We are pleased to welcome Anne-Marie Lubenau, Director of the Rudy Bruner Award for Urban Excellence (RBA), to the AAO Board of Directors. The RBA is a national design award that recognizes transformative urban places distinguished by their economic and social contributions to America’s cities. Anne-Marie is an architect, educator and advocate for excellence in urban design and planning. She focuses on expanding the role of architects in shaping cities by engaging people in the process of design and increasing understanding about the built environment and its impact on our lives. Read more about her work and vision for AAO below.
1. For our members who haven't met you, please briefly describe yourself.
I am passionate about engaging people in the process of design to increase understanding of the built environment and its impact on our lives. As director of the Rudy Bruner Award for Urban Excellence (RBA) at the Bruner Foundation in Cambridge, Massachusetts I oversee a national design award that recognizes transformative places that contribute to the economic, environmental, and social vitality of American cities.
I moved to Cambridge in 2011 (for a Harvard Loeb Fellowship), after living and working in Pittsburgh for over 20 years. I’d arrived there to study architecture at Carnegie Mellon, never planning to stay, but a summer internship at a local architectural firm introduced me to the city’s remarkable urban fabric and professional opportunities which convinced me to linger. On the side, I consulted for Pittsburgh History & Landmarks Foundation, developing and teaching curricula on architecture and urban development for adults and children. The experience prompted me to seek work that offered the opportunity to blend my professional training and experience as an architect with my interest in engaging the public in design of the built environment. That led me to the Community Design Center of Pittsburgh (CDCP) where I worked for 13 years, overseeing design advocacy, education, and technical assistance programs for homeowners, nonprofits, and communities. In the process, I became involved in initiatives, including the Heinz Endowments’ Civic Design Coalition that focused attention on the critical role of design of the built environment in shaping the city’s future.
Through my work in Pittsburgh I became curious about the factors that shape a community’s attitudes towards planning and design, including the role of history, culture, and leadership. In 2008 I received funding for an independent research project that explored models of design advocacy, visiting organizations and meeting with people in cities across America. One of my first stops was the Chicago Architecture Foundation where I learned about AAO and I have been a member ever since.
2. As a way to get to know you, what are you working on now or what recent projects would you like to share with our readers?
Through my work at the RBA I have the opportunity to travel the country seeing, learning, and writing about innovative urban development, and spending time with people who share my passion for placemaking and cities. Every two years, during our biennial award selection process, a team from our foundation does a deep dive into five projects, visiting each one and interviewing dozens of people how’ve been involved with or touched by them in one way or another. It’s an extraordinary opportunity to see and experience firsthand a broad diversity of urban development. The 2019 finalists include: the redevelopment of a former Sears Distribution Center in Memphis into a mixed-use, “vertical urban village;” a skateboard park in New Orleans designed and built in collaboration with local youth; renewal of the public realm in center of Sulphur Springs, a small city in eastern Texas; the creation of a new resilient public park along Buffalo Bayou in downtown Houston; and activation of downtown Lynn, a former industrial city on Boston’s north shore, through the installation of murals and lighting.
3. Tell us about the skills and expertise that you bring to the AAO Board.
I bring a combination of skills from three decades of experience as an architect, nonprofit leader, and educator working within private design firms, educational institutions, nonprofit organizations, and philanthropy. Over that time I’ve worn many hats and developed a multitude of skills, especially at the helm of evolving organizations. As President and CEO of the Community Design Center of Pittsburgh I gained valuable insight and experience in nonprofit governance and strategic planning, communications and fundraising, and program development (not to mention how to plan and coordinate a one-day, city-wide bicycle event for 2,500 riders). I also bring experience from extensive volunteer service including serving on the boards of the Association for Community Design and BSA Foundation, on the Harvard GSD and Loeb Fellowship Alumni Councils, and the Boston Civic Design Commission.
4. What excites you most about AAO?
AAO provides a unique opportunity to connect with an international network of people doing similar work. I’m excited about AAO’s focus on providing in-person, on-site opportunities for learning and exchange through annual conferences and exploration of opportunities for increased global engagement.
5. What impact do you hope to see AAO achieve by the end of your board term?
I look forward to expanding the AAO network to reflect the increasing diversity of practice and reach new audiences. Over my career I’ve met and worked with many people deeply involved in engaging the public in design. They work in a variety of settings, many outside our traditional notion of “architecture centers.” These include large and small private design firms, nonprofit community design centers and community-development corporations, preservation and cultural organizations, education and research institutions, media and journalism, philanthropy, the public sector, and other professions. I’m eager to find ways to connect and engage with more people working in our field so we can share our resources and increase our collective influence and impact.