Foreword to American Roundtable
American Roundtable is an ambitious project that has been created through the work of many, many people. Thanks goes first to the editors of the reports, and the dozens of contributors they have brought together to work with them, who have conceived, shaped, and delivered probing portraits of nine distinctive American landscapes. The reports elicit a range of reactions and emotions: humbled awe at the persisting, self-sacrificing care shown by so many individuals for their communities and the environments they live in; anger and shame at the historical and continuing exploitation and ignorant disregard of people, institutions, resources, and natural systems that are integral parts of our national story; gratitude for the possibility of some degree of optimism for the future, based on the commitment of people doing the demanding work of imagining and inspiring others to imagine what could be.
All of this work has been masterfully brought together—and beautifully, thoughtfully introduced—by Nicholas Anderson. Nick played a critical role in conceptualizing this project while a staff member at the League, and he has continued to provide essential intellectual and organizational structure to this undertaking since he left his full-time position at the League in the fall of 2019. I also want to thank the project’s steering committee members, League board president Paul Lewis and board members Mario Gooden and Lyn Rice, who acted as invaluable sounding boards and who were patient with us during the project’s sometimes painfully slow evolution from the initial spark of an idea in early 2017.
Former League staff member Katie Rotman and current staff members Nanase Shirokawa and Anne Carlisle mounted a massive outreach effort in late 2019 to make potential report editors around the country aware of the opportunity to participate in the American Roundtable project. We were tremendously excited to receive more than 120 proposals by the February 2020 submission deadline—and even more excited at the extraordinarily high quality of a very large number of the submissions. A national selection committee comprised of architects, activists, and educators took on the time-consuming task of reading and evaluating all the proposals. We are enormously grateful to that group for the care and knowledge they brought to the selection process. Members of the selection committee were: Nicholas Anderson (Philadelphia, PA), David Dowell (partner, El Dorado, Kansas City, MO), Anne Marie Duvall Decker (principal, Duvall Decker Architects, Jackson, MS), Rosalie Genevro (executive director, The Architectural League, New York, NY), Mario Gooden (principal, Huff + Gooden Architects, New York, NY), Paul Lewis (prinicipal, LTL Architects, New York, NY), Jonathan Massey (Dean, Taubman College of Architecture and Urban Planning, University of Michigan, Ann Arbor, MI), Sue Mobley (then Director of Advocacy, Colloqate Design, New Orleans, LA), Erin Moore (Head, School of Architecture and Design, University of Oregon, Eugene, OR), Lyn Rice (principal, Rice + Lipka Architects, New York, NY), and Jason Schupbach (then Director, The Design School, Arizona State University, Tempe, AZ).
Turning the vast amount of information produced by the American Roundtable editorial teams into published reports is an ongoing, and daunting, undertaking. Britt Cobb and Michael Bierut of Pentagram designed the striking identity for American Roundtable. We are profoundly grateful to Jameson Proctor and his team at the creative studio Athletics for working with us to translate the reports into reality on the web. Sarah Wesseler, League Digital Editor, has put in heroic work to do the final edit on reports, and format them for clear and easy access on archleague.org
In the spring of 2021, the American Roundtable reports will also be published in print form. We thank Britt Cobb for conceptualizing how those reports will be presented, and Kris Graves for his excellent advice on how to produce them. Rachel Judlowe is advising the League on press and public outreach.
The American Roundtable project has been supported, in part, by public funds from the National Endowment for the Arts. Additional support has been provided by the J. Clawson Mills Fund of The Architectural League, and by the Graham Foundation for Advanced Studies in the Fine Arts.
The American Roundtable reports are being published in a period of profound challenge and turmoil in the United States, a time when it is very easy to lapse into despair about our prospects. Our nation is threatened by individuals and groups who have forsaken democracy in favor of a violent, white supremacist mob.
We deeply believe that the way forward demands that we condemn hatred and racism wherever it appears, and affirm the value of an open and equitable society. We offer these reports with the conviction that the best hope for our common future lies in understanding, respecting, embracing, and encouraging the many peoples and histories and aspirations of our variegated, complex, multicultural, multiracial society.
Executive Director, The Architectural League of New York
January 12, 2021
Thumbnail image: Hacemos Ciudad by Las Imaginistas. Photo by Jesse Miller, courtesy Brownsville Undercurrents editorial team.