Dedicated to advancing architecture for the public, enhancing community and creating neighborhoods, Vishaan Chakrabarti, FAIA, Founder, Practice for Architecture and Urbanism (PAU); Associate Professor of Practice at Columbia Graduate School of Architecture, Preservation, and Planning (GSAPP); and author of A Country of Cities: A Manifesto for an Urban America (Metropolis Books, 2013), has spent his career focused on the enduring public metropolis, the design of its shared spaces, buildings and infrastructures.
This year, the Jury of Fellows of the AIA elevated Chakrabarti 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, Chakrabarti was recognized at the New Fellows Reception hosted by AIA New York and was honored further last month at an investiture ceremony at the AIA Conference on Architecture in New York City.
Q: What is your proudest achievement as an architect?
A: To date my proudest achievement as an architect is our design for the Domino Sugar Refinery, specifically the interweaving of the future with the past. I also take great pride in the advocacy we have done with the New York Times and the Ford Foundation for “Penn Station Reborn.” Beyond architecture, I take great pride in my 2013 book, A Country of Cities: A Manifesto for an Urban America, and my teaching at Columbia University.
Q: What is your earliest memory of experiencing architecture?
A: My best early architecture memories come from a crazy two-week, five-city trip our family took through Europe on a shoestring budget when I was ten. While specific buildings like the Louvre standout, my biggest impression was the strength of the public spaces and squares, the love of sidewalks and streets, the idea of collective culture that stays with me to this day.
Q: What is influencing your work the most right now?
A: The lasting influence for us, now and forever, is the dynamism of the cities in which we are privileged to design buildings. PAU is deeply focused on an architectural design process akin to archaeology in which we are constantly mining for the hidden specifics of a city’s culture and morphology. Our goal is to develop architecture that beautifully amplifies those specifics, allowing communities to experience their own cities anew.
Q: What are you working on right now, or what is your next big project?
A: We have a wide range of new work with wonderful clients right now including a mixed-use skyscraper complex in Philadelphia’s game-changing Schuylkill Yards project, nonprofit artist space in Harlem, attainable housing in Newark, a public space commission, and an unbelievably great contemporary open-air bazaar in downtown Ulaanbaatar, Mongolia. In all cases the work is mission consistent for PAU in terms of building architecture as a platform for advancing metropolitan life.
Q: What does being a Fellow mean to you?
A: Becoming a Fellow is a great honor and opportunity, primarily because as much as I love being an architect, I am deeply aware of how much needs to change in our profession in terms of diversity, fair treatment and training of staff, and the ability to weave goals of beauty, social justice, and ecological healing. Fellowship is indicative of leadership, and leadership is an obligation of stewardship for the generations to come both within and outside of our great profession.
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.