Amanda Burden, Hon. AIANY, FAICP, Chair of the NYC City Planning Commission, won the Keystone Award at the Accent on Architecture gala of the American Architectural Foundation (AAF) on 02.04.11. Mayor Richard M. Daley of Chicago was the recipient, in absentia, of the Joseph Riley Award — record snows in Chicago made it impossible for him to attend the event, held at the Paul Mellon Auditorium in Washington, D.C. The AIA New York Chapter was well-represented by 2011 President Margaret Castillo, AIA, LEED AP, President-elect Joe Aliotta, AIA, Susan Chin, FAIA, Mary Burke, AIA, Mark Behm, Assoc. AIA, Venesa Alicea, AIA, Laura Trimble, Kate Rube, and Jay Bond.
The Keystone Award was presented by AAF President & CEO Ron Bogle after remarks by HUD Secretary Shaun Donovan, Hon. AIA, NEA Chairman Rocco Landesman, and Paul Goldberger of The New Yorker. Landesman praised Burden for her “design fanaticism,” saying that “she insists that architects do not only their best work, but that they go beyond themselves and do things that are new, that haven’t been done before.” In describing her as “exacerbating but irresistible, a visionary and a wonk,” he said that “the moral here is that good design leads not just to pleasure, but to real sustainability and economic utility as well.”
Despite travel problems that recalled last year’s Accent “Snowmageddon,” Goldberger arrived to deliver an oration praising Burden as the person who “understands the enormous importance of architectural quality in the public realm, and she has done this in the most visible city in the world. She is the city’s chief advocate for architecture, and recognizes that every work of architecture in the city, public or private, has a public role to play.” Goldberger noted that Burden “has become a symbol for architectural quality worldwide” and is someone who “reminds us never to forget that all design and planning decisions should be focused on making life easier and more pleasant. Design is not a thing apart, but a thing in service of the good life.” He spoke of her ability to see the big picture but also focus in on the detail, citing the neighborhood-by-neighborhood re-writing of the zoning code. “This is not planning as a bureaucrat, not planning as a technocrat, and certainly not planning as an autocrat,” he continued. “Amanda has been down on the ground. She has changed the zoning in a hundred neighborhoods.”
Burden concluded the evening by putting aside her prepared remarks and saying, simply, “I’m the luckiest person in the world. I love cities. To see something come alive, to see the High Line come alive, inspires me. Great design is not a solitary endeavor, it requires collaboration. It requires all of you.”