by James Way
Spanish architecture has been increasingly on the radar, with a growing number of competition winners and an increased presence in social media and portfolio websites. This year, Spanish architects touched down on Governors Island with one of two winning City of Dreams Pavilions designed by Izaskun Chinchilla Architects of Madrid and London. However, more traditional routes for foreign architects in the U.S. remain arduous or emerge from academic studies. One of the evening’s sponsors, Architect-US, collaborates with the Spain-US Chamber of Commerce to help international A/E/C/ professionals work in the U.S. by covering visa costs and facilitating a speedy bureaucratic process. The panelists, mainly foreigners, are based in New York City and represent firms with global reaches of eight to 1,800 employees. They all praised the value of such a program.
Gustavo Rodriguez, a principal at FXFOWLE Architects who hails from the Dominican Republic through studies at MIT, championed the sensibilities informed by international travel and the expanded views that it provides. Canadian-born Claire Weisz, FAIA, a principal at WXY, confirmed that NYC is a laboratory for designers from all over the world; unfortunately many mid-sized firms like hers cannot schedule the 18 months to support typical visas. Even Kenneth Drucker, FAIA, of HOK, which has global offices and communicates in 23 languages, attested that the “visa problem is a real issue for a large firm.” Argentine Jorge Mastropietro, principal of JMAPC, established his own office after studying in Barcelona and working in a multi-cultural office in NYC, developing traits he carried to his own practice. The lone non-architect Carol Shapiro, director of the Beverly Willis Architecture Foundation, advocated for diversity in the workplace, especially of women, which other countries retain particularly well in the workforce.
All of the panelists agreed with Patricia Garcia, Assoc. AIA, a native Spaniard representing Architect-US, that despite being a hub of multi-cultural influences, the city can be parochial. Mastropietro and Rodriguez praised the spatial, cultural, and formal influences that individuals with varied education and backgrounds bring to architectural work. Weisz went so far as to advocate for an architect’s visa to facilitate international travel and work upon which the profession thrives. Alex Alaimo, Assoc. AIA, and co-chair of ENYA, highlighted that the Architect-US “program makes it a lot easier [to work in the U.S.] without getting married.”
James Way, Assoc. AIA, Co-chair of the AIANY Marketing and Communications Committee and Marketing Manager at Morris Adjmi Architects, frequently contributes to eOculus.
Event: Emerging Talent Models of International Practice: Flourishing Spanish Architecture
Location: Center for Architecture, 06.25.15
Speakers: Alex Alaimo, Assoc. AIA, Co-chair, AIANY Emerging New York Architects Committee (ENYA) (welcome); Gustavo Rodriguez, CODIA, LEED AP, Principal, FXFowle; Claire Weisz, FAIA, Principal, WXY; Kenneth Drucker, FAIA, LEED AP BD+C, Design Principal, HOK; Carol Shapiro, Director, Beverly Willis Architecture Foundation; Jorge Mastropietro, Principal, JMAPC; and Sir Peter Cook, Founder, CRAB Studio and Professor Emeritus, University College London
Organized by: AIANY Emerging New York Architects Committee (ENYA)
Sponsored by: Architect-US, Spain-U.S. Chamber of Commerce, Embassy of Spain Office of Labor and Social Security