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Take Five: Connecting in 2012

A new year brings fresh opportunities for architects.

By Robert Ivy, FAIA

At the start of a new year, let me set out a vision for you of what the AIA can become. Call it my personal view of architecture and the AIA, based on nine months experience in Washington and a realization based on need.

Our world needs architects. The recent months of constricted credit and wariness by investors have produced enormous pent-up demand for projects in this country. Think of the housing that has gone unbuilt, yet our society requires humane places to live across the economic scale. Think of the schools to meet the requirements for another generation that is approaching school age. Think of the rehabilitation of our cities, of individual buildings that need to shine, be smarter, and take on new uses. Think of the structures that are waiting to be built—smarter, more sustainable, with minimized energy dependence and greater integration into the social fabric. Architects can fulfill all those needs, and we will.

In one area alone, health and well-being, an emerging century will look to architects and their skills to construct not only buildings, but whole communities, that encourage healthy living. Design for health will become a mantra that outstrips energy conservation, because it encompasses more. Architects will meet that challenge because we have to and our society will demand it.

Here is where the AIA comes in. I’ve seen this organization, which is made up of you the members, organize to answer those challenges and more. In this past year alone, we sponsored America’s Design and Health Initiative, bringing together leading thinkers and health practitioners to advance the discussion. We have provided seed money for a film series starring our former national board member, the eminent Dr. Richard Jackson, which will air this year (see trailer). Look for it on your local public television station.

We recognize that knowledge is gaining in importance in the new century, and consequently, AIA is launching new knowledge communities. In 2011, we launched the Custom Residential Architects Network (CRAN) knowledge community, and are anticipating two new communities for 2012. Collectively, those organizations, moderated and facilitated by staff, engage thousands of architects who gather in real places (at live gatherings, such as the Committee on Design Conference trip to Japan last year) and in virtual space, such as AIA KnowledgeNet, to talk about the subjects they know and care about. The world’s body of knowledge grows as a result. Furthermore, we are putting emphasis on continuing education, on its quality and substance, and have created digital means to keep up with your credits. AIA Discovery gives you a simple way to find, in one place, what you have studied, and you are studying more than the base requirements for registration.

Young architects and architects-to-be, particularly hard hit by the brutal economy, have found support at their local chapters, which have held job fairs and coaching sessions, as well as mentorship outside the formal IDP program. We are going to need this new generation to join us in setting new agendas, planning and constructing a new world, and will need to work to encourage them toward licensure at a time that gaining credit has been almost impossible.

In plain fact, we need each other at all levels of this organization. Whether in the local chapter meeting (where we might meet clients or even find out about a new job), or nationally (where we have created a database of projects stalled by lack of financing and then matching those projects to investors), we cooperate daily to advance the built environment. It takes all of us.

We need each other, wherever we live. Architects, both those trained abroad and those trained in this country, and architectural companies now routinely practice outside the continental United States, and increasingly they are turning to the AIA to help provide the grounding and the resources that can help them when they are far away from home. Our network has, by necessity, grown global.

And we need clients and relationships with the larger public: No one can make a building or a project without them. In the coming months and years, we are committed to communicating the value of design beyond the borders of the profession. The public has become increasingly educated and wants to know more, and an educated public will produce better projects and better cities. The AIA continues to see many successful events at the local level from conferences, to openings of new Design Centers, and creative educational programs that routinely bring in the crowds. The national organization allows us to extend our reach beyond the local level.

While I always knew it intellectually, the past year has proven that we need each other. At whatever position within our practices, at whatever age or level of professional development, at whatever level of engagement, through our association in the AIA, we can build a network of people and resources that point the way to a better future, not only for ourselves, but for the world we are committed to serving.

The way forward is connection, not isolation. While passing through the narrow economic straits of significant change, it may be tempting to shut down, or even to point fingers (witness our Congress). However, we architects can remain in touch through this wonderful alliance called the AIA, meeting and discussing the issues that matter, communicating, and breaking down barriers.

We have much to do in the coming months and years, but strong and relevant opportunities await us. In this safe space, where we can leave the weapons of competition and politics at the front door, we can walk inside, work things out together, dream, and plan. My vision for us all includes a vibrant network, pulsing with energy, fueling our growth, and translating our energy and ideas into action. Happy 2012.

   
   


Robert Ivy, FAIA

Photography by Noah Kalina

     
 

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