About The AIAAbout The AIA
On April 6, 2012, Jane Kolleeny, AIA consultant to the repositioning initiative, interviewed six Grass Roots attendees about the AIA’s repositioning initiative.
The following key observations were documented during those meetings.
- Interviewees felt that the public perception of architects and architecture is not accurate.
- Architects are typically viewed as people who mock-up plans and blue prints. Their services are considered expensive. They place a high premium on their opinions and expertise, feeling their role is to interpret the client’s input and needs and tell them what they require.
- Architects view themselves as visionaries who work in collaboration with clients to help them realize their aspirations and provide creative solutions for an array of challenges that affect built environments.
- While “starchitects” take up the majority of the limelight, they do not represent the industry.
- AIA members hope that the AIA can raise awareness of the value of architecture and the multitude of ways in which it can serve the public, making architects seem more approachable and more likely to be top of mind for potential clients, regardless of project scale and budget. However, residential architects are more concerned with public awareness as their clients stem from this group whereas institutional and commercial architects feel less compelled to educate the public because their clients know they need them.
- Interviewees view the AIA as a professional organization that is the “voice of the architecture profession” that sets ideal standards for the industry. Its legacy and the vast wealth of expertise and experience of its members have positioned the AIA as the industry authority.
- The AIA has a very complex organizational structure that even its members find difficult to navigate. Members often express interest in access to certain types of information or services, only to find that those resources already exist—they are just difficult to find. Many architects that are connected with their local chapter and don’t really understand or value what AIA national does since they interact very little with them. Their appreciation is mostly local to their area.
- The AIA website is widely viewed as extremely difficult to use. Site visitors have trouble understanding how information is organized and many AIA members reported that it could take hours to find the information they sought.
- Architecture schools do not prepare students for the realities of the profession, and students lack the business skills necessary to contribute to a successful practice or to start their own. Many of the professors have never been practicing architects, nor are they licensed architects or AIA members. Their sense of the business of architecture is limited and, as a result, student training is limited. However, some architects felt the role of school is to inspire students in design and that internships in firms are a more appropriate venue to train emerging talent in the business skills they will need in the marketplace.
- Weak communication skills were cited as a problem among more established generations of architects as well. A couple interviewees stated that architects don’t write or speak well, and that the AIA could help provide more support in that realm.
- It is felt that it is imperative for AIA to engage younger audiences since the industry is graying and the “lost generation” has left a gap in the workforce that needs to be filled. However, there are few jobs available in this economy, limiting opportunities to place the future of the profession in the hands of new generations. One interviewee pointed out that this is a very opportune time to become an architect, since there will be a huge gap in the work force when the baby boomers.
- With respect to the issue of why former members of AIA drop out, most interviewees commented that they felt it related to the high price of dues. In addition, some members resign because of inflated expectations of what AIA can do for them. For example, they want AIA to get them work. Many interviewees agree that the networking opportunities AIA provides contribute to possible new work but AIA does not itself offer exposure to new clients as a rule.
Learn more about the AIA’s repositioning initiative at www.aia.org/repositioning.