Survey was issued earlier this year to gage civic engagement, equity, and political advocacy practices currently exercised by AIA New York-affiliated principals across New York City. Civic Leaders Ashly Chirayil, Assoc. AIA; Nadia Habib, Assoc. AIA; Michael Haggerty, Assoc. AIA, AICP; Wells Megalli, Assoc. AIA; and Ofunne Oganwu, Assoc. AIA, opened the program with a presentation of the compiled data and what the results could mean.

Live polls were conducted on various topics to see how data compared with the experiences of those in the audience. Disparities in the numbers of people who experienced such things as discrimination within the office versus those whose workplaces provide action plans for discrimination were eye opening: approximately 85% of the room raised their hand when asked if they had experienced workplace discrimination; less than half of those people kept their hands raised when asked about office action plans. Though informal, these live polls helped prompt lively discussions between the audience and our guest speakers.

Guest speakers Chris Rice, Senior Urban Planner at WXY; Weston Walker, AIA, LEED AP, Design Principal at Studio Gang; and Priyanka Shah the NY Chapter Steward of the Architecture Lobby were invited to participate in a broader discussion based on the online survey results and informed by the live polls. Moderator Molly Heintz of Oculus Magazine guided speakers through a discussion of current mechanisms for equity, advocacy, and impact within their own organizations. Rice, who also co-founded Black Space, lauded WXY for bringing in an anti-discrimination and public relations consultant before its employees embarked on community relations for an urban planning project. Walker spoke to the importance of Studio Gang’s commitment to closing the gender-pay gap within the office and the profession. Shah encouraged all those in architecture and design to advocate for the value of yourself, your position, and the work of the architectural profession, so that designers can be on sure footing when advocating for others outside of the design community. Throughout the conversations, Heintz provoked everyone to consider the complexities and potentials of the issues raised. From speakers and audience members alike, Heintz sussed out actionable items:

  • Consider or encourage local opportunities for civic engagement, such as joining a community board
  • Extend pre-design to include longer planning periods
  • Embrace interdisciplinary design
  • Break projects into actionable phases
  • Organize among individuals and firms to increase awareness
  • Ensure fair labor practices within design firms
  • Incorporate governmental/non-profit programs that are already in place for public programs

Attendees were invited to complete their own engagement checklists, as compiled from the Civic Impact Survey, and to submit photos to @aianyclp on Instagram or via email to info@aianyclp.com. Follow this link if you would like to submit your own checklist.

The Civic Leaders hope that the event laid the grounds for further action, thought, and discussion for those practicing in the field. Please check the CLP webpage at a later date to view the recording of this event and look to the Oculus Winter issue for more on the topic.

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