A Message from 2021 AIA New York President Kenneth A. Lewis, AIA:

The pandemic has made absolutely clear the importance of AIA New York and the Center for Architecture to our community and city. The Center for Architecture is a safe space for convening, collaboration, and education, serving as a locus for new ideas and methods that often emerge from the ashes of difficult and trying times. This will be especially true following our cataclysmic year.

And while the Center has not been open since March and may not physically reopen until well into 2021, our programs and committees have grown stronger, nimbler, and more diverse than ever. At the brink of the twentieth anniversary of 9/11, AIA New York stands at a critical moment in its 163-year history.

Inspired by this moment in time and the activities of the coming year, AIA New York’s theme for 2021 is REFLECTION/INFLECTION. While it is our nature as architects to look forward and design solutions, this year we will also take a moment to pause and contemplate on how we arrived at this point; perhaps to understand our patterns of inspiration and creativity as well as our blind spots and complicities. We have seen how the years following tragic events and financial downturns can bring forth moments of transformation. AIA New York and the Center for Architecture will emerge stronger and more focused from these times, ready to take on the many challenges facing our cities and our society.

What will this look like in practice? First, we will engage with 2021’s unprecedented local election, where the vast number of open positions—for mayor, comptroller, borough presidents, and City Council—will reshape our city’s political landscape. Through our Advocacy Committee and Political Action Fund, and in collaboration with ACEC and other peer organizations, we will continue to engage in dialogue with candidates. We will also leverage Visualize NYC 2021, our website portal of interactive data visualizations that engage the user in issues that will shape the future of our City and that we believe should be priorities for our incoming leaders.

We will further engage our community, our partner organizations, and the many universities in our city to expand and deepen conversations on systemic racism in our profession, our schools, our housing, and our justice system. We will continue to examine the disproportionate impact of climate change on poor and underserved communities and support work on a carbon-neutral future.

At the professional level, we will provide support for bias training and other timely resources for practices small and large. Internally, we will review our governance and policies for systemic racism and recast our board in a way that more accurately reflects our community and city. Additionally, we will seek means to support the path to the profession by Black, Indigenous, and people of color, who are so poorly represented in our profession, with the specific goal of doubling the number of Black architects by 2030.

We will continue to support our emerging professionals and practices with activities, training, and mentorship through our small and medium firm roundtables and by making the Center for Architecture available for events and gatherings, both digitally and, soon, in person.

Finally, as we prepare to invite you back into the Center for Architecture, we will invest in new and vital ways to activate our space, center and elevate new voices, and explore how architecture can inventively and meaningfully imagine a future that responds to the historic events of the past year.