Fifty years ago, civil rights leader Whitney M. Young Jr. stood before a crowd of mostly white and male architects as he delivered a historic speech that called out racism and other issues of diversity in the architecture and design industries. Today, the profession has arguably improved thanks to his words and subsequent leaders. A new exhibition, 50 Years After Whitney Young Jr., at the Octagon Museum in Washington, D.C., surveys the legacy of the National Urban League, which Young led for a decade, and his impact on the AIA. Following Young’s exhortation, AIA officials undertook several actions, including launching a task force to support equal opportunities for minority groups, and developing architecture programs to improve living conditions in urban neighborhoods. In 1970, the Diversity Advancement Scholarship was created thanks to a Ford Foundation grant to recognize talented and emerging minority designers. Shortly following Young’s death in 1971, the AIA founded the Whitney M. Young Jr. Award which recognizes architects and organizations who contribute in areas of affordable housing, inclusiveness, or universal access. The Octagon Museum exhibition highlights past recipients of the award, from the inaugural recipient Robert J. Nash, FAIA, who became the first African American architect elected to national AIA office, to the latest recipient, Tamara Eagle Bull, FAIA, who was the first Native American woman to become a licensed US architect. “My dad had wanted to be an architect since he was in high school... His father, a tribal leader, once said, ‘One day, our tribe will be in a position to rebuild and change our situation, and we are going to need architects and lawyers to do it,’” Eagle Bull explained in a 2017 AIA interview. “But when my father went to his non-Native counselor at school, the counselor said, ‘The best you can hope for is to be a teacher.’ So he became a teacher, and had a wonderful career, but he always regretted not becoming an architect.” At her firm, Encompass Architects in Lincoln, Nebraska, Eagle Bull is committed to creating culturally relevant and responsible design for Native American communities. The exhibition also showcases key figures in the fight for diversity within architecture. Alongside Young and Eagle Bull, the list includes Paul R. Williams, FAIA, who was the first black architect in the AIA College of Fellows and defined Southern California Style. Julia Morgan, FAIA, posthumously became the first woman to receive the AIA Gold Medal and used her combined talents within technology and design to further the field. Also included in the exhibit is an introduction to the National Organization of Minority Architects (NOMA), which aims at leveling the professional playing field, as well as a profile of Norma Merrick Sklarek, FAIA, who was the first African American woman elected to the AIA College of Fellows in 1980 and received the Whitney Young Award in 2008. 50 Years After Whitney Young Jr. also features a comprehensive timeline starting in 1857 when the AIA was founded in New York City. It follows the AIA's history up to the present era when Pittsburgh architect William J. Bates, FAIA, became the second elected African American AIA president, succeeding Marshall Purnell, FAIA, in 2007. Other highlighted key leaders include Robert R. Taylor, the first academically-trained African American architect, Denise Scott Brown, Hon. FAIA, the first woman to receive the AIA Topaz Medallion, and Gordon Chong, FAIA, the first elected Asian American AIA president. Marci B. Reed, the executive director of the Architects Foundation, noted that both the Diversity Advancement Scholarship Program and the Whitney M. Young Jr. Award help underrepresented minority students to pursue architectural studies and recognize architects and organizations that champion causes of equity and social justice. Reed hopes that the exhibition will “demonstrate the progress we have made since 1968, and how seriously the AIA and the Architects Foundation take Young’s charge today.” 50 Years After Whitney Young Jr. is now on view through November 24 at the Octagon Museum in Washington, D.C. It was organized by the Architects Foundation, a philanthropic partner of the AIA. 50 Years After Whitney Young Jr. On view through November 24, 2018 The Octagon Museum 1799 New York Ave NW Washington, DC 20006 Thursday–Saturday, 1–4pm
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Last week, District of Columbia councilmember Mary Cheh introduced the Clean Energy DC Act of 2018, legislation that, if enacted, would require 100 percent of the electricity sold in the District to come from renewable sources by 2032. The act also specifies new guidelines for retrofitting existing buildings that emit substantial greenhouse gases into more energy efficient structures. The bill must be reviewed by committees before a vote takes place, which would probably happen sometime in the fall. In the wake of the United States' withdrawal from the Paris Climate Agreement, many U.S. cities have set their own sustainability goals, and the attempts have taken various forms, including a pledge by Saint Paul, Minnesota to make all of its buildings carbon neutral by 2050. Under the watch of D.C.'s Department of Energy and the Environment (DOEE), the New Building Emissions Standards proposed by the act would regulate the energy performance of the District's buildings and introduce benchmarks for future construction. Regulations would include cover energy usage and energy efficiency, among other topics. An incentive and financial assistance program would be set up, while penalties would be issued for buildings that fail to comply. Cheh’s office told AN that the act does not intend to create prescriptive policies aimed at restricting the building industry, but the Washington, D.C., chapter of the American Institute of Architects (AIA|DC) expressed that that is a concern. They note that the current proposal "contains ambiguity and leaves the setting of performance criteria up to D.C. DOEE staff without clear opportunity for stakeholder input,” according to an earlier comment. “The legislation puts a large administrative burden on D.C. DOEE staff to set the standards, track compliance, and enforce the requirements of the program," said the AIA|DC in a statement. "The mandate for private property owners to upgrade existing building systems and performance without accompanying financial assistance could be problematic, leading to legal challenges and potentially adversely impact development.” Despite these comments, the AIA|DC said that it is proud that the city intends to lead the nation in setting a new standard for clean energy. This is not the first time that Washington’s building sustainability efforts have come under the spotlight. Last year, the city was dubbed the “quiet capital of sustainable design” by Huffington Post. They reported that in 2016, the city’s volume of certified green buildings per capita was almost eight times that of Massachusetts, and over 11 times the average for the top ten greenest states. D.C. was later named the world’s first LEED Platinum City in recognition of the city’s efforts in reducing greenhouse gas emissions and promoting clean energy in the built environment. One innovative green building currently under construction in D.C. is the American Geophysical Union (AGU) Headquarters. Its “net zero” design means it generates as much energy as it uses. Design features include a photovoltaic array, a radiant cooling system, a green wall, a direct current electrified grid, a water reclamation cistern, and a municipal sewer heat exchange system. The building is seeking the Net Zero Energy Building (NZEB) Certification by the International Living Future Institute.
With its combination of iconic references to the nation's past and the machinery that drives our political present, Washington, DC presents a particular set of problems and possibilities to facades innovators. Top experts in high-performance building envelope design and construction will this gather this Thursday, March 5, to explore some of these issues during Facades+ AM: Washington Three by Three, a morning seminar taking place at the District Architecture Center. Facades+ AM is a quick-take variation on the popular Facades+ conference series. Over the course of the morning, three panels of three experts and one moderator each will take up questions concerning facade design and construction in the nation's capital. Session one, "Design Opportunities in a Blast Resistant World," moderated by Steve White, president of AIA DC, will consider how innovative designs can flourish despite security restrictions. Washington Post columnist and University of Maryland professor emeritus Roger Lewis will moderate session two, "Innovative Facades Come to Washington," highlighting cutting-edge facades in the DC area. Session three, "The New Face of Monumental Washington," moderated by Washington Architectural Foundation president Janet Bloomberg, will describe the role played high-performance building envelopes in both old and new monuments. Mark Strauss, senior partner at FXFOWLE, and AN's editor-in-chief William Menking will deliver opening and closing remarks. Seats are limited; register today for Facades+AM: Washington Three by Three. For more information, include a detailed agenda, visit the symposium website.