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I updated this piece, originally published in the New York Times in 2015 It is Memorial Day weekend, and I’m feeling hopeful. On my run this morning I could smell the spring bloom mixed with May showers. I’m grateful that we no longer need to wear a mask outdoors. Cautiously, we are emerging from the isolation and pain of the last year, still unable to fathom the deaths of over 50,000 people in our own city.  The pandemic forced us to work from home and communicate digitally. With technology, flexibility, and patience our team was able to start the renovations of two synagogues, oversee the […] Read More

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Published in The Jewish Week Friday night. We are standing in a paved plaza beside Riverside Drive; the air is crisp, the fresh snow is sparkling like diamond dust in the setting sun. We are six feet apart and masked (I can’t wait for this combined phrase to become obsolete). We join the Chazzan, chanting the Jewish Friday evening prayer, welcoming the Sabbath as the sun disappears over the Hudson river. “Come my beloved towards your bride to welcome the Sabbath.”  Suddenly I’m choked up, no longer able to sing. My eyes fill with tears and emotions. I have sung […] Read More

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On January 21 President Joe Biden released the National Strategy for the COVID-19 Response and Pandemic Preparedness. In this document, he calls for a collaborative effort in which “federal government works with states, cities, Tribal communities, and private industry to increase supply and administer testing and the vaccines that will help reopen schools and businesses safely.” He continues to promise that “Equity will also be central to our strategy”. He acknowledges the great challenge but says he believes “that a true national strategy will take all of us working together.” Biden links collaboration with gender and racial equity, and his […] Read More

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What can we learn from the Covid 19 pandemic about the housing crisis, urban resilience, and the importance of community? “If we learned anything during this pandemic it is that humanity is deeply intertwined. We thrive together and we fall ill together. The pandemic has also exposed the inequities in our society. It is unacceptable that the communities that kept our city working – frontline and essential workers – also suffer the most and received the least support.” I wanted to share my 15-minute video in which I discuss this issue and propose creating affordable micro-homes in the vacant floors of Manhattan luxury condominiums. I’d love […] Read More

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Is your building immoral? You are probably thinking that this is a silly question; buildings are inanimate structures and morality is the uniquely human capacity for judgment and empathy. So, how could a building be measured by moral standards? How could it have, or lack, values? Let me share an example. Just a few weeks ago a new sign with a large capital letter D was posted in my apartment building entry. I found out that a new local law (33/95) requires every building over 25,000 square feet to post its Energy Star Score.  Nearly 70% of greenhouse emissions in […] Read More

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I was recently confronted with an ethical dilemma that I did not know how to address. Yes, it was one of those small, somewhat privileged dilemmas, but nevertheless, I would really like to hear your thoughts on this question (join the conversation on Facebook). Last week, a friend who is a real estate broker called me. She had a potential client who was considering buying an apartment in need of renovation.  She asked if I would be willing to meet this buyer to discuss the renovation design process and costs. Coincidentally, we are doing a large renovation in this exact […] Read More

"While the school managed a swift response to the sudden and unprecedented circumstances of the coronavirus that spring, administrators recognized it was necessary to plan for the fall of 2020. Accordingly, the school convened a collaborative team of administrators, facility managers, architects, mechanical engineers, graphic designers and medical experts in preparation for the eventual reopening of the school buildings. " Read More

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"For this reason, I am making a pledge, and I hope others will join. If I receive funding from the CARES Act PPP that allows me to keep my staff on payroll for the next two months, my firm will dedicate a significant portion of the additional work time toward architectural work that does good for the world.” Read More

Originally published on Archinect “At the end of February, a surprising decision by a state judge revoked the approval for the top 20 floors of 200 Amsterdam Avenue, a market-rate, luxury, residential building on the Upper West Side in New York.  “The developers amassed air rights, using a zoning loophole to create a 39-sided lot. While the city clarified that these zoning lots will no longer be allowed, it nevertheless sided with the developer to challenge this ruling. Despite the zoning gerrymandering that went into the design and approval of the 52-story building, few would have imagined that after receiving the required […] Read More

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"Here is my provocative proposal. Instead of removing the upper floors of 200 Amsterdam, we should convert part of the building into affordable housing. Let the developer keep the top floors, which include two large duplex penthouses priced at over $40 million dollars apiece. In return, let the city or a nonprofit reclaim the bottom 20 floors for low- and middle-income families." Read More

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Published: Yale Paprika In this interview, Miriam Dreiblatt speaks with founder of Studio ST Architects Esther Sperber on the challenges of designing religious spaces that promote serenity and connection while maintaining a high level of security. Sperber aims to design sacred spaces that foster a sense of community and belonging while being mindful of prayers and their individual spiritual needs. Sperber further discusses the impact of the concern and need for increased safety measures in synagogue architecture. These measures culturally informed and therefore take different forms, ranging from gates and police cars surrounding the site to hidden cameras and security […] Read More

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Our profession has suffered from a biased image of The Architect. Whether consciously or unconsciously, the architect is most often seen as male, independent, educated, white and secular. This architect could rationally analyze any building program, study the urban fabric of any place and produce a building to meet the needs of any client. He is a kind of ‘archetypal’ human, able to respond to any ‘typical’ client, with standard ergonomic proportions and known needs. Of course, to a certain degree, this is a gross and inaccurate accusation of our field. Many architects are deeply attuned to the particularities, or […] Read More

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Esther Sperber was a guest speaker on Archinect’s podcast, Archinect Sessions, where she spoke about mental health in architecture. This discussion looks at the prevalence of mental health issues in creative industries and provides advice on learning how to empathize, managing stress, and seeking professional treatment. The full episode is also on other streaming platforms through Archinect. Read More

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Originally published: Lilith Magazine Esther Sperber reviews Daphne Merkin’s memoir, This Close to Happy: A Reckoning with Depression. ‘The Melancholic displays something else besides which is lacking in mourning—an extraordinary diminution in his self-regard, and impoverishment of his ego on a grand scale. … a delusion of (mainly moral) inferiority is completed by sleeplessness and a refusal to take nourishment, and – what is psychologically very remarkable – by an overcoming of the instinct which compels every living thing to cling to life … the self reproaches are reproaches against a loved object which have been shifted away from it […] Read More

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Originally published in Ms. Magazine “I am sitting on the carpeted floor in our local Barnes & Noble and looking through Ivanka Trump’s new book, Women Who Work. (I can’t bring myself to buy it.) Trump tells us that her book is a “manual for architecting the life you want to live,” and she uses architectural metaphors throughout the book—urging women to “plot a plan for success” so that “your life’s blueprint reflects your foundational values.” “As an architect, I love the way architectural terms quietly sneak into everyday language. Perhaps because dwelling and shelter are among the most primal of human […] Read More

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Originally published on Huffington Post “I alone can fix this” Trump promised during the 2016 Republican convention, but his first 100 days may have taught him that governing is a collaborative project and even a president cannot fix things alone. “Trump joins a long western tradition that idealizes the genius who works alone in business, science and art. Architects have embraced this Romantic archetype of the lone, most likely male, creator. But on May 20th the Pritzker Prize, which is considered the highest award in architecture, will be given for the first time to a team of three architects, Rafael […] Read More

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What is a home? Is it a place or an idea? Is our home the destination we yearn for on a long journey, or the childhood origin from which we travel? The home structures the way that we live and is structured by the cultural norms around us. And yet as these homes we inhabit create the necessary environment for dwelling and for Bachelard’s “daydreaming,” they also inhibit other forms of domesticity. It is only in the estrangement that is created by art, the shock of the uncanny, and the awareness of our embodied reaction to our dwellings, that we […] Read More