Faculty members Aaron Cayer and Kathy Kambic selected to participate in American Roundtable initiative

June 8, 2020


The Architectural League of New York recently selected and commissioned ten editorial teams to prepare reports on small communities across the United States. Assistant Professor of Architecture Aaron Cayer and Assistant Professor of Landscape Architecture Kathleen Kambic will be participating. Kambic will be working alongside Ane Gonzalez Lara, a former architectural professor at UNM.

Nearly 125 submissions, representing 40 states and territories, were received in response to the League’s American Roundtable Call for Proposals. A Selection Committee of practitioners and academics from across the United States reviewed the proposals. The selected proposals represent a significant range of locales of diverse size, geography, economic condition, and culture.

Aaron Cayer and Kerri Arsenault will be studying the River Valley in Rumford, Maine. 

“Maine’s forest-dependent paper mill community, the River Valley, serves as a microcosm for working-class towns across America: beyond its abundant lakes, rivers, forests, and mountains, the community has, for decades, struggled to escape the vicious and entrapping cycles of resource extraction and abuse, labor exploitation, pollution, and corporate profiteering. This report will consider the challenges associated with machine age work in an age of post-industrialization by amplifying the concerns of the River Valley’s increasingly voiceless community and by celebrating its natural resources.”

a black and white photo of paper mill workers next to a color photo of smoke stacks

Left: Workers at the Oxford Paper Mill, Rumford, Maine, ca 1901

Ane González Lara and Kathleen Kambic will be focusing on the Lower Rio Grande Valley of New Mexico. 

“In this report, seven features coming from diverse voices will capture the challenges and potential of the lower Rio GrandeValley. These features will include personal narratives, stories, and constituents that historically haven’t been included in the main narrative of this area. The report will cover some of the leading issues that the region faces today, such as legacies of environmental racism, water scarcity, border security, indigenous rights, agricultural distress, and many more."

ovular water farms in the desert

Qualitas Health Farm, Colombus, New Mexico. Photograph by Qualitas Health, courtesy of Ane Gonzalez Lara
The reports have been commissioned as part of American Roundtable, a new Architectural League initiative that will bring together on-the-ground perspectives on the condition of American communities and what they need to thrive going forward.

Communities across America are being transformed by changing economic drivers; new patterns of mobility; legacies of environmental, racial, class, and spatial injustice; volatile and vitriolic politics coupled with chronic short-termism and near-sightedness; the impacts of climate change; and other forces. Yet our understanding of these small and mid-size communities is often reduced to caricature and oversimplification. The hope for American Roundtable is to highlight, in all their complexity and nuance, communities too often overlooked and to provide platforms for individuals and organizations to share their stories and work imagining, understanding, and improving their local built environments.