Oculus - Spring 2016 Institutional Shifts - (Page 11)
LETTER FROM THE PRESIDENT
The Town-Gown Connection
©Delphine "Demarchelier" Daniels
his issue of Oculus looks at the state of the town-gown relationship in New York today.
Among the institutions featured are initiatives by Columbia in Harlem, NYU in Brooklyn,
and Rockefeller University on the Upper East Side. The projects are all quite different - the
first, a new Manhattanville campus that is woven into the street grid in West Harlem; the
second, a rebirth of an abandoned mid-century MTA building that transforms Downtown
Brooklyn; and the third, a campus expansion over the FDR Drive that provides a public
park as well as new research facilities. The common thread among all the featured projects is
interaction with the surrounding urban landscape. These universities understand that their
buildings have an impact on their neighborhoods, that they have to do more than just fulfill
their academic goals. In fact, these new projects address the programmatic and physical needs
of the schools while at the same time thoughtfully taking into account their relationship with
the adjacent urban context. These schools know they cannot afford to isolate themselves from
the community and, moreover, that engagement will enhance their educational missions.
Highlighting the importance of these projects' symbiotic approach to urban problemsolving, New York Times opinion columnist Frank Bruni recently wrote about diversity on
college campuses, and the fact that greater diversity in enrollment does not necessarily lead
to greater diversity in interaction. In short, he said that if education's mission is "to challenge ingrained assumptions, disrupt entrenched thinking, broaden the fram e of reference,"
it needs to provide "meaningful interactions between people from different backgrounds."
Though not an architecture writer, Bruni emphasized the potential of architecture to encourage those interactions. Isolation and self-segregation in our society may at times seem inevitable and even understandable, but excessive isolation and lack of cross-communication can
also lead to misunderstanding and conflict. The design decisions that architects and planners
make have the power to alleviate (or exacerbate) these problems. The schools in New York
featured in this issue of Oculus have taken the lead to heal wounds with neighbors, build
internal and external bridges, and collaborate with local communities - and are models for
other urban institutions.
In some ways, our community colleges are leading the way. At these schools, diversity is a
given and collaborations and interactions take place naturally. A good example is LaGuardia
Community College, which has one of the most diverse student populations in the city. Under the leadership of Dr. Gail Mellow, LaGuardia is partnering with local businesses in Long
Island City, major financial institutions in the city, and other dedicated supporters to bring
the best of New York to the least advantaged. Like Bruni, the leaders of these schools believe
in the power of architecture to elevate and inspire interactions among students, faculty, and
their surrounding communities.
We have to be willing to do the same. We must be willing to reach beyond our own
professional community to convey the importance of architecture to the general public, and
we must consider the needs of many communities in our design work. And we should thank
those who, like Bruni, Mellow, and other educational visionaries, speak out on our behalf
about the power of architecture to effect change.
One of my goals as AIA New York President this year is to expand such outreach.
Ben Prosky, our new executive director, will be a tireless ally in these efforts. He not only
understands the power of architecture, but the power of communications. He will help
strengthen our voice.
Carol Loewenson, FAIA, LEED AP
2016 President, AIA New York Chapter
Spring 2016 Oculus
Table of Contents for the Digital Edition of Oculus - Spring 2016 Institutional Shifts
Letter from the President
Letter from the Editor
Center for Architecture
One Block Over
Opener: The Intersection of Technology and Walkability
The Challenges of Expansion
A Win-Win at Rockefeller University
1,087 Windows (and a Unique Focus) on the City
Playing a New Tune
A More Perfect Union
Social Innovation by Design
Index to Advertisers
Oculus - Spring 2016 Institutional Shifts