Elizabeth Chu Richter, FAIA, inaugurated 2015 AIA President
Elizabeth Chu Richter, FAIA, CEO of Richter Architects in Corpus Christi, Texas, was inaugurated as the 91st President of the AIA during ceremonies held on December 12, 2014, at the National Portrait Gallery in Washington, D.C. She succeeds the 90th President, Helene Combs Dreiling, FAIA, in representing over 85,500 AIA members.
“As architects, we use our creativity to serve society—to make our communities better places to live. Through our profession and our life’s work, each of us has shaped and re-shaped the ever-changing narrative that is America in both humble and spectacular ways,” said Richter, in the Portrait Gallery’s Kogod Courtyard, under Foster + Partners’ tessellated canopy. “We have created harmony where there was none. We have shown we can see what is not yet there. We have shown we have the courage to grow, to change, and to renew ourselves.”
In setting a course for the AIA and the profession’s future, she identified three issues that merit close attention. The first is the challenges of a global economy that is increasingly urbanizing: “The message is clear: We must be prepared to apply our talents anywhere and everywhere.”
She went on to speak of the need for an informed public: “Few understand the impact [architecture] has on their lives. Every building has a story. Let’s tell them!” She also spoke of the obligation owed to emerging professionals: “As a profession, each of us has an obligation to help all the bright, passionate, and creative young women and men to succeed. They are the profession’s future.”
In an evening that included a toast by the 20 former AIA Presidents in attendance, the emotional highlight was Richter’s introduction of her 96-year-old mother. It was she who took her six children from Hong Kong to a new future in America. “I share my mother’s story because it speaks to me of courage and resilience, values that I admire, values that I try to live by. I share it to express the gratitude I feel to this country for the opportunities given to me. My story is the story of America.”
Born in Nanjing, China, Richter grew up in Hong Kong and Dallas, Texas. She received her Bachelor of Architecture from the University of Texas at Austin in 1974. In 2001, the American Institute of Architects conferred her with a national Young Architects Award in recognition of her community-sensitive designs and her leadership role in heightening the public's awareness of regional and urban issues through her award-winning public radio series, “The Shape of Texas,” which ran from 1998 to 2011. In 2005, she was elevated to the College of Fellows of the American Institute of Architects in recognition of her contributions of national significance in making the profession of ever-increasing service to the society. Richter served as President of the Texas Society of Architects in 2007 and, most recently, as a regional director representing Texas on the AIA’s National Board of Directors.
In that time, Richter provided leadership to her firm, which received the 2011 Texas Society of Architects Firm Award.
William J Stewart Photography