by Allison Lane, Anne Chen, Christina Brown
On June 11, the AIANY and nycobaNOMA’s Civic Leadership Program (CLP) hosted its sixth-annual Kick-Off at the Center for Architecture. Ten carefully-selected civic leaders were introduced to the origin, mission, and objectives of the program. Arising out of the urgency created by the 2016 presidential election, CLP aims to foster the civic leadership skills of emerging professionals across architecture, urban planning, landscape design, and technology.
The kick-off began with an introduction to the mission of the program. Alumni panelists Michael Caton (‘17), Corey Arena (‘20), Jesse Hirakawa (‘21), and Esteban Riechberg (‘16) shared their experiences and advice with the new class. The panelists discussed how CLP was able to help them enhance their leadership and engagement skills, while also providing them with life-long friendships with respected professionals that they may have never crossed paths with otherwise.
The alumni encouraged the incoming class to be proactive and inquisitive as they work on their development sessions, and to take advantage of renewed in-person opportunities as we recover from the pandemic. Their final advice for the cohort was to build trust and always assume good intentions while navigating challenging and sensitive topics.
The afternoon began with a keynote presentation by Faith Rose, AIA, Principle of O’Neill Rose Architects and former Executive Director of the NYC Public Design Commission. This informative keynote was followed by a panel, Advocacy in the Built Environment. composed of architects who serve or have served as civic leaders:
- Ishita Gaur, AICP, Associate, Marvel Architects
- Karen J Cuadro Esteves, Project Manager, Marvel Architects
- Farzana Gandhi, AIA, LEED AP, Principal Architect, Farzana Gandhi Design Studio; Associate Professor, NYIT
- Delma Palma, AICP, AIA, Deputy Director, NYCHA
- Ashely Kuo, Co-founder, A+A+A; Visiting Assistant Professor, Pratt Institute
- Andrea Chiney, Co-founder, A+A+A; Adjunct Assistant Professor, Columbia GSAPP
Despite their diverse backgrounds, perspectives and positions, their unanimous message resonated with everyone in the room: take a proactive stance towards the future you want in New York City and be authentically yourself in the work you do. Our work and efforts should reflect the synergy of our dual roles as designers and citizens.
As it is essential for civic leaders to focus on understanding the systems we are in to successfully impact and contribute to the built environment and planet, the incoming cohort brainstormed and discussed what being a civic leader means to them.
By the end of kick-off, the class of leaders had begun to map the uncharted course of CLP and brainstorm ideas to influence their upcoming work in the program. 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.