by AIA New York
Craig Copeland, FAIA, is the founder of New Rochelle-based Situcraft, a studio that creates innovative product designs in stone, and a founding and active member of A + D Sustainable Design Leaders. Copeland incorporates artmaking and material research into impactful and inclusive architectural design that has led to award-winning architecture, lectures, workshops, and collaborations that have further elevated the practice of architecture. His work on large-scale placemaking projects have transformed cities and communities around the world, including Brookfield Place in New York. Copeland balances his architectural work with abiding interests in the promotion of sustainable design and the visual arts—lecturing, teaching, and sculpting. He holds a Master of Architecture from Yale University and a Bachelor of Arts from the University of Florida and was a Fulbright Scholar and visiting artist at the American Academy in Rome.
This year, the Jury of Fellows of the AIA elevated Copeland to its prestigious College of Fellows in the second category of Fellowship, which recognizes architects who have made efforts “To advance the science and art of planning and building by advancing the standards of practice,” according to the organization’s definition. Only three percent of the AIA’s membership is distinguished with Fellowship. Copeland’s distinction will be celebrated at the AIA Conference on Architecture from June 7–10 in San Francisco, and was also recognized at AIA New York’s Center for Architecture during the 2023 New Fellows Celebration.
Q: Do you have a favorite building? Why?
Machu Picchu—it’s a heightened reminder of the power in balancing architecture with nature.
Q: What do you see as an architect’s role—and responsibility—within our culture?
Because architects design buildings that take great amounts of resources and time to make–and that (should) last for multiple decades (in some cases centuries)–architects need to thoughtfully design lasting buildings as forward thinkers, anticipating the future needs of society. Architects should be aware of the evolving culture and consider the long-projected influences building will have on the living environment and the public.
Q: What are your thoughts on architectural education today?
Architectural education needs to teach how to elevate our living and working environment through great placemaking and community building. And, to do this, I believe we need to increase awareness of the built environment, long before and far beyond higher education. We need to nurture a culture of collaborative exploration that starts at a young age and is supported throughout grade school into adulthood.
In architecture school, in tandem with collaborative exploration, we need more contact with the physical world. More physical visits to great places, hand drawing, physical modeling, materials research. We need to educate how to connect better… to each other and to the world.
Q: What do you think are the biggest challenges, or opportunities, facing cities today?
Increasing better urban living that is affordable, resourceful (in its making and operation), uplifting to the residents as well as interactive with the surrounding community and nature.
I believe there are great opportunities through the repositioning of existing buildings. First, by considering ways to reshape the overall structures to be more open. Second, by supporting these larger moves with facades/ enclosures that are efficient and tuned to optimize access to views, air and natural light. Third, by considering materials and possible prefabrication methodologies that could be more holistically sustainable for the new interventions, particularly the interior architecture.
Q: What are your greatest sources of inspiration?
New York City and Nature.
New York City inspires me to imagine… it invigorates me with its urban energy, particularly through its rich fabric of humanity. I feel blessed and honored to be one of its local architects. For decades now I have appreciated the incredible opportunity and responsibility of being a New York City architect, and I have made it a priority to convey this to younger architects while together collaborating in the placemaking of New York City.
Nature inspires me to experience… it reminds me to be aware of the greater forces around us that shape the rich uniqueness of being. Nature has inspired me to seek ways to incorporate natural light, landscape, and apertures of figurative forms into architecture, to elevate our sense of place and meaning with the world.
Editors’ Note: This feature is part of a series celebrating the members of the American Institute of Architects (AIA) New York Chapter who are elevated each year to the AIA College of Fellows, an honor awarded to members who have made significant contributions to both the profession and society. Learn more about Fellowship here.