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A Look Inside AIA Brooklyn's Design Awards Program: Our Recap

A Look Inside AIA Brooklyn's Design Awards Program: Our Recap | Existing Conditions

Our team members at Existing Conditions were delighted to attend the Brooklyn Design Awards for their very first time, organized by the AIA Brooklyn chapter. Having done many projects in the Brooklyn area over the years, it was great to meet peers from our industry. The event featured a diverse range of innovative and inspiring architectural projects from across the borough, and it was exciting to see the talented work being produced by local architects and designers. The awards ceremony was well-organized and provided a great opportunity to network with other professionals in the design community.

52574119104_bca6714faf_oImage by Anastasiia Davydova

Highlights of the Awards

Attending the Brooklyn Design Awards was educational and gave us insight into the types of projects being recognized in the New York area. In addition, it was a great feeling to be recognized and to have the opportunity to interact with awardees, chapter members, vendors, and design service providers, both as a group and individually. We really enjoyed the chance to be present and engage with others at the event.

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Our Most Memorable Moments

A memorable moment for Jesus Bravo, Operations Director at Existing Conditions, was meeting Erica Clayton, Account Executive at Sherwin Williams. We shared common values and ideas about how our companies could benefit from each other, particularly in the drone industry. Erica provided useful insights and information on regulations, which helped to strengthen our connection. Additionally, Erica was able to connect with two other members of the Existing Conditions team: Endirichard Jolalpa, Project Manager and New York City Drone Captain, and Gabriel Lopez, Operations Associate. It was a memorable moment for us, and we hope to continue building on this relationship in the future.

Gabriel Lopez was able to make a connection with Glenwood Mason Supply, AIA Brooklyn’s Design Awards Champion Sponsor. Since Gabriel is local, we have been able to foster a relationship with Glenwood Mason Supply due to our shared knowledge and understanding of the area. Gabriel was impressed by the variety of materials available at the firm and would like to congratulate them on their success. Gabriel plans to continue shopping at Glenwood Mason Supply for cement and stones.

By building connections and engaging with others in the design community, we aim to educate professionals about the technology and services we offer and how they can work with us on projects. Overall, the event was a valuable and enjoyable experience.

Image by Anastasiia Davydova

The Evolution of the Brooklyn Design Awards

Lindsay Smillow spoke with me about her experience planning the Brooklyn Design Awards (BKDA) with the chapter’s BKDA committee. First, Lindsay and I discussed the awards' evolution. This year, the BKDA program evolved to respond to the role of architects in addressing environmental and social challenges and incorporated the AIA’s Framework for Design Excellence for the first time. Jason Boutin, a member of the AIA Brooklyn chapter who serves as secretary on the board and chair of the BKDA Committee, is committed to addressing sustainability in all forms. Jason recognized in his remarks at the event the potential for complex (and potentially catastrophic) outcomes to be seen in our lifetime and that the chapter wanted to take action to address these issues.

In addition, the awards program was rebranded as "Brooklyn Made" or "Brooklyn Based" architecture and design, requiring that firms or projects be based in Brooklyn in order to be eligible for an award. This focus on the unique geography and community of Brooklyn aims to highlight the specific contributions and characteristics of the borough's architects and designers.

Image by Anastasiia Davydova

The Program’s Planning Process

The BKDA is a team effort that involves a small but dedicated group of professionals, including Jason Boutin, Lindsay Smilow, and Cole Von Feldt, who had been interning in Brooklyn. To gather diverse perspectives and input, the team also invited advisors from the chapter, including Jordan Parnass, Kimberly Neuhaus, Ruth Mandl, and Bobby Johnston, all of whom have received awards in the past and offered feedback on how to improve the program. Therefore, the planning process was guided by input from the community. The jury was carefully selected with experience in sustainability. The jury's deliberation was both design and performance-focused, a crucial factor the Brooklyn Chapter ensured was possible from the very beginning of the process.

More Highlights

One of Lindsay’s highlights from the Brooklyn Design Awards was seeing the surprise and excitement on the faces of the architects and firms as they received awards for specific features of their projects. The program evolved to allow each project to be judged on its own merit, which enabled the jury to award projects for categories featuring resilience, biophilic design, and connection to the outdoors. Lindsay enjoyed seeing these specific aspects of projects being recognized and appreciated. Another highlight for Lindsay was the opportunity to meet and connect with other architects and designers in the community. Lindsay values the sense of community and inclusivity within AIA Brooklyn and felt that the event was a celebration not only of the organization but also of the innovative and cutting-edge architecture and design in Brooklyn more broadly.

Image by Anastasiia Davydova

The Creative Hub for Innovation

Half of this year’s winners were projects in Brooklyn, while the other half were outside of the borough, but all were completed by Brooklyn-based architects.

The program aimed to showcase the diverse and dynamic architecture and design community in Brooklyn and provide opportunities for members to engage with the awardees and learn more about their work. The Brooklyn Design Awards program is not limited to just the event night, and the AIA Brooklyn chapter plans to continue supporting the winners by offering talks and providing access to their projects. This will allow for further discussion and engagement with the winning projects and architects. 

The chapter has also received significant press coverage for the program, thanks to the direction of the program, the jury, and the support of sponsors and partners.

What Makes the AIA Brooklyn Design Awards Unique?

The leadership at the AIA Brooklyn chapter is committed to operating in the “Brooklyn way,” which means embracing the unique culture, creativity, innovation, and industry that defines the borough. Brooklyn is known worldwide for its vibrant and diverse community, and the BKDA aims to tap into that by involving more professionals from the borough.

As the program grows and more Brooklyn architects participate, it will become clearer how the awards reflect the character of Brooklyn in terms of architecture and design.

One of the strengths of AIA chapters—like AIA Brooklyn—is their collaborative and inclusive nature, which allows for a democratic and beneficial program for the design community. Participants were not only recipients of the program, but also played a role in its creation. This collaborative process allows the program to be truly representative of the design community and its values. 

Image by Anastasiia Davydova

The Framework for Design Excellence

The AIA Brooklyn Design Awards program has successfully recognized and celebrated the unique and exceptional work being done by architects and designers in the Brooklyn community. By incorporating the AIA's framework for design excellence and focusing on Brooklyn-based projects, the awards program has recognized the value of local talent and the impact it has on the community. AIA Brooklyn looks forward to continuing to support and engage with the winners, as well as encouraging more participation and recognition of the vibrant design community in Brooklyn.

Learn more about the winners of the AIA Brooklyn 2022 Brooklyn Design Awards here.

Amanda Zaslow, Charlene Gilman, and Paul Lindsey

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