Joseph Aliotta, a principal at Swanke Hayden Connell, took over the chapter presidency of the AIANY last month, ushering in the Center for Architecture’s 2012 theme: “Future Now.” Aliotta plans a two-prong approach that will focus on the future of the profession and of the future of the built environment.
A first generation New Yorker, Aliotta said his blue-collar Brooklyn roots partly informed his efforts to bring fresh faces to the profession. A City College education yielded his family’s second college degree (an older cousin got the first), inspiring him to volunteer at the ACE Mentor Program, which lends a hand to high school students aspiring to be architects and engineers. “They may not look like me, but they are just like me,” he said of today’s first generation New Yorkers.
Aliotta doesn’t plan on reinventing the wheel to bring newcomers to the Center. Instead, he plans to capitalize on existing career development programs, like Emerging New York Architects (ENYA) and New Practices New York competition. Rather than dreaming up new exhibition themes, the ENYA and New Practices competitions will act as flagships to the year’s programming. The thinking is that over the summer months when students are out of school, they’ll populate the Center and drive the programming effort. A one-day conference where students and young professionals set the agenda is planned for September.
Regarding the built environment, Aliotta has requested that all 27 committees at AIANY focus on future needs to answer the question, “Where are we going to grow?” He added that even committees that may seem to go against the grain of a future-focused theme, like the Historic Buildings committee, fit quite nicely into the program when it comes to greening and maintaining older buildings.
Even though the new president isn’t not planning marquee moments, changes are already taking place. “It’s not about how many events we have, it’s about a change of culture,” he said. He noted that with the year’s theme announced, several of the existing committees have reached out to the ENYA members to coordinate with them, creating a casual interaction between established and new members. “That collaboration and that energy results in a mentorship that’s natural and not forced,” said Aliotta.