AIA New Jersey President Joshua Zinder, AIA, Address from The Board Recognition and Awards Dinner

July 20, 2021

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2021 AIA NJ President Joshua Zinder, AIA

AIA New Jersey President Joshua Zinder, AIA, Address from The 2021 Board Recognition and Awards Dinner

Welcome, friends! I am humbled and honored to be addressing you all tonight.

On March 11, 2020 while in transit back from a much-needed vacation I juggled a series of frantic phone calls with my partner and our IT team, to ensure our office would be able to go fully remote the next day. And, as it was for many of you, that was it. No more in-person gatherings: the world became one of Zoom, WebEx, and Teams meetings for everything from client calls to staff huddles, to the ever-important call to Mom. (Hi, Mom!)

Joshua Zinder with his family, L-R, mother Maine Zinder, sister Susan Zinder, and wife Advah Zinder.

But the pandemic did more than just separate us from each other physically and socially. Let us take a moment of silence to remember those we have lost over the last year and a half, and also in this moment think about how grateful we all are to be spending this special evening together after so long apart. [Pause] Thank you.

Tonight is a night to honor service and professional excellence, including those of our current and past trustees, board members, and presidents for their service to our chapter. In that vein, it is especially good to see past president Jerry Eben is here tonight. Jerry, we are all so glad you are feeling better and able to join us in celebration.

Three AIA NJ Past Presidents and AIA National Regional Representatives: Jerome Leslie Eben, FAIA, seated, with Robert Cozarelli, FAIA on the left and Bruce D. Turner, AIA, on the right.

I would also like to congratulate all of tonight’s honorees. The awards we present tonight for service and design illustrate a commitment to the profession that elevates all of us.

I would also like to ask all of the FAIA members present to stand up, if you would. For a lifetime of service and commitment to architecture and design, you deserve to be recognized – please, a round of applause for our Fellows.

I’m not sure what my parents saw in me that inspired them to give me a box of wood, a hammer, nails, and a saw for my fourth birthday. Not only was I very young,
but I had also just given my older brother a black eye. But they did, and it put me on a path that has brought me here today.

Josh in 1973.

My father in particular foresaw that I would wind up starting my own business, long before I could have imagined the thought of starting my own practice. As far back as my high school days he was offering the kind of advice that resonates loudest with me now…

 Learn what you do well and find others who can do the rest.
 Find good people to collaborate and partner with.
 Treat your employees like you would want to be treated. because without them you could not do what you love.
 Remember you are only as good as those that represent you.

I could go on, but the essence of it is good relationships, partnerships, and collaboration. I owe it to my father that when my friend and Syracuse classmate Mark Sullivan suggested working together, I was able to see the possibilities. Together Mark and I have built a firm that is much more than either of us could have achieved on our own.

Mark, please accept my gratitude for all your hard work and insight, and for making it possible through continued support to take on this position of chapter leadership.

Likewise, to everyone on the JZA+D team, I owe you a debt for the extra effort you put in each day, and for exceeding our expectations. Today, as every day, I look forward to working with you all.

Lori Lee, Laura Slomka and Lisa Jones, our excellent PSI Professional Managers.

As president, I was tasked to envision a direction for the chapter for my year-long term.  A year is a short period of time – and this one is already half over. But like you all I believe in the power of our profession to make a difference and I hope that these planks of my platform, as it were, will resonate with you well into the future:

  1. We must rebuild and recover. Working in our communities with renewed confidence, we should strive to transition to a future where people feel safe in their built environments. The webinar series on post-pandemic design organized by Stacey Kliesch was a great example of a way to communicate with each
    other and the public in support of this goal.
  2. We must redouble efforts to mentor emerging professionals and support the development of their careers, to help grow the statewide pool of talented and committed architects. The New Jersey EPIC committee exemplifies this effort among aspiring architects – if you’re not aware of the work they’ve been doing I recommend learning more.
  3.  We must foster equity in our profession, at all levels. There has been progress for women and communities of color recently, but more progress is urgently needed and talk only goes so far. Our firm, JZA+D, will be sponsoring a scholarship for the next five years, for New Jersey architecture students attending Syracuse University. The goal is to provide learning opportunities to aspiring architects who may not otherwise have them, and to build a more equitable profession, a goal that will benefit us all.
  4. We must become advocates for the change we want to see. As creative, educated, and highly organized professionals, we tend to be adept at planning, project management, and problem-solving. As such each of us can and must apply ourselves individually, leveraging our talents and skillsets to make an impact in NewJersey and beyond – whether through volunteerism with an existing organization, or taking the initiative to create and launch campaigns, or holding events like Sukkah Village this coming fall. where Architects and architecture will be the centerpiece to bring attention to hunger, homelessness, refuges, sustainability, and affordable housing in the state.
  5.  Finally, as a profession, we must make a difference. No one knows better than we do how the design of built space can have a positive impact on our state and our communities. This year I have committed myself and my firm to addressing New Jersey’s missing-middle housing gap, in our firm’s work for developer clients as well as writing and speaking on the topic. Your issue may be decarbonizing construction, or occupant wellbeing, or something else entirely. Whatever it is, push hard. Get your message out, and whenever possible bring stakeholders to the table and get them to listen to you.

Okay, enough lecturing.

the AIA NJ 2021 Board, L-R: YARD Matthew Pultorak, AIA; RAD Libertad Lauren Harris, Associate AIA; Strategic Council Representative Michael Hanrahan, AIA; Treasurer Abigail Benjamin, AIA; Secretary Manuel Pereiras, AIA; President Joshua Zinder, AIA; Vice President Brian Penschow, AIA; and Immediate Past President Steven Lazarus, AIA

Before I finish, I’d like to thank all the members of the AIA New Jersey Board of Directors, for all your hard work; Joe Simonetta and the entire staff at PSI, for your constant support; the team here at Jansa Polana, for a lovely evening; and last, but certainly not least, my family. Some of you are here tonight, others are scattered across the country – thank you with all my heart for putting up with my frequent absences, and my obsession over…well, everything.

Thank you all so much. Enjoy dinner and the evening.

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