Practicing ArchitecturePracticing Architecture
When Someone Asks “What has the AIA done for me lately?”. . .
By Robert Ivy, FAIA
“What has the AIA done for me lately?” You’ve heard it—and you may have even said it yourself, standing around at a job interview, waiting to get in the door (if you were so lucky during these last years). We architects are a critical lot amongst ourselves, constantly looking for problems to solve and full of ideas about how to make things better. The fact is, the AIA did great things in 2012, but I’ll wager that you don’t know what many of them are.
The plain truth is that the list of 2012 accomplishments could burn up a ream of printer paper. I couldn’t possibly describe them all here, but here are just a few, clustered around themes. See how many you already know about.
Advocacy: In terms of federal advocacy alone, the AIA worked to change public policy in many arenas. Our influence, for example, helped block a payroll tax hike on S corporation firms that could have had serious negative impacts, perhaps on your own firm. We prevented the Small Business Administration from hurting firms by raising the size standard that would apply. Okay, those are both negatives. Here’s a simple positive: We helped save the U.S. Capitol dome by lobbying for renovation dollars during a contentious Congressional session. We also worked with the Commerce Department to form an Architecture Services Trade Mission to India, a first for them. And that’s not all—that’s just a few of our advocacy successes.
Relevance, Value, and Media Outreach: Every member seems to want advertising, and they want it now. Very much related to this, we’ve embarked on the AIA Repositioning Initiative (much more to come on this topic in the weeks and months ahead) that will help determine who we want to reach and for what purpose. In the meantime, in 2012 we sponsored the “Cities Project,” a widely listened-to segment on National Public Radio that reached NPR’s large audience at a very reasonable cost. The feature appeared during the popular All Things Considered program as well as on The Diane Rehm Show, considered one of radio’s best offerings. How many people listened? Try 60 million! Here’s what they heard every time our sponsorship aired: “Architects working to build better homes, businesses, and communities. The AIA: building for life.”
More 2012 communications successes included our underwriting of a special series for PBS entitled Cool Spaces! This show, the first in several decades to focus exclusively on architecture and its benefits, will feature Boston architect Stephen Chung, AIA, describing and showing how architecture affects us all and has the power to make beneficial change.
Knowledge and Research: What could be of greater long-term benefit than expanding our body of knowledge and thereby creating increased credibility, relevance, and value? In 2012, partnering with the National Institute of Building Sciences, we held a research summit that ultimately resulted in another first—BRIK, which stands for the “Building Research Information Knowledgebase,” an online portal launched this month that allows architects, firms, and institutions to post and read professionally reviewed research. We have been in the business of creating knowledge with our own projects as well as in concert with others. Now there is a place to hold and share that information via this exciting new portal.
Proving the Value of Design: We’ve written extensively about the Clinton Global Initiative and all that it brings. Through our 10-year commitment and our partnership with the academy through the Association of Collegiate Schools of Architecture, we made grants to three universities to conduct original research for cities while addressing challenges in public health, sustainability, and resiliency to natural disasters. The CGI really grew wings in 2012, with the AIA placed in the limelight of this international organization’s efforts. And the AIA College of Fellows, through its $100,000 Latrobe Prize, featured “healthy design” research. Through all these means, we’re seeking facts to prove the value of design.
I could go on and on, talking about what we did in 2012. Instead, the Institute is preparing an annual report, due out in the first quarter of this year, outlining the accomplishments and successes that we made together at the AIA. This document lists what we did in context, including how we advanced the relevance and value of the profession and the Institute, what we accomplished in knowledge and research, how our relationships with constituent groups and allied organizations grew, how our membership stayed loyal during another difficult year, and how we are addressing sustainability—the International Green Construction Code, for example, has our fingerprints all over it. Just as importantly, we list the challenges we face in 2013 and in the coming decade. (There are plenty.) You can make your own list and compare notes.
Know this: The American Institute of Architects consists of architects—of you—and we did not sit idly by. As enumerated above, we did great, exciting things together. In 2013 we embark on Repositioning the AIA, a bold change that will place architects and the Institute in a new, more relevant position for years to come. Stay tuned. Read the annual report when it comes out. And become an accurate messenger about what we did do—we all deserve it.