by AIA New York
Architect and educator David Leven’s precisely detailed buildings champion openness, light, and abstraction while challenging expectations of program and type. David Leven has practiced architecture for 25 years, 20 of which as principal and partner of LEVENBETTS. Through his leadership and mentorship, Leven is recognized as a leading design voice in urban issues in architecture; civic and learning spaces; and in the architecture of the single family house, which functions for him as a broad field for experimentation. His current projects include three projects for Brooklyn Public Library, four projects for Cornell University; an office and life sciences building in Harlem and a series of houses. Working with and guiding students, Leven published academic design studies on housing in the Bronx, on the city of Albany and on the New York City Housing Authority, and he directed the graduate architecture program at Parsons from 2008 to 2012. As tenured Associate Professor and practitioner, Leven celebrates the reciprocal relationship between teaching and practice through his focus on urban architecture and housing with an emphasis on light as a primary design element.
This year, the Jury of Fellows of the AIA elevated Leven to the College of Fellows in the first category of Fellowship, which recognizes architects who have “Promoted the aesthetic, scientific, and practical efficiency of the profession,” according to the organizations’s definition. Now among the AIA membership’s three percent distinguished with Fellowship and honorary Fellowship, Leven was recognized at the New Fellows Reception hosted by AIA New York and at an investiture ceremony at the AIA Conference on Architecture in New York City.
Q: What is your proudest achievement as an architect?
A: My proudest achievement is simply to be an architect. The privilege to participate in the shaping of the built environment is both a constant challenge and a source of pride. I am also honored to be able to design public libraries.
Q: What is your earliest memory of experiencing architecture?
A: My earliest memory of a significant work of public architecture was attending the opening of the East Wing of the National Gallery in 1978 and confronting the knife edge at the Southwest corner. My earlier memory of less significant but still important architecture (to me) was loosing my shoe in the mud surrounding the excavation for the foundation of our family’s new house in 1971. These two experiences were significant for me in that the former still impresses me with the power of high level design and the latter speaks to the process required to realize architecture.
Q: What is influencing your work the most right now?
A: My work is influenced by the politics of our current time and, now more than ever in my career, to create work that is open: open to universal access, diversity, tolerance, equity and the synthetic capacity of design.
Q: What are you working on right now?
A: I am working on a book about the houses of my firm LEVENBETTS that looks at the designs through the lens of an idea of openness in the discreet domestic space of the house; several public library projects in Brooklyn; academic spaces and a series of new house projects.
Q: What does being a fellow mean to you?
A: Being a fellow means that the work of my 20 year old firm is acknowledged for its contributions to current design discussions and directions in the world of design.
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.