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January 10, 2013
by Alice Stryker
Team Robert Silman Associates competing in the final round at Guess-A-Sketch 2012Rebecca Woodman Taylor
Joseph Tortorella, President of Robert Silman Associates, and Center for Architecture Foundation Board President for 2013 and 2014.Rebecca Woodman Taylor

Incoming Center for Architecture Foundation Board President Joseph Tortorella shares his goals for his term, how he first got involved with CFAF, and why he is so passionate about CFAF’s mission.

How did you first get involved with the foundation?
I was first involved around 15 years ago at the outset of Learning by Design:NY [LBD:NY] as a “volunteer instructor.” A colleague in the industry had recommended me to the organization. I taught for three or four years at this level. Eventually, LBD:NY brought in paid professional staff to replace the volunteers. This move really catapulted the programs to a new level. Around eight years ago, I was asked to serve on the Board and have been involved ever since.

What are your goals as President of the Board?
My goals are always set pretty high. I hope to accomplish several major milestones during my term. First and foremost, I want to raise awareness of the Foundation’s programs outside of our industry. We often find ourselves in conversations with the layperson about what we do and they are fascinated by the process. The built environment and its backbone should be shared with all who are interested, not just our industry. I’d also like to see fundraising for the Foundation exceed beyond our imagination, to levels not before deemed possible. With proper guidance and leadership by our Board, I truly believe this can be achieved. Lastly, we need to expand our programs – especially LBD:NY – beyond current levels. That may mean broadening out of the public school sector into private schools and even outside of New York City. We are also adding adult programs this year which I find very exciting for our future.

What Foundation-related events and programs are you looking forward to in 2013?
How can one not be excited about “Guess-A-Sketch?” Last year’s inaugural fundraising event was so successful thanks to the tireless efforts of the entire CFAF staff and several key Board members. This year’s event promises to be ever better! On a lighter note, team Robert Silman Associates needs to step it up a notch to take first place, as last year we finished a very disappointing second place in a playoff with Arenson Office Furnishings. Imagine a bunch of nerdy engineers winning an architectural challenge? Scandalous!

Anything else you’d like to share?
Yes: my story of why I am so passionate about architecture education in K–12 schools. I attended high school on Long Island (I won’t say when, let’s just say I wore bell bottom jeans and three-piece suits) that had a three-year architecture program. This was not a private school. In fact it was a very large (class of over 600) public school just over the Queens border in Nassau County. This education brought me closer to the world of architecture and exposed me to a career path that is both enlightening and stimulating on all fronts. I had classes in architectural drafting where I first learned about Frank Lloyd Wright’s prairie style; engineering mechanics where I first learned about the ideas behind basic engineering; and materials testing where I had fun breaking steel and metal samples to learn about their properties. I strayed from my architectural roots and became an engineer, but happily found a firm that has a passion for architecture. Opportunities are what built this great country. I enjoy shedding light on our field to students of all ages to expose them to a career opportunity that can bring great joy, energy, and of course FUN.

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