Anna Wu, FAIA
Wu is the associate vice chancellor for facilities services at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. She previously served as university architect and assistant vice chancellor for facilities operations, planning, and design where she was responsible for the planning, design, maintenance, and operations of the university’s academic buildings, research facilities, residence halls, grounds, and landscapes. Wu was elected to the College of Fellows of The American Institute of Architects in 2009. She has a Bachelor of Arts from the University of Pennsylvania and a Master of Architecture from Harvard University.
What inspired you to volunteer with an AIA awards jury?
Mary Cox, who chaired the Fellows Jury in 2017 and 2019, encouraged women in her network of University Architects to consider volunteering. She knew we could bring an important perspective on the profession. And I thought it sounded really interesting! I’ve done some juries in the past and the experiences were fascinating. Volunteering on the Fellows Jury is a significant undertaking, but it’s been incredibly rewarding.
What's the most inspiring experience you've had as an AIA volunteer?
I’ve been able to learn about and meet so many people who are doing really interesting things in their practice. The number of architects who see their work published is small. By volunteering, you get to see how rich the practices are—I never would have had exposure to that—and to see what practitioners are accomplishing, nationally and internationally, is inspiring and invigorating. My experiences as a volunteer have made me so optimistic about the profession.
How has volunteering with AIA helped you in your work and career?
I’ve been active in AIA since early in my career. North Carolina has an outstanding chapter. When I moved from Boston it helped to provide a robust and welcoming professional network. The chapter also has a very strong support system for people seeking fellowships. I received my fellowship in 2009. The support that I got from my colleagues—the chapter as a whole and my sponsor—really made the difference. The chapter really celebrates the success of architects, which is important for strengthening the practice within the state.
It’s been rewarding to get to know my colleagues on the AIA awards jury. It’s a great way to further expand your network. I also got to know the staff at AIA much better.
By volunteering, you get to see how rich the practices are—I never would have had exposure to that—and to see what practitioners are accomplishing, nationally and internationally, is inspiring and invigorating.
How does volunteering with AIA support the profession and your community?
Volunteering with an awards jury is a unique opportunity to give back. It’s intense—a lot of reading and a lot of time—but the people who submit have poured a significant number of hours into their applications. We owe them an equally intense review. These individuals are synthesizing their contributions to the profession, or maybe they are discussing how they practice and how those efforts are changing the way people practice or are designing buildings. That’s a challenge! Whether the submittal is about a particular design approach or discusses inclusiveness in practice, housing, or resiliency, there is a thread running through each of them that could have a societal impact. Volunteering on an AIA awards jury is an opportunity to carefully consider all of these contributions, which will advance the profession.
Volunteering on an AIA awards jury is an opportunity to carefully consider all of these contributions, which will advance the profession.
What would you say to someone considering volunteering for an AIA awards jury?
What everyone says about volunteering is true. You do get more out of it than you put in. Just do it, but do find your niche. You don’t have to say yes to everything! But when you find something that resonates, you’ll want to make a contribution. For the AIA awards jury in particular, it was a way to stay involved and give back for the support that I received from my AIA chapter when I applied for my fellowship.
Anytime you can broaden your view, that’s a good thing, and that’s what volunteering will do. It gets you out of your comfort zone.
Jon Gardiner - The University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill