June 25, 2020
by: AIA New York
Image courtesy of BIG - Bjarke Ingels Group.
Image courtesy of BIG - Bjarke Ingels Group.

Architects and designers have adapted to the conditions of COVID-19 in ways unthinkable months ago. Studios have moved online, projects are being reimagined, and firms are restructuring to adapt to changing economic conditions.

But perhaps this is no surprise; the skills of architects are uniquely suited to respond to uncertain conditions. Creative problem solving, design thinking, information synthesizing, and project management translate well in times of crisis. By now, many of us have witnessed our colleagues take decisive action to design and 3D print face shields, donate equipment to essential workers, and plot solutions for a post-pandemic world.

We’ve also seen architects strive to support the communities they work in during this time of crisis, beyond providing design solutions. Kai-Uwe Bergmann, FAIA, RIBA, ASLA Affiliate, Partner at BIG – Bjarke Ingels Group, has spearheaded his firm’s efforts to provide excess technology to students and families who have struggled to adapt to the transition to online learning.

AIA New York and the Center for Architecture helped facilitate BIG’s donation to Brooklyn Community Services (BCS). BCS is one of Brooklyn’s oldest and largest non-profit organizations serving low-income communities. Alongside a substantial cash donation, BIG donated technology that went directly to families in need.

“We are grateful for the computer donations,” said BCS Division Director Yolanda Colon. “The computers will allow five children of the After School Education Programs to not only have a computer but also allow them to have access to their education remotely. Having computer and internet access is a necessity for each child as the world has moved to virtual learning. It is a necessity that no child is left behind educationally. Thank you, BIG and Center of Architecture for assisting us in educating our children.”

Bergmann has since urged other firms and principals to act alongside him. “Since March, it is estimated that there are circa 12 million public school students who lack proper access to computers, laptops, tablets, or even broadband internet service in their homes, which is preventing them from virtual learning from home and keeping up with their peers. This will have devastating repercussions in the years ahead as more and more school districts have decided to continue schooling virtually throughout this year. Thus I am asking all architects in the city of New York to donate their excess hardware in forms of desktop computers, monitors, keyboards, mice, laptops, tablets, etc. to Brooklyn Community Services, who help kids with after school programs. BCS found five welcoming homes for our excess desktops and they are making an impactful difference in these family’s lives. The AIANY/Center for Architecture deserve a huge thank you for putting BIG – Bjarke Ingels Group in touch with the Brooklyn Community Services, who represent families that need many more such donations. Please consider donating your excess or outdated hardware to these students – SHAREWARE FOR STUDENTS – inspiring the next generation of architects.”

AIA New York is proud of our members at BIG for their efforts to engage with their community and effect change during this turbulent time, truly exemplifying the term Citizen Architect. We hope this piece encourages other firms to donate much-needed equipment and funds to BCS so they can continue to provide their life-changing services to local families in need.

The five students who received the computers also expressed their gratitude.

The father of Timothy, a student at PS 149, said, “Thank you so much for the opportunity. He is feeling so special.”

Marcus Lamey, Jr., of PS 21, said “I am very happy.”

Kaymarie, of PS 284, said, “I never had a computer before and I always wanted one. I am so happy my mom put me in BCS and I can’t wait to go back to afterschool.”

Delano, of PS 306, said, “I love my new computer, I’m so happy.”


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