by: AIA New York
Anthony Schirripa, FAIA, was 2010 President of AIANY and is the recipient of the 2021 Edward C. Kemper Award. The Edward C. Kemper Award, named after AIA’s first executive director, recognizes architects who have made contributions to the profession through their work with AIA.
Schirripa has held numerous leadership roles at AIA, both at the local and national levels. Schirripa served as the 2010 President of AIA New York and as New York Regional Director for the AIA Board of Directors from 2012 to 2014. He also served as Director-at-Large of the AIA Board of Directors in 2016. Schirripa was instrumental to the founding of the Center for Architecture, contributed to mentoring and professional development that led to chapter growth, and has been a leader in the ArchiPAC fundraising efforts, helping to expand AIA’s advocacy role
Schirripa graduated from Texas A&M University in 1973 with degrees in building construction and environmental design. He began working at Gensler as a project architect in 1980, and soon became a firm principal and later vice president of the firm in 1985. In 1995, he joined Mancini Duffy, becoming CEO in 2000, and later CEO and co-chairman in 2006.
Q: How/why did you decide to pursue architecture?
My father owned and operated a small construction company and was a bricklayer by trade. Like many young kids, I wanted to follow in my dad’s footsteps so I asked him to “show me the ropes”. Like many parents, he wanted more for me and said I needed to think about going to college. Still wanting to be involved in buildings like my dad, I focused on design and architecture. It drove my decision to attend Brooklyn Technical High School with its program in architecture which was one of my best decisions because it instilled in me the value of design and technical thinking.
Q: Do you have a favorite building? Why?
My favorite building—and also a significant influence of my wanting to pursue a career in architecture—is Saarinen’s TWA terminal at the then Idlewild (now JFK) airport. It symbolized to me—a 13-year-old during the jet age—the soaring possibilities of design and what the future of buildings could be. I am also pleased that the building has recently been repurposed and continues to be viable, serving as part of the new hotel. Hopefully it will survive the pandemic!
Q: What do you see as an architect’s role—and responsibility—within our culture?
Our role is to advance the quality of life of the public we serve. We are problem solvers, and we must engage our communities to influence policies and laws that impact our daily lives and solve the challenges we face today. We must also be mindful of and committed to reducing our contributions to climate change by designing resilient and adaptable buildings in a way that protects our environment and reduces our carbon footprint.
Q: What are your thoughts on architectural education today?
I believe that we all must take a more active role in shaping architectural education not just at the university level, but also at the K-12 level with particular emphasis on post-secondary education where career opportunities and choices begin to form in our young people. We must also pay special attention to our underserved communities to expand diversity, equity and inclusion in our profession. The more we are able to expose the beauty of our profession to encourage more young people to pursue these career opportunities, the better we will be able to effect true change through our work. We must also devote more time and resources to the architect’s continuing education to make sure that our AIA is not surrendering that function to outside organizations. With limited exception, most Specialty Credentialing occurs outside of the AIA and I believe that AIA should be in the lead in that area.
Q: What do you think are the biggest challenges, or opportunities, facing cities today?
The challenge is how to deal with urban density in a way that accommodates the population while providing access to green spaces and outdoor activities. We also have to develop the transit and utility infrastructure to accommodate the population density. The challenges noted provide design opportunities to resolve the challenges while at the same time achieving sustainable design solutions for our buildings, schools workplaces, cultural facilities, transit facilities and community gathering places.
Due to the Covid-19 pandemic, the last year has brought a new set of challenges to many of our cities. Where we previously were challenged by developing things like infrastructure, open green space, and new assets at a pace that kept with increased populations and density, our cities are now faced with decreased populations, decreased demand on infrastructure, and underutilized real estate. This is a great opportunity for us all as designers to think of repurposing existing assets for new uses, recovering properties or city space as green space, and better integrating sustainability, resiliency, and diversity and inclusion into our designs.