by Alexander Luckmann
Ann Rolland, FAIA, LEED AP, is a principal at FXFOWLE and founding director of the firm’s Cultural/Educational Studio. She has worked extensively in the New York City area, with major projects including the long-term development of the Calhoun School and the Spence School, as well as the Hunter’s Point South Campus, housing three closely related schools. In these projects, Rolland has demonstrated an ability to create memorable and joyful spaces in dense urban locations. She is now working, among other projects, on the planned Statue of Liberty Museum, leaving her mark on one of America’s most iconic sites. In addition to her professional responsibilities, Rolland is an adjunct professor at New York University and a chairperson of Nontraditional Employment for Women (NEW), an organization that trains and places women in skilled construction trades. She also sits on the board of the New York City College of Technology, and is an active member of AIA New York, currently co-chair of the Architecture for Education Committee. Here, she talks about the evolution of her design practice.
Q: Your work has focused on Cultural and Educational projects, a practice area you have helped develop at FXFOWLE. What drew you to this area of practice?
A: I believe architects have the power to contribute at magnitudes both large and small; to make our towns, our communities, and the world a better, more humane place. And, with this power comes an obligation to do so. Cultural and educational projects by their very nature enhance and energize communities. For me, it was a natural fit to want to work on these types of projects.
Q: Can you speak about the experience of developing a new specialization within an established firm?
A: The experience was challenging, exciting, and invigorating. When I joined FXFOWLE we were known strictly as a commercial firm. The challenge was to break down preconceived notions and “prove” our capabilities in designing program driven and culturally relevant places. It was exciting to take on this challenge, and invigorating to shape a practice as we wanted; to create something from the ground up with a blank canvas.
Q: You are an adjunct professor at NYU. How have you combined practice and teaching?
A: Teaching refreshes and recharges me. It keeps me connected to how the next generation perceives the world and their role in creating meaningful environments for the future. Class assignments are purposefully abstract so that students explore “fact free”. I dare my students to “fail” and we celebrate when they do. I know it is cliché, but I get more from experiencing their growth then they get from me.
Q: What projects are you currently working on?
A: We are about to break ground on a public primary school in the Hunters Point South area of Long Island City. We had previously completed a combined middle and high school facility in this same area. I am also working with the Covenant House organization to develop a new flagship facility for youth engagement.
Q: Why is it important to you to be involved in AIA New York?
A: AIA New York is a great resource; to architects and to the community. The organization provides a forum for architects to come together as group and share ideas, and a platform for the architectural community to engage with the public. I feel a strong sense of commitment to both to assure we advance as a profession, and as a society.