Sarah Whiting: It’s About Time

The dean of the Harvard University Graduate School of Design interrogates architecture’s response to the converging crises that define this period of great uncertainty and rapid change.

July 17, 2020

Recorded on June 30, 2020

The Architectural League’s Annual Meeting is an occasion for the election of officers and directors, reporting on recent accomplishments and plans for the future, and delivery of the Annual Meeting Address by an invited practitioner, educator, or theorist. The 2020 Annual Meeting was held online on June 30 due to ongoing social distancing requirements during the COVID-19 pandemic. League President Paul Lewis and League Executive Director Rosalie Genevro delivered introductory remarks summarizing the year’s challenges and accomplishments.

In his remarks, Mr. Lewis said “The cumulative crises of this mutating and relentless pandemic, the attendant economic collapse, ongoing global ecological devastation, and climate change have brought into stark relief and exacerbated the immoral inequity in our economy, health, and justice systems, and laid bare the systemic racism in our society, and in our architectural institutions. This is a time of converging crises…This is a time for transformation—the protests, the collective demand for change are a window of optimism that we might move toward a better society out of these compound crises.”

In introducing Sarah M. Whiting, Dean and Josep Lluís Sert Professor of Architecture at the Harvard University Graduate School of Design, to deliver the Annual Meeting Address, Mr. Lewis said that the League invites an individual to give the address “who brings a distinctive point of view to the question of what can—and should—animate architectural discourse and production now.” Mr. Lewis announced that from 2020 forward, the Annual Meeting Address will be known as the Henry N. Cobb Lecture, in honor of the accomplished architect, educator, and writer—and good friend of The Architectural League—who died earlier in 2020. Henry N. Cobb was a partner at Pei, Cobb, Freed and Partners, and had served as the Chair of the Department of Architecture at the Harvard Graduate School of Design in the early 1980s. He was also the author of a much-acclaimed book, Henry N. Cobb, Words & Works 1948-2018: Scenes From a Life in Architecture. The League was able to tell Harry of its intention to name the lecture in his honor in January, and he was delighted with the choice of Dean Whiting as the 2020 lecturer.

In this lecture, Sarah Whiting looks at the “slowness” of the discipline and field of architecture—the teaching and the practice—in the context of the speed of the contemporary moment.