August 31, 2011
by Lance Jay Brown FAIA and Illya Azaroff AIA

Event: Design for Risk and Reconstruction Committee (DfRR) Inaugural Meeting
Location: Center for Architecture, 08.24.11
Organizers: AIANY DfRR Committee

Map of NYC hurricane evacuation zones.

Courtesy www.nyc.gov

Hurricanes. Tornadoes. Mudslides. Meltdowns. Floods. Earthquakes! Oil Spills. Blackouts. Conflicts. Revolutions. War. Greensburg, Sri Lanka, New Orleans, Tokyo, Gibbelina, Baghdad, Beirut, Haiti, the list is too long.

We are all too aware of the occurrence of disasters, some fast, some slow, some natural, and some manmade. We can no longer afford to ignore these events. It is time to become more engaged in dealing with this aspect of our changing world. What role does design play in a world ever more aware of risks to its inhabitants and environment? How can we acknowledge risk so that we can live with fewer crises? The most recent disasters are perhaps a prelude to what is to come and may not be the most severe. There is much to learn from these past events. And there is much to be done based on what we are learning now.

New words and phrases have been coined that characterize our developing awareness of the roles and responsibilities we, as design professionals, have in this arena. Standard parlance Disaster Preparedness is extended to design for Resilience, Disaster Mitigation, Disaster Risk Reduction, and Anticipatory Design (an oxymoron but useful),

The new AIANY Design for Risk and Reconstruction Committee (DfRR) identifies and clarifies a new mission for the design community. The committee was established to evaluate, communicate, and expand the role of the design profession in this time of dramatic climate, energy, economic, and social changes. With its inaugural meeting on 08.24.11, the committee will be convening every third Wednesday of each month at the Center for Architecture.

While New York has had its fair share of disasters before the tragic attack on the World Trade Center, that terrorist attack was a clear wake up call. 9/11 was not only a loss of innocence, but has illuminated our need to recognize the potential for disasters. It prompts us to ask how design can do its part in mitigating, anticipating, and, in general, accepting the challenge of risk as positive opportunities for designing a better, richer, more meaningful, and certainly safer world.

In fulfilling its mission, the DfRR will foster awareness within the profession and the public of the necessity to anticipate risk to the built environment and integrate risk management and post-disaster strategies from the scale of a building to comprehensive regional planning.

Lance Jay Brown, FAIA, and Illya Azaroff, AIA, are co-chairs of the AIANY Design for Risk and Reconstruction Committee.

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