March 23, 2022
by: AIA New York
Outdoor dining space for Pro Thai restaurant in New York City.
Pro Thai restaurant outdoor dining place, designed by Soluri Architecture in collaboration with members from the Design Corps, a program developed by the AIA New York Unified Task Force. Image: Courtesy of Soluri Architecture.

The AIA New York Unified Task Force City and State, a collaboration between AIA New York and AIA New York State, has been awarded a 2022 AIA Collaborative Achievement Award, which recognizes the excellence that results when architects work with those from outside the profession to improve the spaces where people live and work.

The AIA New York Unified Task Force City and State was assembled in the early days of the COVID-19 pandemic in response to former Governor Andrew Cuomo’s urgent call for assistance from design professionals. A group of architects from AIA New York and AIA New York State worked through the night to identify buildings that could be used to expand capacity and alleviate the strain on New York’s overwhelmed hospitals. The team ultimately identified more than 1,000 buildings throughout the state, saving countless lives.

Once the immediate need for hospital beds was addressed, the task force began to respond to the pandemic’s wide-ranging and immensely disruptive repercussions. A networked and diffuse effort, the task force is comprised of roughly 30 AIA New York and AIA New York State members  spread across several working groups. Working groups converge at regularly scheduled intervals to extend collaboration efforts, troubleshoot issues, and build support for initiatives. Rather than focus on a single issue, the task force remains flexible; as the pandemic landscape shifts, some working groups are sunset while new ones arise.

Some of the task force’s most significant contributions to COVID-19 response efforts include joining a network for 3D printing PPE, creating graphic advisories for HVAC improvements for building owners, developing a Disaster Assistance Handbook, helping to form the Design Corps to provide assistance to restaurants struggling to comply with outdoor dining guidelines, and launching the Redefining the Street initiative to address public space in a post-pandemic world.  The group has also built inroads with several branches of government, prompting new relationships that allow AIANY and AIANYS to advance broader advocacy and policy goals.

“The Unified Task Force is the definition of mobilization and pro-activism,” wrote Jessica Sheridan, AIA, in her nomination letter. “AIANYS jumped in where firms were slow to respond, and while all of us were navigating our own challenges. It was a lifeline for our community and provided much-needed optimism about the impact we can have as a group of motivated architects.”

The task force demonstrates how architects and other AIA chapters can help create multifaceted response strategies and leverage design to address a wide range of issues. We congratulate our members on their hard work and dedication to solving the world’s most challenging issues through design.


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