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Candidates for AIA National Office Address Emerging Professionals’ Questions

Elections for the Institute’s next first vice president/president-elect, vice presidents, and secretary will be held in May at the AIA 2012 National Convention in Washington, D.C. In advance of these elections, young practitioners from the Young Architects Forum and Associate members from the National Associates Committee compiled the following questions on the changing role of emerging professionals in architecture. In order of elected office, each candidate responded, explaining their vision for the future of the AIA.

Listen to each candidate’s speech at the 2012 AIA Grassroots Leadership and Legislative conference.

2013 First Vice President/2014 President-elect

Helene Combs Dreiling, FAIA (AIA Blue Ridge) responses:

1. How do you see young architects and emerging professionals influencing and advancing the future of the profession?

We are at a unique place in the history of this profession, where the knowledge and expertise held by incoming professionals is of greater value than ever before, particularly in the use of graphics programs, social media, and other emergent technologies in architectural practice. Seasoned professionals must now realize that emerging professionals and young architects have valuable skill sets that can be beneficial to them individually and to firms collectively.

This does not even take into account their potential to influence and advance our organization overall, drawing upon these same skills and talents. However, in order for them to take that prominent place in our profession's future, we must protect our emerging professionals in order to assure their ongoing health and vitality. And … they need to still be around! The profession and organization should recognize how many architectural interns and young architects were ‘lost’ in the last recession and assure that we do not let that talent gap occur again.

Not long ago, many members of our profession attained licensure and never looked back. Thankfully, that aspect of our professional culture has shifted … and this attitude towards future architects has greatly diminished in recent years. Why? Because this generation of emerging professionals has so much they can teach the veterans of the profession!

2. With the recession threatening the foundation of our profession, what are some measures the AIA can take to guide architectural practice toward more stable ground?

Our greatest hope for guiding "practice toward more stable ground" is public awareness. Consistently when asked what the AIA can do for them, members state that we need to elevate the public’s appreciation for architecture and enhance their awareness of the value architects bring to communities. Most often, these same members believe this should be THE top priority for the AIA. Supporting initiatives and programs that place architects ‘front and center’ - to business owners, government leaders, and the greater public - should be among the AIA’s most important emphases.

Ultimately, however, the individual architect must be able to demonstrate his or her value directly to others in the public realm. Initiatives such as Regional and Urban Design Assistance Teams (R/UDATs), Sustainable Design Assessment Teams (SDATs), Citizen Architect, disaster assistance, and Blueprint for America are perfect opportunities for architects to ‘strut their stuff’ - meaningfully demonstrating to the public the value architects bring to any design challenge. An additional benefit to these initiatives is that they are nationally-driven but locally-beneficial. Budgets for these highly-engaging programs were reduced several years ago, but thankfully have been somewhat restored just recently. Alternative means to keep the programs robust (such as charging a municipality for a R/UDAT, for example), or to equip our members to excel in these public forums, is something upon which the AIA should concentrate. In this way, we can help ensure that the faces and voices of architects are more often in the public's view … all across this country.

3. With architects serving a decreasing percentage of society, how do you see the cultural change of the profession happening?

In order to assure our relevance - even necessity - to our greater society, we will have to make a significant shift in our own professional culture. We must stop seeing ourselves so narrowly and expand of our characterization of architecture as a discipline and architects as professionals.

Prior to and during his presidency in 2002, Gordon H. Chong, FAIA emphasized the ‘redefinition of the profession,’ encouraging us to consider expanding “upstream” and “downstream” (on either end of “mainstream”) to embrace practice opportunities beyond design/bid/build. We should have listened more closely to his urgings; we would be in a much different place now if we had done so in a more prepared and purposeful way, rather than reacting to the conditions of a dreadful economy.

The profession of architecture as broadly defined (not just private practice as narrowly defined) will be changed forever when we enter an economic recovery, but not one of can predict exactly how much things will be different. What we can do is prepare our members to flourish when the rebound occurs. In order to do so, we will need to make sure they are proficient in design, as ever, but also skilled in technology, savvy in business, and expert in change.

4. The AIA would like to expand its “tent” to include non-traditional practitioners. What elements of the institute do you feel would most appeal to these potential members?

As an architect who has flowed between mainstream and alternative practice for my entire career, this is a subject that is near and dear to my heart. We have seen that as alternative career options for architectural graduates, interns, and practitioners continue to be more lucrative financially (especially in the wake of this recession), an increasing number of professionals will elect to take a non-traditional route. The AIA needs to assure that we remain relevant and essential to these individuals even as they enter alternative careers, so that they do so as architects AND as AIA members.

Architects are indeed educated and trained to be doing the very work others have ‘taken away’ from us, but most of us are too risk-averse. Programs and initiatives to elevate members’ comfort level would be well received, and would exhibit the AIA's responsiveness to an expanded practice culture. For example, the AIA could develop a series of workshops-in-a-box for local and state component use, to offer professional development programs in specialized fields (often in concert with the appropriate knowledge community), such as construction management, fund-raising, facility management, building commissioning, technical writing, and many other expanded practice areas.

5. As we know, Qualifications Based Selection (QBS) is the predominant method for selection of architectural firms to perform public works at the state and federal levels. With strongly qualified firms gaining more public work experience through time, which avenues are available for talented young architects with smaller firms to compete with older firms and break into the public works market? How is AIA supporting young firms who seek to do work in the public sector?

Very few projects these days are awarded to an individual practitioner or a single firm. A formalized 'mesh-working' relationship, such as a partnering arrangement or strategic alliance, offers the perfect opportunity for emerging professionals to get their foot in the door within a particular project or building type. As architectural projects become more complex and/or specialized, the need grows for teams comprised of multi-faceted and multi-disciplinary individuals. Emerging Professionals should use the AIA as a networking forum to become better acquainted with the architects they admire … and seek out opportunities to ally.

The best chance a young architect has to align as an essential professional with one of these teams is, first and foremost, to be bold enough to ASK. Inquire with an architecture firm you admire to see if you can be a part of the team. Also, a great way to be included is to possess a unique talent that will accrue to the team's benefit or otherwise complement the rest of the skills represented by the group. Such expertise could encompass speaking a foreign language, being a talented delineator, having technical writing ability, or understanding building construction, as examples. To appeal to the governmental entity itself, even more specialized skills that would be considered valuable might include possessing particular financial acumen, knowing capital outlay requirements, or understanding the way the general conditions are intended to work. (No, these aren't too sexy but they are definitely very necessary …)

6. With AIA membership trending towards attrition, how does the AIA become more relevant to the next generation of architects?

As with every generation in the history of our discipline, the youngest members of our professional family are the ones who are suffering the most during these difficult economic times. We must continue to nurture our future professionals and ‘newest’ architects through our own enhanced support to the AIAS, NAC and YAF through the Council of Emerging Professionals. In other words, we must begin to 'think like they do' and follow their direction on certain topical issues and attitudes.

For example:

    Diversity: This set of professionals hardly thinks about diversity, because they already represent a greater cross-section of the population in terms of gender, race, ethnicity, and other factors; they look for inclusiveness in the overall organization.

    Engagement: Younger generations are more socially responsible, so they expect their professional society to support those who are civically engaged and community-minded.

    Recognition: They believe our awards programs do not adequately reflect all of our values to the public. Projects that are awarded, in addition to being singularly sculptural, should respond to the client's needs, demonstrate solid building performance, respect their context, and enhance the community.

    Courage: This segment of our membership expects the AIA to take a stand on causes and issues to which we are committed, and not be timid about standing up for what is right for the profession overall.

*****

2013 First Vice President/2014 President-elect

Peter G. Kuttner, FAIA (Boston Society of Architects/AIA) responses:

1. How do you see young architects and emerging professionals influencing and advancing the future of the profession?

I am tremendously optimistic about the commitment I encounter in AIAS, NAC, and YAF, in new young staff in our practice, and the students I know through the Boston Architectural College. While the past several years have been a crisis period, the young associates and architects I’ve worked with on the AIA Board have been critical to broadening the definition of where the AIA needs to grow as an institution.

The EP stakeholder group, as defined by Council of Emerging Professionals, is as large, if not larger, than the current membership. Over the past decade, the Associate Membership has grown at twice the rate of the traditional membership. While partly a result of obstacles to licensure, it also represents young professionals in alternative and non-traditional roles. This influx of ideas and energy, if promoted and nurtured by the AIA, will be critical as we hope to reposition the AIA and the profession moving forward.

New generations are bringing new skills in communication, social networking, and mastery of technology, while still eager to learn about the craft and the business of the profession. At the YAF Summit20 it was dramatic to see the convergence of critical issues – a focus on the value of design, economy and change, the value of licensure, and career advancement, are common issues across generations. The transfer, and redefinition, of leadership in the profession must come from a combination of mentorship and opportunity offered by current professionals, in ways that are not always comfortable or familiar, but exciting for the future.

2. With the recession threatening the foundation of our profession, what are some measures the AIA can take to guide architectural practice toward more stable ground?

The impact of this recession has been so great that the focus of AIA to guide architectural practice has to take place at all component levels, from national, to state, to local chapters. To date, AIA has been quick to address this issue, though the extent of the problem has been greater than we ever guessed, and the efforts at both national and local levels were not always coordinated. Nationally the “Renew and Rebuild” program began to address the supply of work, encouraging the stimulus proposals, the “Rebuild Main Street” advocacy approach helped with legislative efforts, and lately the “Stalled Projects” database has attempted to get yet more work back in the pipeline.

Local components originally turned to services developed in the 1991 recession, with resume services, portfolio reviews, job boards, and access to computers, printers, and copiers. Faced with losing another generation of architects, chapters across the country recognized (as exemplified by New York’s NBAU program) that this was Not Business As Usual. Mentoring programs, leadership workshops, networking events, community design resource centers, have rippled through chapters across the country, to give young professionals and endangered firms an opportunity to continue to grow and possibly find work.

We still have much to do to coordinate and communicate the myriad of ideas and programs developed through the schools, AIAS, NAC, YAF, and AIA, as well as the more than 200 chapters. We are not short on ideas, but we need to cull the best practices and share them.

3. With architects serving a decreasing percentage of society, how do you see the cultural change of the profession happening?

The issue of cultural change in the profession is of critical importance, but first I’d like to question the assumption leading into this question. While I agree regarding the trend towards attrition in practitioners, as noted in question 6, I do not believe the profession is serving a decreasing percentage of society. We have long lamented the fact that architects directly design less than 10% of the built environment, but today other forces have combined to engage our profession in ever more aspects of the building industry.

Today, the increasing complexity of buildings, more sophisticated codes, owner interest in LEED or other certifications, construction issues in dense urban settings, the increase in renovation work as our cities age, architect involvement in pre-design and post-occupancy work, government and client commitment to IPD, university curriculum and community design center pro-bono work, and non-profit and NGO involvement in building projects, have all extended the reach of architects “serving” society. It is the definition of serving that needs to expand.

I believe the real cultural change we need to promote is the shift away from our own preoccupation with design and buildings as commodities. The tradition of building as object, and the stereotype of a structure as an architect’s personal monument, continues to holds us back in the public’s perception. We’ve long talked about architects themselves in a wider range of alternative roles, but we also need to recognize and promote the wider range of roles all architects can provide for all clients and users.

4. The AIA would like to expand its “tent” to include non-traditional practitioners. What elements of the institute do you feel would most appeal to these potential members?

I strongly agree with the desirability of a “larger tent “ for the AIA, but the issue is still contentious with membership. The question is often phrased as the difference between the “American Institute of Architects” or the “American Institute of Architecture.” While we are increasingly attracting architects in non-traditional roles, in the past we have had setbacks in broadening our tent with international membership and non-licensure track associates, to name a few.

My own first elected involvement with the AIA began chairing the membership committee of the Boston Society of Architects, and continued a focus on membership when I was on the BSA Board as Commissioner of Chapter Affairs. At the BSA we have long had experience with the big tent – we are the largest chapter in the AIA only because of our large number of student, associate, and allied membership. It is precisely our inclusion of a diverse mix that enlivens the camaraderie of the organization.

As for attracting this wider range, I believe we do our best when we prove we can leverage the power of each individual to have a far greater impact on the profession and on society. Too much focus on specific individual member trade organization-type benefits runs counter to the goal of attracting a diverse membership. However, energized, talented, and focused practitioners, from all backgrounds, who want to make a difference, can engage with the AIA in programs tailored to the needs of society, where each member contributes in their own unique way.

5. As we know, Qualifications Based Selection (QBS) is the predominant method for selection of architectural firms to perform public works at the state and federal levels. With strongly qualified firms gaining more public work experience through time, which avenues are available for talented young architects with smaller firms to compete with older firms and break into the public works market? How is AIA supporting young firms who seek to do work in the public sector?

This question recognizes an unfortunate conundrum. The AIA is rightly proud of its success in promoting QBS for public work, when the only alternative was low-bid selection. It remains an issue in this recession, as many states are once again questioning QBS. In Massachusetts, where I also served on the Board of the Associated General Contractors as well as the BSA Board, we have been successful in working together to promote and maintain public QBS for procurement.

That said, an unintended consequence is handicapping a young firm from appearing “qualified” for public work. There are a number of avenues that may help. The AIA has been actively lobbying the Small Business Administration, to resist the SBA redefinition of “small” in such a way that 95% of all member firms would be categorized as small businesses. By convincing the SBA, we hope to maintain the government’s “small business set-asides” for the true small firms in the AIA.

We also need to better teach the public that the “qualifications” in QBS are meant to be creativity, problem-solving, and craft, not merely brute numbers of some particular building type. In another vein, AIA has recently upgraded and released its new Competition Guidelines, meant as templates for cities and towns wanting to benefit from fresh ideas. While the competition world has had examples of unfairly run programs, when done correctly, with compensation and professional AIA advisors, they can often be an important step on the ladder for young architects needing an opportunity to excel.

6. With AIA membership trending towards attrition, how does the AIA become more relevant to the next generation of architects?

The real threat of attrition is to the profession of architecture itself, more so than just in membership. Leading up to this recession, AIA membership was rising, even as architecture was one of the only professions dropping. We set membership records in 2007. For AIA, it’s because nearly 60% of the architects in the country belong to the AIA – a penetration rate unheard of in other professions.

There are multiple culprits now attacking the size of the profession. Demographics play a part. The baby-boom generation is retiring, and there are fewer gen-X’ers to fill the gaps. I do believe that the academic hand-off to the profession, the Intern Development Program, and the ARE have inadvertently become obstacles to licensure, in spite of intentions to the contrary. I believe the five collaterals of AIA, NCARB, AIAS, NAAB, and ACSA need to commit to work actively together to remove roadblocks.

Over time I’ve been AIA liaison to the NCARB IDP Committee, and Board liaison to YAF. As a student at the University of Michigan graduate, I was a member of AIA/SC, later served on the U. of M. Architecture Board, and am now on the Boston Architectural College’s Overseer Board, so I believe I’ve had experience on all sides. However, I am inclined to believe that the strongest solutions are local. National AIA must continue to educate the public, but it is the firms and the local components that can best address mentoring, ARE success support, job placement, networking, and the like.

Please see thoughts on these and other issues on my web site at www.peterkuttnerfaia.com

*****

2013-2014 Vice President (two will be elected)

Donald C. Brown, FAIA (AIA Montgomery) responses:

1. How do you see young architects and emerging professionals influencing and advancing the future of the profession?

This is the same question I faced years ago when I was a young architect trying to evaluate my future. The answer is straight forward – you must be IN the profession (get registered, please) and then try to be good at it. Work hard, don’t give up. Do what you do best – think fresh, offer energy, and new ideas.

In my firm – an AIA Intern Friendly Firm – I give all our young associates much responsibility and authority because they have earned it. They are all very engaged in civic and professional outreach work where their voices count. They are shaping the future of our community and our profession because they choose to, and, I might add, because I encourage and support them. Work with or for people who support or start your own practice. I did.

2. With the recession threatening the foundation of our profession, what are some measures the AIA can take to guide architectural practice toward more stable ground?

There is no quick fix. Recent studies have shown that we have lost a greater percentage of our profession than any other. Astonishing. Mostly this is because there is either no money available for projects or any reasonable financing available. This deep recession has affected young professionals the most. It has also profoundly affected every senior architect I know. There are three things AIA can do now. (If you choose, go to DonBrownFAIA.com for further comment.)

First, we must elevate the voice of architects. We must do a better job of telling our story to the public. We must improve our public outreach in many ways and levels to enhance the reality of the significant value we bring to the built environment at every scale.

Second, we must advocate the interests of our members. If we don’t speak up, who will? The AIA has many active efforts that do just that.

Third, we must connect our members to knowledge. We are valuable to ourselves, our clients, and to the public we serve if we have answers.

3. With architects serving a decreasing percentage of society, how do you see the cultural change of the profession happening?

I could argue with the premise that we are serving a decreasing percentage of society. As head of a firm that provides master planning and business planning for communities, we find ourselves in the position of affecting a wide population, including all income levels and cultural interests. However, more of what we used to do is now done by others. As a profession we have stepped back and yielded more control to program managers, development companies, and owner agents of many types. We must reverse this trend. We must teach ourselves to respond to these challenges and overcome them.

I can agree that the culture of the profession is changing. Of course, it always has. It always will. From working in Europe and Japan I am aware of very different notions about the role of the architect in other cultures. The very excitement of living on this planet right now is defining anew what we need to be and do. The world is “Hot, Flat, and Crowded,” and I can ask for no greater help that what I can glean from AIA to shape my future, and yours.

4. The AIA would like to expand its “tent” to include non-traditional practitioners. What elements of the institute do you feel would most appeal to these potential members?

Two benefits of association with AIA are attractive to this constituency. First, the AIA offers all members a greater potential to succeed at whatever pace or direction they choose. Our AIA can equip our members to do their best, whatever it is. Connecting members to knowledge must be a core objective. A second attraction to me is the value and professional pride of associating with others who share common values. If we advocate for the public value we architects create, then all those who share that interest will benefit. Membership must be perceived as a value, not a cost, and if we in AIA can do a better job of providing value, membership growth will follow.

5. As we know, Qualifications Based Selection (QBS) is the predominant method for selection of architectural firms to perform public works at the state and federal levels. With strongly qualified firms gaining more public work experience through time, which avenues are available for talented young architects with smaller firms to compete with older firms and break into the public works market? How is AIA supporting young firms who seek to do work in the public sector?

Yes, it is hard to compete if you are new. But here’s how, and this comes from someone who has lived this story. First, work at it. Engage with potential customers. Ask them what they really want, which is not always what is advertised. Start small and build a resume. I went to AIA classes at convention and learned how. If you persevere, it will pay off. Study hard to acquire the specific knowledge needed. Collaborate with others to put together a joint effort.

In recent conventions, AIA has put together a government client marketplace where you could meet federal level agencies and find out how to break in. We have received great feedback from this “meet” and “teach” effort. I think the next thing we should do is a live web call to expand our reach.

6. With AIA membership trending towards attrition, how does the AIA become more relevant to the next generation of architects?

I love this question. The AIA needs to listen to the next generation and act on their recommendations. Listen and act. Our Gulf States Region Associates Director and. YAF leadership have developed a terrific conference for late June in Memphis. It is intended for our region but all are welcome. They asked for and received an AIA grant, plus financial support from our region. The result will be an unparalleled teaching and information exchange tailored for this generation's needs. I will go to listen and take notes for my action later. If we pay attention, we will have a win-win. Emerging professionals will have a chance for a better future and AIA becomes more relevant to them. Membership growth will naturally follow.

*****

2013-2014 Vice President

Susan Chin, FAIA (AIA New York Chapter) responses:

1. How do you see young architects and emerging professionals influencing and advancing the future of the profession?

Operating in a world where multi-tasking and broad disciplinary interests have become the norm, I believe that young architects and emerging professionals will redefine the profession and embrace design in a much broader sense. They will look for solutions in other fields and collaborate more fluidly.

When I was President of the AIANY Chapter, I encouraged our Emerging NY Architects to organize competitions, exhibitions and mentoring programs that they were interested in. They not only coordinated these programs, but also developed new leadership in the process. They developed new audiences, brought in new members and invigorated our more seasoned professionals at the Center for Architecture.

In mentoring young architects and emerging professionals, both in the AIA and staff at the Design Trust for Public Space, I was able to assist them in finding new opportunities and/or responsibilities in the field. Some of them also branched into new professions that made full use of their skills and passions.

2. With the recession threatening the foundation of our profession, what are some measures the AIA can take to guide architectural practice toward more stable ground?

The AIA can provide more leadership and knowledge to the profession and society. The AIA’s efforts in repositioning will look at the future of the profession and architects. These efforts will result in action plans for increasing the visibility and effectiveness of the profession.

AIA’s recent partnership with National Institute of Building Sciences, and with Architecture for Humanity promises to increase our ability to construct better buildings and respond to areas of great need.

The AIA also needs to work collaboratively with all levels of government to lay the groundwork for new public investment and to help architects expand their services and reach more local as well as global markets. Working with the Small Business Administration and State Department or U.S. Conference of Mayors and Governors, the AIA can provide increased access for the profession.

We especially need to collaborate with academic institutions to encourage the provision of the broader range of skill sets and values that are needed in the profession. This will also provide opportunities for entrepreneurial partnerships and bridging with engineering, technology and planning and other professions, such as medicine, law or journalism.

3. With architects serving a decreasing percentage of society, how do you see the cultural change of the profession happening?

Design thinking is the most critical skill of our time, and architecture is one of the few professions that teach it. Our big leap is to apply that kind of thinking to problems beyond buildings. Our architects are well positioned to serve not only as designers, but also as problem solvers and leaders at the highest levels. We need to be focused on the emerging problems of our time and contributing to their solution. Now is the time to lay the groundwork for the next generation of cities, infrastructure and professional practice. We can serve as civic leaders, planners, developers, and elected officials. We can also be artists, authors and visionaries.

4. The AIA would like to expand its “tent” to include non-traditional practitioners. What elements of the institute do you feel would most appeal to these potential members?

Our entire profession will benefit by more collaboration between professions, in order to obtain the highest level of problem solving, economy of effort and respect for different knowledge bases. I think that anyone involved in the design, construction and building professions would welcome opportunities to address the industry issues and problems in society through cooperative effort.

As an architect who has served in government and the nonprofit sector, I have used the AIA’s programs to provide better service and leadership to my constituents and clients as well as stay up to date with current trends in the profession and society. The AIA provides the opportunity to share lessons learned in every facet of professional practice such as leadership development, design trends, sustainability, new technologies and research.

5. As we know, Qualifications Based Selection (QBS) is the predominant method for selection of architectural firms to perform public works at the state and federal levels. With strongly qualified firms gaining more public work experience through time, which avenues are available for talented young architects with smaller firms to compete with older firms and break into the public works market? How is AIA supporting young firms who seek to do work in the public sector?

As a former government architect, who hired firms for numerous projects, I found our Design Excellence program based on the GSA’s, provided more opportunity for new firms, because the evaluation process did not excessively weight the years of experience. It provided opportunity for firms of all sizes. Public sector work varies in size and complexity. Gaining experience on smaller projects and bringing innovative thinking to these projects was key to competing with older more experienced firms. In some cases, younger firms with a unique perspective sought out partnerships with older firms on these projects to bring more capacity.

In the same way the AIA demystifies fellowship, we can provide support to young firms by demystifying the public procurement process. We can include government architects in AIA programs, and share our best practices for dealing with the rigors of work for the public sector including how to hire staff that can respond to regulatory requirements, and procurement procedures.

6. With AIA membership trending towards attrition, how does the AIA become more relevant to the next generation of architects?

We can be more attentive to the service we provide to each level of membership and stage of career development. Especially now, as career paths are more fluid, we can provide an armature for career development. My experience has been that if we provide more opportunities for leadership within the Institute at all levels, connecting young members to increased knowledge and opportunities to address problems that they identify, that they will instigate the programs that will address their needs. When we create the opportunities for self- organized problem solving they can even address the exigencies of our time—disaster preparedness and landscapes of social change. Similar to a college or university, the AIA can provide a lifetime of experience and evidence-based knowledge quickly in a in a supportive, collegial environment.

***** 

2013-2014 Vice President

Thomas V. Vonier, FAIA (AIA Continental Europe) responses:

1. How do you see young architects and emerging professionals influencing and advancing the future of the profession?

Young people entering practice today—or trying to enter—are attuned to the global marketplace. They’re well equipped to operate in multi-ethnic, multi-cultural and multi-lingual environments—and they’re open to doing that. This is positive for our profession’s future, because so much of the world’s growth and development is occurring outside of the United States. The profession needs people who can compete worldwide, and who want such opportunities. Younger architects are also pushing our profession—pushing the entire industry, really—to build affordably, to use resources conscientiously and to address humanitarian needs. Communications are a major factor: we know what architects and designers are doing all over the world, and we learn from them quickly. Good ideas spread fast, thanks to networking and sharing among young architects. Younger practitioners are also pushing for reforms in the long, expensive path to becoming an architect. They’re concerned about the often-changing steps to becoming licensed, and the slow pace of opportunity—this is leading us to tackle issues that need attention. I expect Associate members to be integrated into AIA structures at all levels. Overall, the influence of younger architects is profound and beneficial.

2. With the recession threatening the foundation of our profession, what are some measures the AIA can take to guide architectural practice toward more stable ground?

Every architect can do more to underscore the importance of design at all scales of development, at every level of community engagement. Each of us faces basic professional challenges: to identify something important and useful to do; to persuade others of its importance and utility; to find the resources needed to accomplish it; to complete as best we can; and to earn fair compensation for the value we’ve added. As one way to expand our markets, I’m helping the AIA to focus on exporting US architecture and design. With the US Commerce Department, we’re organizing trade missions to emerging markets, and taking other steps to help architects expand our client groups. The United States itself has huge needs—in transport infrastructure, housing, resource management, heritage conservation, community development, disaster mitigation, and health care. We need to continue advocating for these issues, urging elected officials and policymakers to give them priority and adequate funding. Architects know how to address the critical needs in our communities, and how to help our society prosper.

3. With architects serving a decreasing percentage of society, how do you see the cultural change of the profession happening?

Hold on! Architects have more influence today—in municipal planning, to take just one example—than was true just ten or fifteen years ago. Most cities now realize the value of good urban design, of creating walkable streets, of protecting cultural heritage—these are ideas architects have long emphasized. So we’ve made some progress, and possibly achieved some cultural change—even if too much building still takes place without the benefit of professional design. The emergence of the “citizen architect” and the many young men and women who serve people hurt by poverty and disaster—these developments reflect another cultural change. This direction is new, substantial and lasting—we now have a corps of young architects experienced with post-disaster operations and expert at mitigating disasters. They’re willing to endure hardships and they know how to create real value, even in the most impoverished and difficult conditions. This cultural shift stems from a deep conviction that design truly matters and that all people should have access to the best design we can make available to them. As economic conditions improve and we return to investing in the built environment, these influences will be of great value.

4. The AIA would like to expand its “tent” to include non-traditional practitioners. What elements of the Institute do you feel would most appeal to these potential members?

The Institute is at its best when it generates close collaboration and collegiality—when it harnesses the power of groups working toward common goals and confronting shared challenges. The unifying thread in this “tent” is a concern for good design and for the quality of the built environment. The AIA’s “knowledge communities” already reflect wide diversity in professional interests and thrusts. This structure can readily accommodate new directions and new interests. Participation in these groups suits professionals in a wide range of roles: architects working in government, educators, corporate building program managers, volunteers doing public service, community advocates, architects in elected office, and others. If the AIA is going to be more appealing, however, we must reexamine our categories of membership and our fee structures—the “cost of belonging” must fit the needs and abilities of the people the AIA hopes to attract. This aspect of ensuring our diversity—by accommodating a wide range of roles and interests—is central to the Institute.

5. As we know, Qualifications Based Selection (QBS) is the predominant method for selection of architectural firms to perform public works at the state and federal levels. With strongly qualified firms gaining more public work experience through time, which avenues are available for talented young architects with smaller firms to compete with older firms and break into the public works market? How is AIA supporting young firms who seek to do work in the public sector?

The AIA should ensure that less established firms have opportunities to build capacity and experience. Many public procurement programs do encourage the more experienced bidders to carry along smaller, less experienced firms, and some programs involve set-asides for small businesses. These approaches are effective—the US State Department, for example, awarded its largest embassy project ever to a relatively small firm, with relatively little experience in such large projects. The GSA “peer review” program offers another way to help new firms perform well. Overall, the AIA can do more to help young practices to grow and prosper, focusing on such critical issues as profitability, setting reasonable fees, managing contracts effectively, building technical capacity and finding new clients. Successful practices hinge on these factors. Helping newer firms obtain work in the public sector ensures that we benefit from new ideas, fresh talent and renewed drive.

6. With AIA membership trending towards attrition, how does the AIA become more relevant to the next generation of architects?

It’s not all trending in that direction! International practitioners based in the United States and architects who work abroad are a growing element of the Institute, at a good pace. Many of these people are recently licensed or completing requirements for licensing. For them, the AIA is very relevant; it represents high standards of competence and strong ethical canons—not necessarily present everywhere in the world. The AIA has long, well-tested experience with the legal and administrative aspects of building; the AIA documents embody this experience—they’re a form of “best practices.” The AIA also has a strong commitment to lifelong professional learning, with robust educational programs to back that up. What about the thousands of foreign nationals who have graduated from US universities in architecture, and have now returned to their native countries to practice? They want very much to be part of the AIA—and it should easier for them to join. Overall, yes: the AIA membership is aging. In part, this simply reflects demographic patterns. But we do need to renew our organization and it needs to be easier for younger architects to join. The relevance is there—especially in our working groups and conferences, which reflect the depth and breadth of our members’ interests. The rewards are there, too, but the cost of belonging needs to fit. By focusing on issues facing young practitioners trying to get established, the AIA will ensure its relevance.

*****

2013-2014 Secretary

Frederick Butters, FAIA, Esq. (AIA Detroit) responses:

1. How do you see young architects and emerging professionals influencing and advancing the future of the profession?

Without young architects and emerging professionals there is no future for either the Institute or the profession. Unfortunately, we often spend much more time talking about what we should do to engage young Architects than we do working to engage young Architects, and I believe we make the answer unnecessarily complex.

As a young Architect I encountered what I thought was something of a “good old boys” mentality, and I understand how that can quickly dampen a young spirit. While we have made dramatic inroads in the last 20 years, there is still much progress to make. It starts simply with making a place for young Architects in everything we do. From there, we must be open to new ideas and new thinking, and understand that in some respects the young Architect has his or her finger on the pulse of cutting edge thinking where the established Architect may not. We must encourage young Architects to participate and speak, and it is imperative that we listen and respond when they do. If that approach permeates everything we do, the question will answer itself as young Architects will simply grow into the rounded professionals who can and will advance the future of the profession.

In my view that is simply common sense. Because we haven’t made that a priority to the degree necessary to facilitate the transformation in the past, we must compensate with renewed focus into the future.

2. With the recession threatening the foundation of our profession, what are some measures the AIA can take to guide architectural practice toward more stable ground?

Within the traditional practice model we must assert our role as the leader, and we must create additional value for the public. Unfortunately, the traditional practice model is not the way of the future.

The reality is that there is little AIA can do to affect the economy. Things like the stalled project initiative help, but they are band aids at best. Rather than bemoan the economy we should adapt to it. To strengthen the foundation of the profession we expand the foundation of the profession. The AIA can assist by acknowledging that traditional practice model may not be the future. Architects should look instead to expanded practice models that employ their unique skills in broader ways, and AIA must take a leadership position in that adaptation effort.

So what do we do? We take a hard, honest look at the future, and truthfully acknowledge it. We develop policies and programs to assist members in their efforts to adapt. We engender an institute wide recognition of the realities of the future, and incubate a cultural change wherein we stop favoring the traditional practice model above others. From there, we develop policies that pervade committee activity, seeking opportunities to facilitate and advocate for expanded professional roles for the Architect. Finally, we develop continuing education and other programs to assist current practitioners in making a transition to a more diversified practice model.

That won’t happen overnight, but the sooner we start the sooner it will.

3. With architects serving a decreasing percentage of society, how do you see the cultural change of the profession happening?

It falls to us to address that change from within instead of waiting for it to happen from without. We either influence change or we get dragged along and are forced to live with whatever result that may be wrought.

Unlike a physician or attorney whom virtually everyone needs, the average person lives an entire life without directly engaging an Architect. While the trend may be accelerating, Architects are nevertheless stewards of the built environment in which we all live. The master builder is gone, but we can arrest and reverse the erosion in perception if we command respect. We can’t fear the difficult conversations and decisions. Instead we must provide the leadership necessary to address them head on.

In addition, we have to embrace the proposition that Architects in the future will play increasingly diverse roles beyond traditional practice. We think of the Architect’s education as preparing for traditional practice, but in reality architectural education already prepares one for much more. We must learn to recognize and seize the opportunities to expand into new and diverse roles for which are already prepared.

While fewer future Architects may practice within the traditional model, more Architects than ever can and must engage in in leadership positions within broader society. We have the current ability to make that a reality. As the only organized voice for the profession, the Institute must lead that change.

Society is looking to us to lead. We simply step forward and do it.

4. The AIA would like to expand its “tent” to include non-traditional practitioners. What elements of the institute do you feel would most appeal to these potential members?

As a non-traditional practitioner myself, I have a unique perspective on that question and I can truthfully say what appeals to me. I see the public outreach and the advocacy efforts as the primary benefits of my membership. While elevating practice does not have a direct impact on me, I am at my core an Architect and elevating the perception of the Architect in any way benefits me. I also value the opportunities membership affords me to network. That is what I value, but that will differ for everyone.

Initially, we must end all exclusionary policies, making all aspects of membership available to all members. I once sought an appointment to the documents committee and was advised by then documents counsel that AIA policy limited participation to practicing Architects. As I was not a practicing Architect, I was informed I was “not qualified”. I nearly ended my membership as a consequence. To the extent we continue to employ any such exclusionary policies, they must end, and we must treat the non-traditional practitioner as any other member, immediately and forever.

As with engaging young Architects, it is a question of addressing what the non-traditional practitioner values. As with the young Architect, we don’t know what the non-traditional practitioner values, but the non-traditional practitioner does. Expanding the tent to better include the non-traditional practitioner requires the input of the non-traditional practitioner. As with the young Architect, we must engage them and respond to what they say to accomplish that end.

5. As we know, Qualifications Based Selection (QBS) is the predominant method for selection of architectural firms to perform public works at the state and federal levels. With strongly qualified firms gaining more public work experience through time, which avenues are available for talented young architects with smaller firms to compete with older firms and break into the public works market? How is AIA supporting young firms who seek to do work in the public sector?

We often view QBS in the wrong light. QBS means selected based on qualifications, not selected based on the volume of past work in any particular arena. Strongly qualified firms will prevail over lesser qualified firms so long as we adhere to any QBS selection paradigm. However, strongly qualified is not determined on the basis of volume of work. We have firms in the US whose history runs back at least 50 if not 100 or more years. If QBS meant “most work” those firms would simply collect all work, and if we embrace QBS by that definition, a young Architect or new firm will never overcome that deficit and there is nothing they can do to compete.

We don’t define QBS that way. We define it as “qualified” – i.e.; capable of properly performing the work. Under that definition, after we first determine who is capable (i.e.; “qualified”) and from there we rely on the public entity to employ traditional selection criteria (service, references, etc.) to make the final selection. While a new firm will never have the project history the more established firm enjoys, it may be well qualified. I believe it is a matter of making clear how QBS is defined. When we do, the question is largely resolved.

I think the best thing the Institute can do to support a level playing field for all is make plain that the definition of QBS we apply reflects “most qualified” and not “most work”.

6. With AIA membership trending towards attrition, how does the AIA become more relevant to the next generation of architects?

Simple. We must offer something that appeals to them.

Faced with paying the monthly bills, we chafe at paying those for things we don’t value. We don’t like to do the things that we don’t value. In the converse, if we value something, we don’t mind engaging and investing in it. How do we know what appeals to the next generation? We don’t – but they do. The answer is simple. We engage them and find out.

I see it as an evolution as opposed to a revolution. Normally things such as engaging young professionals would be conducted in the ordinary course – as a subconscious practice. However, we as an Institute are caught in a position where that thinking hasn’t developed – an unfortunate consequence of a stodgy and exclusionary past. Although we are making progress, addressing the needs and concerns of young Architects still isn’t part of our subconscious. Until it is, we must make it a conscious practice to invite the next generation them into everything we do.

The next generation has legitimate views about the future of the profession that differ from the current. Those views will be validated whether we choose to embrace them or not. If we don’t embrace them, the next generation will move forward without AIA and we consign the Institute to join the buggy whip in history’s dustbin. If we do, AIA will be relevant to the next generation –because AIA will become what the next generation has determined it should be.

*****

2013-2014 Secretary

Richard DeYoung, AIA (AIA Pittsburgh) responses:

1. How do you see young architects and emerging professionals influencing and advancing the future of the profession?

There is no doubt that we stand at a transformational point in our profession and it is our young architects and emerging professionals that will advance the future of the profession. The commitment to sustainable design, in the broadest sense, combined with a renewed dedication to social responsibility exhibited by many emerging professionals will be important aspects of the profession. A mastery of technological tools, displayed by many young architects and emerging professionals, will serve to expand our ability to explore design solutions and have a profound influence on the practice of architecture.

The creation of a body of knowledge that defines and quantifies good design will be essential to affirming the value of the services we provide. The validation of design decisions through testing, research, and critical post-occupancy performance evaluations will increase our credibility. This will require a shift in the way that we practice that should be embraced by next generation throughout their careers.

2. With the recession threatening the foundation of our profession, what are some measures the AIA can take to guide architectural practice toward more stable ground?

Perhaps the most important action that the AIA can take is to advocate for the value that architects bring to the design process in clear demonstrable ways that increase public perception that architects are critical to the quality of our built environment. Increasing the understanding of the importance of architects to the built environment and the central value in engaging architects potentially has the greatest value in stabilizing the profession.

The availability of credit to finance projects has had a serious chilling effect on the profession. The advocacy effort that the AIA has been leading to address the availability of capital to finance projects is an important strategy to help increase the demand for projects that require architects.

3. With architects serving a decreasing percentage of society, how do you see the cultural change of the profession happening?

Architects need to recapture and reaffirm our leadership role and our value in the design process to serve an increasing percentage of society. The projected demand for architects in the future is very significant; we need to proactively take command of that need and prove our value.

If we do not take responsibility for our work and reassert our leadership role in the collaborative design environment, we risk becoming marginalized contributors to the design process. If we allow our profession to be marginalized, we risk a very significant negative impact on the culture of the profession and the quality of the built environment.

4. The AIA would like to expand its “tent” to include non-traditional practitioners. What elements of the institute do you feel would most appeal to these potential members?

Participation in various knowledge communities and committees provides the opportunity to network with other architects with similar interests and skills and directly contribute to the profession. Many aspects of the knowledge communities appeal to a broad range members in alternative practices. For example, architects working for client organizations can benefit from actively contributing to the emerging body of knowledge that affects the design of their projects and learning about leading trends in their area of interest.

Participation in disaster assistance programs and design assistance teams also provide opportunities that appeal to a broad range of members.

5. As we know, Qualifications Based Selection (QBS) is the predominant method for selection of architectural firms to perform public works at the state and federal levels. With strongly qualified firms gaining more public work experience through time, which avenues are available for talented young architects with smaller firms to compete with older firms and break into the public works market? How is AIA supporting young firms who seek to do work in the public sector?

Collaborating with firms that already have the expertise is arguably the most effective way to gain the needed credentials. Large firms often look to collaborate with smaller local firms when pursuing work outside of their region. Dedicating the early years of one’s career to gaining individual experience with larger firms can also be a valuable credential when pursuing future projects.

Pursuing projects with small business set-asides and entering design competitions are other ways to gain experience. Participating in Knowledge Communities related to an area of interest, doing research, publishing studies, and securing specialty credentials can also enhance credibility.

6. With AIA membership trending towards attrition, how does the AIA become more relevant to the next generation of architects?

While it is a given that a significant number of architects will begin to retire and leave the AIA in the coming years, Baby Boomers reaching retirement age is not unique to the AIA. There is a clearly identified demand for a significant number of architects in the coming years. As that demand is filled we need to engage them in the AIA.

Although it is NCARB that sets the standards for licensure that state boards generally follow, AIA can provide the leadership and resources necessary to lead the discussion with NCARB on ways to simplify the path to registration.

Most important, AIA needs to maintain an open dialogue with the incoming members of the profession. We must actively listen in order to understand their needs and desires for the profession and AIA. We must then respond with structure, programs, and resources that address those needs. It is difficult to predict what will emerge as the essential elements that are desired. It is not hard to imagine, however, that in some form they will address knowledge, advocacy, communication, and collaboration, core elements of the AIA today. What will change is the way in which each of these is fulfilled.

When the AIA successfully advocates for the value of the profession and leads the efforts to gain knowledge and disseminate that knowledge effectively, these will be important reasons to the next generation to continue to support the AIA through membership and commitment of time and energy.

   
   
     
 
 

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