By Steven B. Ujifusa
The steering committee of the Design Advocacy Group has announced that Joanne Aitken, an associate at KieranTimberlake Associates, will replace Alan Greenberger as Chair. Greenberger is stepping down from the DAG role in order to take a new position as Vice Chairman of the City Planning Commission.
During a May 5 interview, Aitken explained how over the past six years, DAG has evolved from being a reactionary to a pro-active organization.
“When everyone first got together for DAG meetings, it was with a sense of frustration,” she said. “Community associations, government, and developers were all getting their say in building projects, but everyone was ignoring the design aspect.”
Aitken noted how unproductive it was for the Philadelphia design community to be left out of the development decision-making process. “Design needs a place at the table. As a design professional, if you find out what’s happening late, then no matter what you say, it can be perceived as obstructionist.”
Aitken feels that one of DAG’s great strengths today is how it leverages the tremendous talent of its individual members into collective action. “We no longer have to tell the public: ‘wake up people!’ When we started meeting, we got a lot of people together in the room who were intelligent and experienced. We could come up with amazing ideas. Our individual wishes can become a collective intelligence, and this is the big thing that DAG can contribute.”
Looking forward, Aitken wants to further increase the participation of DAG’s growing membership. “There is an active core that show up to the meetings each month,” she said, “but we have about 1,000 members on our email list. We need to figure out how to involve them more.”
Greenberger, the outgoing DAG chair, is extremely enthusiastic about his successor. “Joanne has had leadership roles in the community as president of AIA (American Institute of Architects) and as a civic activist. We thought she would offer good, steady, and visionary leadership to DAG.”
Bill Becker, a member of the DAG Steering Committee, echoed Greenberger’s sentiments. “Joanne is an outstanding professional who has very active participant in DAG’s affairs. She also writes beautifully. I think she will be a fantastic leader. She’s got great judgment and people skills.”
According to the KieranTimberlake website, Aitken has been an associate at KieranTimberlake since 2004. Her professional specialty is high education design, and she is currently working on major projects at Yale University and the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. She is past president of AIA’s Philadelphia Chapter, and is on the architecture faculty of Drexel University. She received her bachelor’s degree from St. John’s College in Annapolis and her masters in architecture from Harvard’s Graduate School of Design.
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