AIA Headquarters renewal

AIA headquarters

AIA headquarters

The AIA is beginning a substantial renewal of its headquarters on New York Avenue in Washington, DC. The goals of the restoration of the 50-year-old building include updating the original, antiquated systems, for cost effective energy efficiency, and electrifying all building systems while incorporating onsite and offsite renewable energy to decarbonize the building and  achieve the goals of the AIA 2030 Commitment.

This is the first significant renovation since AIA headquarters was dedicated in 1973. The last major work on the building occurred nearly 30 years ago when the association expanded its library. The iconic Washington, DC, building is well known for its Brutalist style, courtyard and garden, and the adjacent National Historic Landmark, the Octagon building.  Behind those well-known architectural features lies a half-century old HVAC system, plumbing, and single-pane windows. In addition, during inspection for the renovation, it was found that the exterior walls of the building were never insulated, further contributing to its energy inefficiencies.

Evening gathering at the AIA Headquarters

Guests gather in the courtyard for an evening reception

AIA is following its Framework for Design Excellence, which represents the defining principles of excellent design in the 21st century, as it works with lead architectural firm EHDD, and its consulting firms, Hood Design Studio, Hartman-Cox Architects, and Point Energy Innovations. AIA’s goals are to create a model for an energy efficient, adaptable, post-COVID, 21st century workplace and gathering space that focuses on an equitable, sustainable and resilient environment. The intent is to fully decarbonize the building.

In addition, AIA has offered internships to six students from Historically Black Colleges & Universities (HBCU) to participate in the design process.

View of building's Brutalist exterior

View of lobby and outdoor courtyard

Why now?

Over the last five years, AIA has doubled down on its values and has positioned itself as a vocal advocate for addressing climate action and systemic racism in the built environment. The AIA headquarters is a symbol for the kind of equitable, sustainable, and resilient future that architects promote. Currently, the attributes of AIA’s building run counter to the association’s values, policy positions and messaging. AIA’s strategic business priorities and financial strength, as well as a rapidly improving business climate and low interest rates, made this a compelling time to move forward with the much-needed renovation.

Main entrance showcasing Brutalist features

The AIA Board of Directors approved three high-level goals for the design renovation:

Workplace:

Provide an equitable, high quality, well-designed, flexible, functional, efficient workplace and gathering place for AIA employees and members.

Experience:

Provide an edifying, inspiring, experience, that conveys the AIA’s values and provides flexible spaces for gathering and collaboration for all.

Sustainable Design and Operations

Provide a building that embodies sustainability measures outlined in the AIA Framework for Design Excellence and that meet the targets of the 2030 commitment.

Timeline

EHDD and its partners will work with AIA and other stakeholders to design and plan for the AIA HQ renewal in 2021 and 2022. Construction will begin in 2023 and is expected to conclude in 2024.

The renovation is estimated to cost between $50-70 million and will take approximately four years. It will provide major systems and building upgrades, and incorporate conservation measures that will drastically reduce the buildings energy use intensity (EUI) . In addition, our goal is to use onsite renewable photovoltaics (converting sunlight into electricity) on the roof, and AIA hopes to purchase alternative energy from the grid.  

The association has considered multiple renovations over the decades, the latest in 2008, which was eventually abandoned due to the Great Recession.

Creating an educational opportunity with HBCUs

Headquarters renewal student team

As the leading association for the design industry in the world, AIA offered architecture students internships during the design phase of its renovation. Six students from Historically Black Colleges and Universities (HBCUs) are participating from April through August 2021 in a real-world design process through a series of virtual workshops. The students are helping to envision a sustainable, post-COVID workplace of the future, virtually embedded with the design team.

The internships will provide AIA with new, creative, and innovative ideas to the design, while exposing the students to a sustainable project led by licensed architects--and informed by clients, contractors, other students, and much more.

In addition, AIA is making this virtual internship program an example for other firms to emulate, with the goal to improve the diversity of the profession through increased engagement, broader network support, and access to employment opportunities for future architecture graduates.

History

Bird's-eye view from south, AIA headquarters (Image: AIA Archives)

In 1857, 13 individuals founded the American Institute of architects. For the first 110 years AIA was in constant search for a design of a national headquarters. It purchased an occupied the Octagon from 1899 to 1973, but early on, the growing association quickly outgrew the existing space. AIA continued to explore plans for a national headquarters and even built a new building that was requisitioned by the federal government before AIA could move in during World War II.

Alterations and additions to the outbuildings on the Octagon property in the 1940s and 1950s still do not meet AIA‘s space needs. Finally, in 1964, AIA opened a design competition during its annual conference. Through significant scrutiny, the design for AIA their headquarters was eventually approved by the National Arts Commission, and AIA’s headquarters was dedicated in 1973.

AIA Headquarters under construction

Completed exterior

Construction of interior offices

Building dedication, 1973

Learn more about the headquarters history >

Image credits

AIA headquarters

Archives

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Art, history, and religion

Brutalism and the AIA’s headquarters

Brutalism is an architectural style characterized by rigid geometry, heavy massing, and its chief material, poured concrete. It is an expression of Modern architecture in the 20th century that privileges function and form equally, and Brutalism has also become an expression—or perhaps a symptom—of post-World War II urban renewal in England, France, Belgium, Japan, and the United States. As a term, it was coined by the architects Alison and Peter Smithson as what they called a design "ethic" (rather than an aesthetic) to functional and inexpensive housing in the 1950s, but it was popularized by the architecture critic Reyner Banham as "New Brutalism." Semantics aside, Banham identified three characteristics of what he saw as an architectural movement: a clearly articulated structure, a preference for raw and unfinished concrete with evidence of its wooden formwork, and a memorable and recognizable overall form of the building. The name Brutalism, itself, is an anglicization of béton brut, or raw concrete, used by Le Corbusier to describe his own 1952 apartment project Unité d'Habitation in Marseilles, France.

AIA headquarters renewal aims to model sustainability, equity, and innovation

AIA headquarters renewal aims to model sustainability, equity, and innovation

Building renewal FAQs

This is the first renovation since AIA headquarters was dedicated in 1973. Although functional, most of the building’s major systems are original. In addition, single-pane windows and lack of exterior wall insulation make the building inefficient. Renovating 1735 New York Avenue provides an opportunity for AIA to demonstrate the power of positive design solutions.