April 17, 2007
by Kristen Richards Hon. ASLA Hon. AIA

Event: 2007 AIA New York Chapter Design Awards Luncheon
Location: Gotham Hall, 04.11.07
Organizers: AIANY

Design Awards Luncheon

(Left) (l-r): R.K. Stewart, FAIA, Ronnette Riley, FAIA, and Elisabeth Martin, AIA at the Design Awards Luncheon.
(Right) Ken Drucker, AIA, Design Awards Lunchen Chair with James McCullar, FAIA, AIANY First Vice President/President Elect.

Kristen Richards

As the 2007 AIANY Design Awards Luncheon Chair, Ken Drucker, AIA, welcomed more than 700 attendees to the second annual event held this year in the jewel-like setting of Gotham Hall. AIANY Chapter President Joan Blumenfeld, FAIA, IIDA, then introduced the celebrated graphic designer Milton Glaser, the keynote speaker who was both witty and profound.

Years ago, Glaser made a list of the hierarchy in the field of visual arts: “First painter, then architect, although I think this relationship may be reversed at this moment, with the architects at the very top.” Then, in descending order, city planner, industrial designer, graphic designer, book designer, editorial designer, art director, advertising designer, craftsman, and commercial artist. “It is unusual for you all to have invited me to speak at this occasion since; in general, speakers from the top of the list are conventionally selected to speak to those below.” The common thread he found is that “all of us engaged in the ‘applied arts’ play the game of reconciling utility and beauty.”

Glaser then explored, in words and with beautiful illustrations, how serious practitioners attempt to balance left brain/right brain, art/work, material/spiritual. “I’m often surprised how passively architects and designers react to the political situations that affect their lives,” he lamented. He speculated that it could be due in part to “a latent response to McCarthyism, a dark moment in our political history,” and that “our political timidity might be that our affluent clients are either uninterested or hostile to our social opinions.” He offered one small way to change the world that “is both transformative and risk-free”: Kiva, a microfinance organization that that matches micro-loans (as small as $25) with impoverished people working their way out of poverty.”We all can help create a benign revolution that will shape our collective future,” he concluded.

Kristen Richards is editor-in-chief of OCULUS and ArchNewsNow.com.

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