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April 5, 2017
by AIA New York Chapter
Al Hamra Tower, Kuwaut City, Kuwait. Credit: Tim Griffith.
Gary Haney, FAIA, RIBA, Design Partner, SOM. Credit: Bruce Byers/SOM.
Baccarat Hotel & Residences, New York, New York. Credit: Albert Vecerka/Esto.
BBVA Bancomer Operations Center, Mexico City, Mexico. Credit: Rafael Gamo.
U.S. Census Bureau Headquarters, Suitland, Maryland. Photo: Eduard Hueber/Archphoto.
Public Safety Answering Center II, Bronx, New York. Credit: Albert Vecerka/Esto.

As a global designer, educator, and mentor, Gary Haney, FAIA, RIBA, Design Partner, SOM, has pioneered engineering innovations, tall building efficiency, materials research, and customized sustainable solutions for some 60 projects throughout the world. Many of these projects have won awards and received high acclaim from professionals, peers, and city residents alike. Haney’s Al Hamra Firdous Tower won AIA and international design awards, and it was also named one of “The 50 Best Inventions of the Year” by Time magazine in 2011. This year, AIA New York honored his Public Safety Answering Center II in the Bronx with an Architecture Merit Award.

The 2017 Jury of Fellows of the AIA elevated Haney 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.” Now among the AIA membership’s three percent distinguished with fellowship and honorary fellowship, Haney was honored at the New Fellows Reception hosted by AIA New York last month and will also be recognized at an investiture ceremony at the AIA Conference on Architecture 2017 later this month in Orlando.

Q: What is your proudest achievement as an architect?

A: My proudest achievement as an architect was the success of Al Hamra Tower in Kuwait City. This was a project that integrated structure, architecture, and sustainability in the ideal way that we are always striving for at SOM. The project’s success is a consequence of its fundamental conceptual rigor, rather than some surface effect.

Q: What is your earliest memory of experiencing architecture?

A: I first discovered architecture by peering through a hole in the floor. There was a small fire in the kitchen of my childhood home. I was 9 years old. To my surprise, I learned that my room was directly over the kitchen stove. When the drama was over, I remember looking through a hole that was punched through my bedroom floor and being astonished to understand the relationship of these two rooms to each other. I was also fascinated by the interstitial space that was revealed—the composition of joists, ceiling, and floor deck. In that moment an interest was kindled.

Q: Who do you most admire?

A: In the design world, Renzo Piano has long been an architect that I admire. I have followed the arc of his career with interest. Some of the qualities about his work that resonate with me are the elegance of his detailing, and the success of the overall massing strategies that characterize his projects. There seemed to be an unusual maturity that was present even in the earliest work.

Q: What’s keeping you busy right now?

A: The biggest project I’m working on at the moment is Manhattan West. The project encompasses two 2 million square feet of office towers and a residential tower, surrounded by two acres of public space. The office towers are being constructed on a 2.6 acre platform covering the busy rail tracks that lead in and out of Penn Station. After many years of planning and discussion, it’s exciting to see Manhattan West emerging as a new gateway to this part of the West Side.

Q: What does being a Fellow mean to you?

A: For me being a Fellow means that I and my peers at the AIA have had the opportunity to take stock of my career. Fellowship is an affirmation that by-and-large my career as an architect has been intentional, collaborative, innovative, and most of all, contributory.

Editors’ Note: This feature is part of a series celebrating the 18 members of the American Institute of Architects (AIA) New York Chapter that have been elevated to the prestigious AIA College of Fellows in 2017, an honor awarded to members who have made significant contributions to both the profession and society. Learn more about Fellowship here. See the previous Featured Member here.

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