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Daniel Toole, Assoc. AIA shares his research on vibrant alleys

AIA Seattle: Facilitating Policy Innovation

By Tatyana Brown, Manager, Public Policy

The AIA’s Cities as a Lab initiative taps the power of design to build next-generation economies through livable, thriving communities. With cities’ need for cross-cultural solutions, architects are increasingly seeking global experience. AIA Seattle Executive Director Lisa Richmond shares local successes on advancing design and policy innovation through the Emerging Professionals Travel Scholarship:

How does the program work, Lisa?

We started an annual $5,000 scholarship in 2009, which sponsors research by emerging professionals who graduated from an architecture program in the last seven years. Finalists travel both nationally and abroad to find inventive solutions for our design challenges in Seattle and the Pacific Northwest.

Can you tell us about the kind of work it sponsors?

Projects focus on our need for thriving, resilient urban environments. Last year Sarah Snider, Assoc. AIA investigated strategies to support families with children who wish to live in urban settings. Joe Mayo, Assoc. AIA did a project in 2011 exploring sustainable high-rise wood construction. In 2010 Daniel Toole, Assoc. AIA studied cities that are transforming their alleys into unique, vibrant spaces. This year’s work by David Dahl, Assoc. AIA and the work of Cristina Bump, Assoc. AIA in 2009 are addressing Seattle’s evolving challenges as a waterfront community.

What impact has the program achieved? How is it evolving?

The research completed by these young professionals has had a tremendous impact. Through publication, exhibits, and presentations, they have inspired changes in our land use codes, influenced the ecological design of our new seawall, and spurred a reevaluation of some of our building codes. The program helped us strengthen partnerships with city leaders; for example, in early April we held a conference with the Seattle Planning Commission on family-friendly downtown design. This year a taskforce at AIA Seattle will take the program a step further by establishing formal pathways for connecting our researchers with municipal agencies.

What policies and initiatives can we implement to advance design innovation? Tell us how others can replicate your ideas, plans, and successes.

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This content is published by the AIA Government and Community Relations Department, 1735 New York Ave., NW, Washington, DC, 20006. To contact the AIA’s Government & Community Relations team, send an email to


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