About The AIAAbout The AIA
During the month of September, Jane Kolleeny, AIA consultant to the repositioning initiative, attended the AIA Arkansas, AIA North Dakota, AIA New York State, and AIA South Atlantic Regional conventions to discuss the AIA’s repositioning initiative.
The following key observations were documented during those meetings.
With respect to the repositioning, people continued to ask whether AIA can change, and questions came up about the degree of change the repositioning signals. People referenced several initiatives that occurred in the past and the lack of tangible results to show for them.
Role of the Architect
Conversations about project delivery continue to abound as they have throughout. This is a heated topic, going in all directions and a clear focus in the interviews overall.
Emerging Professionals and Schools
The AIA needs to start a relationship with students and young professionals in schools by connecting with the activities of AIAS and academics that teach the students and frequently don’t promote a practice culture or AIA affiliation.
The AIA also needs to establish connections earlier, supporting students when they need it most and suggest what they need to do after school to take the next step in their careers.
As younger architects mature their views change from a focus on “why” to a focus on “what’s in it for me.” This shift happens due to the practicalities of livelihood and surviving in a competitive environment. This suggests that architecture students are idealistic and their views change as their responsibility levels evolve during their career.
Young professionals feel that many students quit architecture school after freshman year because what they think architecture is, is vastly different than the reality. Although they felt that changing the public image will help with this, they also suggested that AIA might come into the schools, both high school and higher ed humanities programs, and describe the profession to both generate interest and tell it like it is, which AIAS already does to some degree in their locale. They also said there’s a huge disconnect between AIA and AIAS and that AIA members don’t support their activities. They feel the future is in the hands of AIAS.
Young professionals also focused on the importance of mentorship, including the difficulty in finding a mentor and the wish that AIA would help with this. The fear of leaving school and getting into the workplace and not having the skills necessary to do a good job is strong among the students interviewed.
Students referred to five organizations they must deal with—AIA, AIAS, NCARB, NAB, and ACSA. It’s not clear to them who handles what professional issues among these five and whether or not they collaborate. It’s hard for young professionals to keep track of what organization they should be going to for what element of their careers.
Role of the AIA
People continue to feel that the national AIA does not demonstrate its value to them, does not listen to them, and tries to do too many things superficially. They feel it’s easier to understand AIA’s value locally.
Architects agree strongly with the hypothesis that AIA national should make a case for the value of design to the public and that the image of the starchitect has worked against the profession by sending an inaccurate message. They also felt the image of architects using T-Square and a drawing board is outdated and naïve, and that the message should be more about architecture and less about the architect, which reinforces a self-centered notion.
Some feel the profession is backwards with respect to change, that we are doing pretty much the same thing now that we did in the mid-1980s except now we use computers. They feel the AIA should invest in research about efficient processes; for example the revolution FedEx triggered for deliveries or cell phones triggered for communication. They also feel that the construction industry is antiquated and AIA could lead (not do it themselves) a revolution in changing the industry’s delivery system, which is unlike any other and grossly out of date.
People felt that AIA national should continue to serve as a strong proponent of advocacy for architects with the government and broaden its relationships with affiliated associations, especially those representing contractors. We cannot go back to the master builder but surely we can maximize the opportunity available to professionals by working with contractors more closely and effectively. Architects need to stay relevant in today’s world of project delivery.
The issue of AIA’s ability to undertake collective bargaining on behalf of architects surfaced, particularly among small firms that don’t have the resources to do things on their own. It came up with reference to insurance—medical, life, liability—as well as BIM stations, marketing services, and resources architects need.
The issue of the Knowledge Communities came up, that AIA could be making better use of their journals, websites, and events in its programming. There are partnership opportunities here that are not being taken advantage of.
Discussions about the business of design came up, including suggestions recommending that clients and leaders in business strategy speak at conventions. Also, focusing on the challenges of small business owners would be relevant to members—how do you deal with workers comp, marketing, firm culture, legal issues, new legislation, how to use liability insurance—AIA should be leading that discussion. One CACE member felt that AIA is in danger of fragmenting into three organizations—one for young professionals with their priorities, one for people that didn’t know where to go, and another for the old guard architects.
Several felt AIA isn’t focused enough on design—not as an object but good design that is environmentally responsible and contextually appropriate. This would draw in the younger generation.
One person felt contract documents should be expanded beyond the architecture field to other fields, that it’s a missed profit opportunity.
There more complaints about the website and the feeling that the enormous resources that AIA national provides are not evident and being communicated to the members.
Learn more about the AIA’s repositioning initiative at www.aia.org/repositioning.