by: AIA New York
Andrew Bernheimer, FAIA, is an Assistant Professor at the Parsons School of Design in New York City and the founding principal of Della Valle Bernheimer (1997-2011) and Bernheimer Architecture (2011-present), award-winning and internationally renowned practices based in Brooklyn, NY. He has dedicated his career as a practitioner to crafting practical, poetic solutions for private homes, multi-family housing and civic spaces. Through his commitment to full-time teaching and practice over the past 16 years, he has demonstrated that architectural excellence and social responsibility are vitally intertwined. Through academic leadership he has conveyed that architectural education is the foundation for an ethical, socially responsible practice that imbues the built environment with beauty and dignity.
As Director of the Master of Architecture program at Parsons’ School of Constructed Environments for five years he refined a studio-based curriculum focused on ethical design, public infrastructure, and communal resiliency. Andrew’s design research at Parsons has focused on the areas of building technology and social housing. He has co-led the graduate housing studio for the past 5 years, and has also devoted the last four years working with students from Parsons to catalog the assets of the New York City Housing Authority (NYCHA) while also imagining contemporary forms of urban dwelling that posit new solutions for underutilized public holdings. His efforts have been embraced by NYCHA, which engaged Andrew, his colleague David Leven, and their Parsons students to contribute concepts to NYCHA’s recent official agency vision for the 21st Century, “Next-Generation”.
This year, the Jury of Fellows of the AIA elevated Bernheimer to its prestigious College of Fellows in the second category of Fellowship, which recognizes architects who have worked “To advance the science and art of planning and building by advancing the standards of architectural education, training, and practice,” according to the organizations’s definition. Now among the AIA membership’s three percent distinguished with Fellowship and honorary Fellowship, Bernheimer was recognized at the New Fellows Reception hosted by AIA New York and was honored further last month at an investiture ceremony at the AIA Conference on Architecture in New York City.
Q: What is your proudest achievement, as an architect, or your favorite project you’ve worked on?
A: My first project from my prior practice with Jared Della Valle will always stick out, the plaza at the Philip Burton Federal Office Building in San Francisco. That first project we had was a winner in a large open competition, so the naïveté and freedom that we had while exploring that initial design will linger in my memory. I love the more recent Quonochontaug House, which gave us the opportunity to study light and materiality in a way that we hadn’t. I am very proud of the shift in my practice to a focus on affordable housing, so the projects that are almost complete or in construction have been, despite the tight constraints and long processes that we have to navigate to help make them happen, are exciting and extremely gratifying—if not quite done yet.
And I am probably most proud of being able to teach at Parsons, and hopefully instill energy and aspiration in younger, budding architects. Sharing that community has been intensely meaningful, and indispensably influential on my practive over the past 10 years.
Q: What is your earliest memory of experiencing architecture?
A: When I was seven years old I ran screaming out of a fun house near Denver, Colorado, at a fairgrounds. I recall turrets, and sheer terror.
Q: What is influencing your work the most right now?
A: Mid-scale social housing in the UK has been impactful.
Q: What are you working on right now, or what is your next big project?
A: BA has a variety of projects, from a tiny store to a 230,000sf intergenerational affordably housing development on the boards and in construction. The aforementioned housing development is in Flushing, Queens, and will be finished early next year. We also have an affordable housing building for seniors in documentation, and that should be in construction in early 2018. I also continue to research fairy tales and architecture as part of a longer project in collaboration with my sister Kate (a writer and scholar), and continue to teach at Parsons.
Q: What does being a Fellow mean to you?
A: It indicates a recognition by colleagues that the work I have done, both individually and collaboratively, has had an impact.
Editors’ Note: This feature is part of a series celebrating the 28 members of the American Institute of Architects (AIA) New York Chapter that have been elevated to the AIA College of Fellows in 2018, an honor awarded to members who have made significant contributions to both the profession and society. Learn more about Fellowship here.