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Inspiring vision

Moving Us Forward

As the end of my tenure as Chair of the Board of Trustees of the BSA Foundation draws near, I’d like to reflect upon where the Foundation has come and what the future may hold.

During my term as chair, the board, the volunteers, and the staff of the BSA Foundation have done some tremendous work! A little under three years ago, we decided to reposition what was the Boston Foundation for Architecture by renaming it the BSA Foundation and refocusing its mission. We did this to send a clear message to the BSA community that this charitable and educational organization was prepared to take on all the public-outreach activities that the Chapter was doing and connect us to a bigger, broader public audience. We launched a plan for attaining sustainable financial support that has engaged many individuals and firms in philanthropic contribution. We also broadened the circle of engagement by diversifying the membership of the Board of Trustees to include people from real estate development, construction, cultural institutions, banking, law, and other foundations.

Over the next few years, the BSA Foundation will continue its work of reaching a wider public audience and doing things that have a greater public benefit. This way, we can more effectively spread the word about the transformative power of design. With the help of some of our newest Trustees (and Vice Chair Laura Wernick FAIA), we have done some strategic thinking this past year to help us focus our mission and make what we do clearer to a public audience.

Our mission comes down to two things: Sharing our ideas, and sharing our talents.

When we share our ideas, we involve people from all walks of life in a conversation about design and design thinking. The BSA Foundation’s popular children and family programs, the city-wide open-house celebration of design called Common Boston, and the many public programs, lectures, tours, events, and – most notably – public shows and exhibitions at BSA Space will continue as central to that goal. Watch for more thought-provoking public forums from our “Designing Boston” series that have included talks about topical buildings and places like City Hall Plaza and the Northern Avenue Bridge, as well as important subjects like Creative Community Engagement and Placemaking.

When we share our talents, we demonstrate to the world what our profession is all about. We do this through initiatives like the design assistance work in Mattapan's Woolson Street Garden; the community-based urban design charrettes like the Beacon Yards and Suffolk Downs properties; the multi-unit affordable housing workshop for Dorchester Avenue; and the international Boston Living with Water Design Competition.

Design exhibitions at BSA Space continue to be a remarkable way to share the power of design and its direct ability to affect people’s quality of life. Watch for the early November landing of the uhu (Urban Housing Unit) on the plaza outside our space at Atlantic Wharf. The uhu is a new, prototype housing model designed by LiveLight and the BSA in partnership with the Mayor’s Housing Innovation Lab and the BSA Foundation. It’s been on a tour of six communities throughout Greater Boston where residents have been asked to experience what living smaller and more affordably might be like, and then to share their ideas with the City of Boston. And it will be here as part of “One Room Mansion,” an upcoming exhibition that will explore compact living as a viable and necessary 21st-century residential dwelling option for people of all ages and incomes.

All of these projects were paired with public presentations, civic engagement plans, and promotional activities designed to show people how their city and their neighborhoods could be improved through design. Everyone involved with these projects left with a much clearer sense about what architects can do, how we think, and how we strive to make our region more sustainable, more equitable, and more beautiful.

So this is the key to moving us forward, the mantra for all BSA Foundation activities: engage the public, inspire vision for the power of design, and provoke positive change in the built environment. I’m sure the BSA Foundation will continue to be an excellent partner-organization to the BSA and a force for public good in the future. Peace, out.

Photo: Paige McWhorter

Mike Davis FAIA, president of Bergmeyer Associates, is the 2016 chair of the BSA Foundation Board of Trustees.