by: AIA New York
Eric Bunge designs inventive environments for an expanded public life. As an architect and educator, he connects architecture with public space, innovation with context, and people with a changing world. Since co-founding nARCHITECTS in New York City 18 years ago, Eric’s work has been widely published nationally and internationally, and recognized with numerous honors, including a National Institute Honor Award, an American Academy of Arts and Letters Award in Architecture, and ranking within the top 10 in the US in the design category for last three consecutive years by ARCHITECT Magazine. Eric devotes his time to practice, teaching at Columbia University, and to public lectures, panels and symposia at Universities, AIA New York, and various other public engagements.
This year, the Jury of Fellows of the AIA elevated Bunge to its prestigious 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, Bunge was recognized at the New Fellows Reception hosted by AIA New York and will be honored further at an investiture ceremony at the AIA Conference on Architecture in New York City from June 20-23, 2018.
Q: What is your proudest achievement as an architect, or your favorite project you’ve worked on?
A: I’m proudest of what I have been able to contribute to my partnership with Mimi Hoang. At nARCHITECTS we’ve developed an inquisitive and playful approach to architecture. I like going back to basic principles on every project and rethinking our mandate so that we are having the most positive impact on the user. This usually means that we end up with design elements that were not in the brief, like the Wave Wall steps at Chicago Navy Pier. If I have to choose a project, I suppose I’m proud of the way Carmel Place has resonated as a housing model.
Q: What is your earliest memory of experiencing architecture?
A: As the son of a philosopher and a mathematician, and more broadly a family of scientists, it wasn’t easy finding architecture as a vocation, despite the encouragement once I did. Yes, I lived in Denmark when I was five and played with Lego probably like every other architect. But I think my first memories of experiencing architecture was while living in Mexico City when I was 8. We lived near the National Museum of Anthropology, which still amazes me today.
Q: What is influencing your work the most right now?
A: My peers. I’m lucky to be part of a generation of incredibly creative architects that are contributing to the discipline of architecture and also embracing pragmatic issues of our time. When I was in architecture school in the mid-80s and early 90s, many of my heroes were mostly drawing. Now my heroes are my peers, and they’re building meaningful work.
Q: What are you working on right now, or what is your next big project?
Right now I’m leading a project that I feel Is very important for the times we are living in- we’re in construction on the Equal Rights Heritage Center in Auburn, NY. Funded by NYS, the new building in historic Auburn integrates a permanent exhibition about equal rights, focusing on abolition, the Underground Railroad, women’s suffrage and LGBTQ rights. The project will open to the public in the Fall.
Q: What does being a Fellow mean to you?
A: I see elevation to the College of Fellows as an empowerment to better serve our architectural community. I’m hopeful to have new opportunities to give back a little, after all the generosity I’ve received from so many since I started my studies at McGill University in 1986.
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.