In recognition of Earth Day, the Ambasz Institute will host an annual keynote lecture to address the increasing challenges of living on a damaged planet. Addressing the climate crisis requires a momentous cultural shift. Tune in on Earth Day, enter into the conversation, and become part of the needed change.

Ambasz Earth Day Lecture 2024 with Maya Lin

In recognition of Earth Day, the Ambasz Institute hosts its annual keynote lecture to address the increasing challenges of living on a damaged planet and the momentous cultural shifts required by the climate crisis. We are honored to welcome Maya Lin as this year’s keynote speaker. The presentation is followed by a discussion moderated by Carson Chan.

Carson Chan, Director, Emilio Ambasz Institute for the Joint Study of the Built and Natural Environment

Keynote speaker
Maya Lin

Moderated by Carson Chan

Maya Lin interprets the natural world through science, history, and culture, to create works that have had a profound impact on how we view our history and how we relate to the natural world.

Nature is the context and the source of inspiration for Lin’s unique interdisciplinary vision. Her art explores how we experience and relate to the natural world, setting up a systematic ordering of the land that is tied to history, memory, time, and language, presenting us with new ways of seeing the natural world.

Her work asks the viewer to reconsider nature and the environment at a time when it is crucial to do so. A committed environmentalist, she is at work on her final memorial, What Is Missing?, a cross-platform, global memorial to the planet, which calls attention to the crisis surrounding biodiversity and habitat loss and emphasizes how nature-based solutions to climate change can both significantly reduce emissions and help protect and restore biodiversity.

Lin is a member of the Bloomberg Foundation and the What Is Missing? Foundation, and is a National Geographic Explorer-at-Large. In 2009 she was awarded the National Medal of Arts, the nation’s highest honor for artistic excellence, and in 2016 President Barack Obama awarded Lin the nation’s highest civilian honor, the Presidential Medal of Freedom, praising her for a celebrated career in both art and architecture, and for creating a sacred place of healing in our nation’s capital.

Ambasz Earth Day Lecture 2023 with Yasemin Kologlu

What if buildings could act like trees—capturing carbon, purifying the air, and regenerating the environment? Taking inspiration from nature, Urban Sequoia is a design concept that is buildable today—a project that can set the stage for a new carbon-removal economy and a resilient future for cities. Urban Sequoia encompasses every aspect of design and construction. It rethinks many of the common practices that architects have taken for granted for decades, and, therefore, requires us to reconsider the way we select materials, integrate technology, and design mechanical systems and structures.

Carson Chan, Director, Emilio Ambasz Institute for the Joint Study of the Built and Natural Environment

Keynote speaker
Yasemin Kologlu, Design Principal, Skidmore, Owings & Merrill (SOM)

Moderated by Octave Perrault

Yasemin Kologlu is a recognized leader in sustainable design and construction, playing a central role in Skidmore, Owings & Merrill (SOM)’s efforts to transform the building industry’s response to the climate crisis. She adopts a forward-thinking, holistic approach to her projects that integrates well-being, environmental design, and the latest material and building technologies. Over the past two decades, Kologlu has led projects that exemplify this approach in a range of scales and geographies, from research proposals developed for UN Climate Change Conferences to carbon-neutral districts. Among her most notable works is Urban Sequoia, a radical proposal for a carbon-sequestering high-rise, as well as the US Census Bureau Headquarters in Maryland, the JTI headquarters in Geneva, Paris’s first net-zero carbon district, and Karlatornet i in Gothenburg—the tallest tower in Scandinavia. Kologlu is a founder and leader of SOM’s Climate Action Group, which helped the firm achieve net-zero carbon emissions in its operations in 2022. As an advocate for equality and diversity in the profession, she serves on AIA New York’s Honors Committee. She also co-chairs the chapter’s Committee on the Environment, serves on the Carbon Leadership Forum NY Steering Committee, and regularly contributes to advisory groups shaping carbon and energy policies across New York.

Octave Perrault is the founder of Zeroth Systems, a startup developing advanced bioclimatic HVAC systems for architecture, based in Los Angeles. Prior to this venture, he co-led the curatorial project Cruising Pavilion (2018–20), practiced as an artist with the art collective åyr (2014–18), and studied architecture and sociology in London. His work has been shown at the Venice Architecture Biennale, the Stedelijk Museum, the Ludwig Museum, and Arkdes Swedish Design Museum, among others.

Ambasz Earth Day Lecture 2022 with Kunlé Adeyemi

Martino Stierli, Philip Johnson Chief Curator of Architecture and Design Carson Chan, Director, Emilio Ambasz Institute for the Joint Study of the Built and Natural Environment

Keynote speaker
Kunlé Adeyemi, Founder and principal, NLÉ

Moderated by Beatrice Galilee


Kunlé Adeyemi is an architect, professor, and development strategist whose works are internationally recognized for originality and innovation. He is the founder and principal of NLÉ, an architecture, design, and urbanism practice founded in 2010, which focuses on innovating cities and communities. Adeyemi’s notable works include Makoko Floating System (MFSTM), a prefabricated building solution for developments on water that is currently deployed in five countries on three continents, the most recent of which is Mansa Floating Hub in Sao Vicente, Cape Verde. This acclaimed project is part of NLÉ’s extensive body of work and the new venture Water Cities® Group and the African Water Cities Centre, which is focused on the intersections of rapid urbanization and climate change. Other projects include A Prelude to The Shed in New York, USA; the Black Rhino Academy in Karatu, Tanzania; and the Serpentine Summer House at the Royal Kensington Gardens in London, UK. Alongside his professional practice and multiple awards, Adeyemi is an international speaker and thought leader. He is one of UNDP’s Africa in Development Supergroup members. Adeyemi is currently an adjunct visiting professor at the University of Lagos—following appointments in various institutions, including Harvard, Princeton, Cornell, and Columbia universities—where he leads academic research in architecture and urban solutions that address societal, environmental, and economic needs.

Beatrice Galilee is a London-born curator, writer, and cultural advisor who is internationally recognized for her expertise in global contemporary architecture and design. She is the author of Radical Architecture of the Future (2021) and between 2014 and 2019 she served as the first curator of contemporary architecture and design at the Metropolitan Museum of Art. Currently living in New York, Galilee is cofounder and executive director of the World Around, a new platform for contemporary design and architecture that is in residence at the Guggenheim Museum. Galilee is a visiting associate professor at Pratt Institute, where she lectures on curating. She served as chief curator of the 2013 Lisbon Architecture Triennale, co-curator of 2011 Gwangju Design Biennale, and co-curator of the 2009 Shenzhen Hong Kong Bi-City Biennale of Architecture and Urbanism. Between 2010 and 2012 she launched and codirected the Gopher Hole, an experimental exhibition and project space in London. Between 2006 and 2009 she served the award-winning architecture editor of Icon magazine, one of Europe’s leading publications in architecture and design. A respected critic, her writing on contemporary design has been published in e-Flux, CNN Style, Vogue Italia, Art Review, Domus, Abitare, MARK, Tank, Pin-Up, Above, Building Design, Architectural Review, Architecture Today, RIBA Journal, Architect’s Journal, DAMn, Frame, Wallpaper, Another Magazine, and more.

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This series was made possible through a generous gift from Emilio Ambasz. The Emilio Ambasz Institute for the Joint Study of the Built and the Natural Environment is a platform for fostering dialogue, promoting conversation, and facilitating research about the relationship between the built and natural environment, with the aim of making the interaction between architecture and ecology visible and accessible to the wider public while highlighting the urgent need for an ecological recalibration.