About The AIAAbout The AIA
During the month of August, Jane Kolleeny, AIA consultant to the repositioning initiative, conducted 23 interviews about the repositioning with chapter executives, heads of Knowledge Communities (conducted in Seattle), emerging professionals, and a focus group of Seattle architects.
The following key observations were documented during those meetings.
Role of the AIA
- Some rural chapters feel the AIA focuses on East Coast and West Coast urban AIA chapters, and that the central area of the U.S. where architects practice in small markets in rural areas are invisible—thus the resources they need are not a priority.
- While many feel local chapters easily demonstrate their value, AIA national is in Washington and less visible to the members.
- Some feel AIA does not collaborate enough with allied organizations like ASLA, ASID, AGC, and USGBC. It’s said these organizations look to AIA for leadership.
- Climate change is the elephant in the room that’s not being addressed sufficiently.
- Often members don’t understand the value of AIA until they serve in a volunteer capacity and see all of the benefits and values available.
- Some feel the size of the AIA national board is huge and needs to trim down; at the same time, components feel the only representation they have on the board is their regional representations and they would not like to lose this representation.
- One emerging professional suggested AIA set up collective bargaining methods that would benefit the smaller firm that has fewer resources. Smaller firms have staffing needs: Why can’t AIA serve as a hub of communication for professionals to get the staff and intelligence they need when they need it? Why can’t AIA provide medical and other insurance for members? Why can’t AIA provide a period of free membership post-graduation while young architects get on their feet, thus ensuring a member’s commitment down the road?
- The idea of providing mentors, retired architects who have specialty skills, to offer their wisdom to young professionals trying to get started, came up.
- AIA could strengthen access to peer role models, showing examples of people doing it right—with respect to communications, relationship building, client appreciation, etc.
- The current strategy for programs in AIA is additive, adding on anything new to what already exists, resulting in huge fragmented resources with no direction or focus.
- On the one hand, those interviewed suggested the profession needs to become more comfortable with dissent, which will always be there. On the other hand, we have become so comfortable with the lack of consensus in the organization that we forget we have a problem, which we do.
- The topic of international practice came up. Several thousand members practice overseas but there is no way for international architects to get licensed. Also, international practice is a growth area but is not being sufficiently focused on to grow membership. Many overseas students come to be educated as architects in the U.S., return to their countries and disappear—can AIA somehow embrace those potential members?
- AIA does not provide ample attention or resources to small firms; the small firm round table is not enough.
- The logo, website, and general event venues/conventions of AIA do not appeal to the young, entrepreneurial, design-oriented professional. Why would an architect belong to an organization with such old-fashioned sensibilities? The website should display the best design work from its members as the key element of its home page, the logo should be more zoomy, and the events should be dynamic and of interest to young firms.
Role of the Architect
A focus on alternative delivery systems, liability, and a realistic picture of what architects can expect in the future for themselves would be highly advantageous. The issue of alternative practice schemes came up again as something the profession needs to embrace and accept and find a way to support. It’s the way of the future and not going anywhere.
Schools and Emerging Professionals
- Many young architects feel AIA membership is not essential; likewise, it’s easy for emerging professionals not to get licensed because there are easy ways to get around that.
- Young architects feel AIA should be visiting university campuses all the time, coming to lecture the students regularly for visibility, and to demonstrate relevance. They should follow that up with resources that graduating students need to transition into practice.
- If AIA presents itself to the student body, it makes itself a part of students’ worldview. When students graduate they need direction in leadership, getting a job, training for ARE, and developing business skills; AIA needs to be there when students need it most. If AIA can inculcate the value of membership during school, those students will develop a lifelong relationship with AIA.
- Architecture students are idealistic and their views change as their responsibility levels change during their career. While AIA may prepare itself to understand them when they are young, they also need to consider how their maturation changes their needs over time.
- Students should be trained in communication skills in school; this becomes such a valuable part of being an architect in the world, something they are thoroughly unprepared for when they leave school.
- Joining AIA can be the first opportunity a young professional has to get outside the realm of their firm, school, or geography. The networking and training possibilities are enormous.
- The need to embrace the broad spectrum of alternative career choices architects make came up again, an important emphasis that AIA can undertake.
Learn more about the AIA’s repositioning initiative at www.aia.org/repositioning.