by Kavitha Mathew
Early Saturday morning, clouds loomed low, gray and heavy, threatening to burst at any moment. Inside the Center for Architecture, a small crowd gathered downstairs, signing forms, eating bagels, and donning matching blue t-shirts in defiance of the dreary day. Many of them strangers, they soon formed into groups and dispersed by subway and vans to various sites around New York City. Project teams from six different architecture firms waited at each destination, along with expert installers and painters from multiple construction companies. Within the hour they all got to work, taping, putting down protection, painting, cutting, assembling, installing, sorting, and distributing.
The AIA New York Day of Service was a transformative experience for those who took part, from the volunteers to the project teams, from the organizations to the end users. The events were scheduled in conjunction with A’18 and took place on the final day. It was, by all accounts, a great success and a model for future community service and engagement opportunities for architects. Not just a way to give back, the service projects encouraged and inspired architects to connect with the city and its inhabitants, especially those in need. The rain stayed away as FXCollaborative’s team worked with City Harvest to distribute 1,100 pounds of fresh produce to NYC Housing Authority residents. James Wagman Architect and their partners renovated the multipurpose room at the Church of St. Paul and St. Andrew with precision and care until it was unrecognizably bright and beautiful, with new lighting, paint, and finishes. A public school in East Harlem added new architectural elements to their Edible Schoolyard gardens, including cedar A-frame supports to form a bean tunnel pergola which students could walk through and acrylic mosaic tiles to adorn what had been an ordinary chain link fence, all designed and executed by the Murphy Burnham & Buttrick team. 1100 Architect joined forces with CAMBA, an organization helping the homeless, to update their outdated reception space and host a charrette for a new reception desk design. Perkins Eastman focused on the power of education with the I Have a Dream Foundation, working to prepare a youth event space for a new class of ‘Dreamers,’ with new flooring, carpet, and paint in their proposed lounge and library. Lastly, Cannon Design worked to help victims of domestic violence by upgrading the multipurpose room of their shelter at the Center Against Domestic Violence.
Each team took pride in their work, in many cases learning new skills and techniques from construction industry experts to realize each firm’s design vision. At the end of the day, all of the participants were invited to celebrate their accomplishments and see those of other teams at a reception at the Center for Architecture, sponsored by Construct Connect. The numerous generous sponsors and partners, listed below, were also acknowledged for their tens of thousands of dollars of supplies and labor. The impact is still being assessed, in donations of time, expertise, and materials as well as the transformed spaces and the hearts of those who depend upon these critical non-profit organizations. The overall sentiments heard expressed at the reception that evening included, “That was amazing!,” “When is the next day of service?,” and “Count me in!”
Many thanks to our sponsors:
Cline Bettridge Bernstein Lighting Design
Clune Construction Company
Island Painting Inc.
Stalco Construction Inc.
Walter B. Melvin Architects