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July 13, 2017
by Esteban Reichberg
AIANY Emerging New York Architects Committee Civic Leadership Program (CLP) kick off at the Center for Architecture. Credit: Center for Architecture.

On 06.24.17, the AIANY Emerging New York Architects Committee kicked off the Civic Leadership Program (CLP) at the Center for Architecture. Ten carefully-selected future leaders, the program’s inaugural class, learned about the origin, mission and objectives of CLP. They are also learning about AIA New York, the invited guest speakers, and one another. Arising out of the urgency created by the 2016 presidential election, CLP aims to engage emerging professionals with all levels of government by fostering their civic leadership skills.

The kickoff began by discussing what ‘civic’ and ‘leader’ mean to them as architects practicing in the 21st century and how architects can best enter the public arena –  whether by pursuing official appointment or running for elected office. Our keynote speaker, congressman, ambassador, and architect Richard Swett shared his story with our small group. He spoke from the heart, often laughing and even growing teary-eyed. The intimate setting allowed for a personal connection as he asked each of the future leaders what had brought them there and why. Every answer was inspired and inspiring, and as the idea of getting more architects involved at every level of government grew increasingly tangible, the importance of CLP became clear.

The panel that followed, composed of architects who serve or have served as civic leaders, exposed the opportunities and hurdles of public service. This panel included Margaret Castillo, FAIA, chief architect of the NYC Department of Design and Construction; Justin Garrett Moore the executive director of the Public Design Commission, Department of Buildings chief plan examiner William Singer, AIA and former regional director of HUD, Joe Monticciolo, FAIA, moderated by George Paschalis, deputy director for public outreach of the New NY Bridge (NNYB) project. Despite their diverse backgrounds, perspectives and positions, their unanimous message resonated with everyone in the room: to make long-lasting improvements to New York City, more architects are needed in public leadership positions now more than ever. Their message added urgency to CLP’s motivation to serve our city, state, and country.

In the afternoon, the inaugural class divided into pairs and decided what issues they’d tackle during their private development sessions, which will later inform two public programs at the Center for Architecture. The day flew by with ice breakers, exercises, and brainstorms. By the end, new teams and pairs of future leaders had begun to map the uncharted course of CLP. Suddenly our experiment in fostering architect-leaders seemed a bit less obscure, a little more palpable, and a lot more exciting. We left the Center for Architecture with a renewed faith that things would get better…and that maybe we could help make them so.

To learn more about the AIANY Civic Leadership Program, click here.

Esteban Reichberg is co-founder of the AIANY Civic Leadership Program and an advocate for architects to enter public service at all levels of government.

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