2022 AIA Collaborative Achievement Award

The Collaborative Achievement Award recognizes the excellence that results when architects work with those from outside the profession to improve the spaces where people live and work.

In the early days of the COVID-19 pandemic, the AIA New York Unified Task Force City and State was assembled in just 24 hours in response to former Governor Andrew Cuomo’s urgent call for assistance from design professionals. A group of AIA New York and AIA New York State architects worked through the night to identify buildings that could be used to expand bed capacity and alleviate the strain on New York’s overwhelmed hospitals. The team was able to identify more than 1,000 buildings throughout the state that could accommodate extra beds and provide additional medical services, saving countless lives.

Once the immediate need for hospital beds was addressed and a team of dedicated architects was in place, the task force began to respond to the pandemic’s wide-ranging and immensely disruptive repercussions. It remains agile and responsive today, ready to address our evolving world rather than a single issue. The task force is a networked and diffuse effort, comprising roughly 30 AIA New York and AIA New York State members with specific expertise spread across several working groups. The working groups converge at regularly scheduled intervals to extend collaboration efforts, troubleshoot issues, and build support for initiatives. As the pandemic landscape shifts, some working groups are sunset while new ones arise.

“The Unified Task Force is the definition of mobilization and pro-activism,” wrote Jessica Sheridan, AIA, in a letter nominating the task force for the Collaborative Achievement Award. “AIANYS jumped in where firms were slow to respond, and while all of us were navigating our own challenges. It was a lifeline for our community and provided much-needed optimism about the impact we can have as a group of motivated architects.”

The task force’s flexible framework allows it to interface seamlessly with existing support networks, collaborating on projects in lieu of replicating systems and fueling inefficiency. The approach also allows AIANY and AIANYS to convene the task force without creating legal obstacles to members’ volunteer efforts. The task force regularly connects talented architects with dedicated volunteers who can benefit from the profession’s input.

For instance, when personal protective equipment was scarce, one working group joined a network originally founded by Jay Valgora, FAIA, and several universities that were transforming schools with 3D printers into micro-manufacturing hubs. Concurrently, another working group partnered with several universities, New York State Energy Research and Development Authority, and ASHRAE to develop graphic advisories for HVAC improvements to help building owners and occupants better understand how to improve internal air circulation.

When the pandemic wanes, climate change and ecological degradation will persist, challenging communities with unprecedented weather events. The task force demonstrates how architects and other AIA chapters can shape multifaceted response strategies and leverage design to address a wide range of issues. The task force’s Disaster Assistance Handbook, currently under review, is aimed at preparing communities and architects for future crises by reflecting on its short- and long-term pandemic responses. In addition, the task force has launched its Redefining the Street initiative to address public space in a post-pandemic world.

The task force clearly shows the value architects bring to the table during a global crisis.

Its work has built inroads with several branches of government, prompting new relationships that allow AIANY and AIANYS to advance broader advocacy and policy goals. In November 2020, for example, AIANYS began conversations with the state senate regarding New York’s lack of a Good Samaritan law and used the task force’s work as an example of how architects contribute to disaster response.

“The task force has become a place to share insights and findings, and also to spotlight opportunities for action and to applaud the efforts of a deeply engaged collection of architects who are committed to using their time and expertise to serve their community,” Michael K. Chen, AIA, wrote in support of the task force’s nomination. “These are efforts that made a significant and positive impact on the course of the pandemic in New York City and on shaping the contours of a more hopeful future.”


Ryan Gann, Assoc. AIA, Chair, Chicago

Shannon Gathings, Assoc. AIA, Duvall Decker Architects, P.A., Ridgeland, Miss,

Joseph Mayo, AIA, Mahlum, Seattle

Katie Swenson, Assoc. AIA, MASS Design Group, Boston

Image credits

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Joseph Corbin

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Perkins Eastman

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AIA New York State

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Andre Soluri