The IIDA Leaders Breakfast is generally my favorite annual IIDA event in New York City. Compared to most other design events sprinkled throughout the calendar, this one tends to attract a different type of audience. Those attending include design’s heavy hitters: principals of architecture firms and owners of large corporations, serious leaders in our industry and the nation’s economy. The message and the theme of the event is clear – if you are interested in hearing forward-thinking individuals, this event is for you.
Regrettably, my usual high expectations for insight into the minds of leaders in our industry fell short this year.
I was the guest of Erin Donohue and sitting at the Carnegie Fabrics table. Around me were many familiar faces, a table filled with friends and work colleagues, some of which I have worked with for the better part of twenty years. This year’s breakfast was held at Gotham Hall on Broadway and 36 St. It is a truly majestic space and closer for most than the west side piers. The event began honoring Majora Carter, founder of Sustainable South Bronx and president of the Majora Carter Group, a green-collar economic consulting firm; she spoke at a previous Leaders Breakfast in San Francisco.
It was refreshing to see the IIDA-NY reach beyond its traditional boundaries to honor a person such as Ms. Carter, best known for engaging local government and communities in sustainable projects, such as green roofs, converting illegal dumps into urban greenways, and transforming underutilized public spaces for the benefit of the entire community.
“We may use different design tools, but our missions are the same,” said Ms. Carter: “to use our gifts and sensitivity to solve what are obvious problems to us. When we do it right, people don’t always notice the magic.” Her objective is to make less fortunate people understand that they do not have to move out of their neighborhoods in order to live in better ones. Ms. Carter finished her thoughtful and inspiring speech by pointing out that her award, an original leg splint designed by Charles and Ray Eames, is also a symbol of leadership and that her award is “way cooler than a tiara and a bouquet.”
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