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We’re in a different world today. While the AIA is a legacy institution, this wonderful organization has grown incrementally since 1857 and needs a new vision. The Repositioning the AIA initiative is about what we need to do, collectively, for the entire body of architecture. This is for the profession.

Our consultants LaPlaca Cohen and Pentagram took your thoughts, opinions, and observations, added input from clients and the public, and developed a series of recommendations that will help the AIA move forward.

What the AIA Board, volunteers, staff, and I heard loud and clear is that you want the AIA to take a strong leadership stance with clarity of purpose.  Elevate the dialogue, make decisions, and lead where architects should be in the future.

There is a tremendous charge to act. We’ve planned before, we’ve recognized before. But this is the time not only to recognize the changes we need to make, but to do something about them.

Robert Ivy, FAIA

AIA EVP/Chief Executive Officer

AIA Repositioning Update

By Arthur Cohen and Allison Jones
LaPlaca Cohen

About this time last year, we were responding to an RFP to help the AIA better communicate with the public about what architects do. My partner and I, Michael Bierut of Pentagram, told AIA leaders that they were asking for the wrong assistance. Our experience over many years working with and for architects told us the more critical issue was helping the AIA rediscover its purpose.

Now, a year later, having completed the AIA’s most extensive research and strategic assessment effort to date, we have identified key challenges and concerns relating to the organization’s current environment that must be addressed for the AIA to secure its position as the leading voice of America’s architects.

The AIA Repositioning, as it’s known, is a shift in perspective, a change in the lens through which we view our purpose. For the AIA to remain relevant, its leaders, staff, and members must commit fully to the purpose of serving members and advancing the architecture profession.

The task now is for the AIA to internalize the lessons learned in order to chart the way forward, identifying the goals that can be addressed today and those that will require longer-term efforts to realize. This will be a challenging process, but will result in a stronger organization: one that provides greater value, relevance, and direction for its members, and for the architectural community at large.

We shared our findings and recommendations with the AIA Board at its most recent meeting, and among them were two key points that will be central to the AIA’s priorities moving forward. The first is that the AIA must align its organizational structure to demonstrate that it is structured around and guided by member needs and interests. The AIA exists to empower its members, and members need to believe that the organization is theirs—i.e., that they have the agency to help shape it into the organization that they desire. This is crucial to the organization’s ability to be relevant and essential to the next generation of architects.

The second key point is that the AIA’s ideal role is to act as a visionary member organization. “Visionary” asserts the AIA’s leadership role is proactively addressing the issues that are critical to the profession and providing the indispensable leadership and insight that its constituents seek. “Member” indicates the organization’s primary function: to serve and provide value to its members. Calling the AIA a visionary member organization means shifting its focus towards helping the profession maximize its impact.

The AIA Executive Committee is in the process of reviewing the platform statement for the AIA Repositioning, which emphasizes that members are at the core of its purpose. The committee, with the assistance of staff, is also developing strategic plans to address our recommendations for specific change initiatives. The focus of the plans will be on the AIA’s leadership structure, institutional framework, and operational focus.

This high-level plan will be communicated at the 2013 Grassroots Leadership and Legislative Conference in Washington, D.C., in March, and will guide us over the next several years.

As always, we invite you to visit, or share your thoughts via Your feedback has provided invaluable guidance throughout our process and we appreciate your continued engagement as the AIA embarks on the journey ahead.


Back to AIArchitect February 8, 2013

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