ARCHITECTURE LECTURE: ELIZABETH GRAY + ALAN ORGANSCHI
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For over 25 years, our practice at Gray Organschi Architecture has integrated design, fabrication, teaching, and environmental research. That work has embraced considerations and concerns that span material, building, and geographic scales and has been realized in architecture for individuals, families, institutions, and communities. Because of our origins as furniture- and cabinetmakers, wood—as both a finely-crafted and an industrially modified material—has been a significant focus. We’ve come to respect wood’s capacity to make beautiful and durable building solutions but we also see its enormous potential as a powerful tool to mitigate climate change. Since the industrial revolution our global mid and high-rise cities have been built with increasingly sophisticated mineral-based materials; materials extracted, smelted, sintered, or synthesized through intensive fossil-energy based industrial processes with significant environmental impacts. Predictions of dramatic global population growth and urbanization suggest that the demands for these materials and processes will rise sharply over the next 30-50 years, setting the stage for a massive global spike in greenhouse gas emissions associated with the construction of new buildings and infrastructure. Our Timber City Research Initiative offers an alternative. We can transform our dense urban centers from their current status as a significant source of greenhouse gas emissions into massive human-made carbon sinks through the broad implementation of mass timber and bio-based urban building and regulatory and economic policy that exploits the potential ecological and systemic synergies that tie urban timber building practice to the forests that are its source.
ABOUT ELIZABETH GRAY, FAIA
Elizabeth Gray is the founding partner and principal at Gray Organschi Architecture in New Haven, Connecticut, a firm recognized internationally for its innovative conception and careful crafting of architectural projects ranging from the adaptive re-use of damaged buildings and neighborhoods to the development and implementation of low-impact component assembly systems for ecologically delicate sites. Ms. Gray believes that Gray Organschi’s wide range of project types – from single family homes to institutional projects and bridges, all based in principles of regenerative building – is the foundation for the creative and productive cross-pollination of design and construction knowledge within the practice.
As founder of an architectural practice in the inner city, Ms. Gray has demonstrated her commitment to fusing design excellence with community engagement, providing volunteer and pro-bono services to programs in need, and working with organizations and institutions to delineate clear and achievable project goals. Her management of the design and construction administration process focuses on the timely delivery of buildings of the highest quality. Careful project research, frank and open conversation, and the clear presentation of options and opportunities have been a defining ambition and hallmark of her professional work.
In 2009, Ms. Gray and her partner Alan Organschi were recognized as an Emerging Voice by the Architectural League of New York. In 2012, Ms. Gray and Mr. Organschi were honored by the American Academy of Arts and Letters with an Arts and Letters Award in Architecture. The office’s design for an engineered timber little league baseball grandstand in Staten Island received the 2014 New York City Public Design Commission Award, and Ms. Gray’s leadership in that innovative project was recognized in the 2019 Women-Designed NYC program. She has served as the Louis I. Kahn Visiting Assistant Professor of Architecture at Yale, conducting graduate studios and seminars in timber technologies, and has also served as a visiting instructor at Yale teaching an advanced studio about the ways in which circular economic principles can influence design.
ABOUT ALAN ORGANSCHI
Alan Organschi is a principal and partner at Gray Organschi Architecture, an architectural practice in New Haven, Connecticut recognized internationally for its integration of design, construction, and environmental research. He is also the founder of the fabrication workshop and construction management firm JIG Design Build which in 2018 created the Ecological Living Module, a fully self-sustaining micro house for the United Nations Environment Program. As a member of the Senior Design and Technology Faculty at the Yale School of Architecture, Mr. Organschi directs the newly inaugurated Yale Building Project LAB, which conducts advanced research in the contemporary building sector, its global environmental impacts, and its potential to mitigate climate change through the adoption of bio-based building assemblies and circular economic construction practices. In addition to teaching at Yale, he currently serves for the 2019 and 2020 academic years as the Portman Critic at the Georgia Institute of Technology School of Architecture.
His ongoing research project, the Timber City Initiative, examines the application of emerging structural wood fiber technologies to the construction of global cities. Timber CIty has been awarded grants from the Hines Fund for Advanced Sustainability Research in Architecture, the US Forest Service Wood Innovation Grant program and the SITRA Finland innovation Fund for the Circular Economy. He has written and lectured extensively on the carbon storage benefits of biogenic material substitution in urban building and is a co-author of the upcoming book The Carbon Guidebook: A Field Manual For Building Designers and the website www.decarbonizedesign.com. In addition to features in numerous publications, Gray Organschi Architecture was recognized by the Architectural League of New York as an Emerging Voice in Architecture and has received American Architecture Awards for the Storage Barn in Washington, CT, the Common Ground High School in New Haven, and the Ecological Living Module at the United Nations General Assembly in Manhattan. In 2012, Mr. Organschi and his partner Elizabeth Gray were honored for their work with an Arts and Letters Award in Architecture by the American Academy of Arts and Letters.