The Annual 2012

School of Visual Arts

Conversation Starters

Molly Heintz, Aileen Kwun, Avinash Rajagopal and Vera Sacchetti

“We wanted to do something that engaged the larger public,” says Molly Heintz (MFA 2011 Design Criticism), “so we came up with the idea of having a book club in a public space. We liked the idea of a ‘public club’ that anyone could join, one that would be focused on architecture and design topics, and we decided to have a special guest speaker at every meeting.”

Recalling the genesis of the Architecture and Design Book Club (ADBC), which launched August 2011, Heintz explains, “We all come from different backgrounds—Aileen Kwun from book publishing, Avinash Rajagopal from industrial design, Vera Sacchetti from graphic design, and my background is in magazine publishing and communications. Having gotten to know each other at SVA, we felt we had complementary experience and voices. And our first project was so successful and fun that we said, ‘Hey, maybe we’re onto something.’”

First up for discussion was Manhattan’s High Line park and William Whyte’s The Social Life of Small Urban Spaces (1980). Naturally, the park furnished the setting as well as the topic. “Discussion of the book, its implications for today’s urban planning, and a comparative analysis of Whyte’s ‘pocket plazas’ and the meandering High Line was rich enough to sustain the interest of professionals in the field,” says MFA Design Criticism Department Chair Alice Twemlow, “but approachable enough that passersby sat down and joined us.”

“I think ADBC is a testament to the kind of proactive engagement that D-Crit fosters,” Heintz says, using the familiar name for the program, “whether it’s through writing criticism or creating new forums for critical thinking and conversation. Alice Twemlow and the faculty are very encouraging and supportive, and truly, by the end of our time at D-Crit, I think the four of us felt like we could do anything.”