AIA New Jersey Engages New Jersey’s Mayors at a Special Symposium

February 20, 2019

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Marvin Clawson, AIA, and Verity Frizzell, FAIA, discuss the merits of a possible suggestion for Bay Head Mayor Bill Curtis

AIA New Jersey Engages New Jersey’s Mayors at a Special Symposium

Middletown Town Administrator Tony Mercantante (L) and Mayor Kevin Settembrino, AIA, (R) present the delivery method for their successful municipal redevelopment project.

On Wednesday, February 13, 2019, AIA New Jersey hosted a special symposium for New Jersey Mayors at the Trenton Country Club, in Trenton, NJ. Mayors were invited to meet one-on-one with regionally associated AIA NJ member architects to explore ways that design thinking can solve a municipality’s biggest problems. The intention was to show mayors that Architects are trained to be creative problem solvers and are uniquely positioned to explore the big picture while attending to the details. Mayors shared real-life issues they may be having in areas such as Resilience, Building Inclusivity, Housing Shortages, Traffic and Infrastructure, Abandoned Buildings or Sustainability.

Bruce Turner, AIA, offered excellent brainstorming support to the guests from Bloomfield, NJ.

AIA NJ Immediate Past President, Verity Frizzell, FAIA, chaired and moderated the symposium. The event was inspired by Civic I/O at SXSW, and a similar program offered at a recent Chicago Ideas Week.  The AIA National Public Outreach Committee helped Verity put the agenda together in concept. The event met its goals of introducing mayors to architects and demonstrating how architects can help envision the future of their community, solve problems and work with them on issues that aren’t necessarily related to buildings but their community overall. A series of small team visioning exercises were interspersed with presentations by industry professionals and #ILookUp videos depicting success stories of municipal and regional renewal led by AIA Architects around the world.  

AIA NJ Immediate Past President Verity Frizzell, FAIA. delivered this event to support this year’s Urban Renewal initiative, to encourage civic engagement and introduce the Value of the Architect to NJ Mayors.

Five AIA NJ architect members attended the event, facilitating discussion in small groups with the mayors from Bay Head, Bloomfield, Middletown, Mine Hill Township and Somerdale, NJ. Attendees were also provided beneficial examples of successful projects completed by guest speakers Ed Clerico, PE, of Carriage Farm, NJ; Richard Gonzalez Architect, PLLC, formerly of the Urban Design Lab at Columbia University and Mayor/ Architect Kevin Settembrino, AIA, of Middletown.  Both the speakers and mayors found the event rewarding, so much so that one mayor retained a consultant at the event, one mayor approached Ms. Frizzell to discuss a follow up event with a larger audience and one mayor sent the following message of appreciation, “Ms. Frizzell, thank you for inviting me to participate in the (Mayors’) Symposium. I had no idea what to expect but must say I was very pleasantly surprised. It was excellent. I am so glad I attended. I learned a lot and met some individuals who may be a source of help to “little old” Bay Head. The speakers were excellent and the two professionals at my table, Marvin Clawson and Deandre were helpful and insightful. The exercises made me think and provided good feedback. Oh, and the food was delicious. I definitely think you ought to do other symposiums. Next time hopefully more Mayors will attend.  Thank you again for the invite and for facilitating the symposium. Bill Curtis, Mayor, Bay Head.”

Andrew Thompson, AIA, of AIA Newark and Suburban had much to offer the representatives from Somerdale, NJ.

Through design thinking exercises and brainstorming, the mayors and architects worked to define a problem or aspiration unique to the mayor’s community and then envisioned possible solutions. Each left with a resource to move the solution ideas forward. If your community is interested in a visioning session, please contact AIA New Jersey at and ask to make arrangements. 

Richard Gonzalez Architect, PLLC, shared examples of successful architect-led municipal and regional redevelopment from around the globe.


Ed Clerico, PE, the expert on High-Performance Decentralized Urban Water Infrastructure Practice, shared a variety of custom wastewater systems designed by his company.


For more information on why working with architects benefits civic leaders, you can read the following articles:

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