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The annual Ratensky Lecture was initiated by the AIANY Housing Committee in honor of Samuel Ratensky (1910-1972), an architect and NYC housing official who was responsible for major housing initiatives in the city from 1946 to 1972, and who served as a mentor to many architects who worked in his programs. The lecture series honors individuals who, like Samuel Ratensky, have made significant lifetime contribution to the advancement of housing and community design.

This year, the AIANY Housing Committee will be honoring Herbert Oppenheimer, FAIA.

Herbert Oppenheimer’s distinguished architectural career has spanned 60 years and he is deeply committed to the development of affordable urban housing in NYC and elsewhere. Working at a time that by today’s standards was a golden age of publicly supported housing, Oppenheimer has seen the steady erosion of federal support for housing, leading to the current crisis of affordability and homelessness. From this perspective, Oppenheimer will lead a discussion focused on the examination of relevant housing issues and the exploration of potential solutions to the growing housing inequity in our society. Kermit Baker of the Joint Center for Housing Studies at Harvard and Moses Gates from the Regional Plan Association will join Oppenheimer to offer their insights and participate in an impromptu dialogue on this most timely of subjects.

Oppenheimer’s career began in 1954 after he graduated from Columbia University’s School of Architecture. Before opening his own firm in 1959 with John Brady and Tom Lehrecke, he worked for the distinguished firms of Richard Stein and Partners and Philip Johnson. Oppenheimer’s practice was noted for many seminal multifamily projects. These included the Amsterdam Houses Addition on Manhattan’s Upper West Side; the Independence Plaza development in Lower Manhattan; the Porter Residence in Sharon, CT, which won a National AlA Award; and a Jersey City Public Housing Restoration, which was named a ULI Finalist. Oppenheimer served on several AIA committees and took office in 1976 as AIA New York’s president. His many community affiliations over the years included the Jewish Board of Guardians and the NYC Youth House.

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