AIA North Carolina - Managing Change in 2013, our Centennial Year
I keep a picture above my desk. It’s there to remind me how our profession has transformed in the span of one, still unfinished, career. It’s a picture of me, a year or two out of school drawing with a rapidograph pen and a parallel bar. Advanced technology in those days meant having an ultra-sonic cleaner to keep the ink flowing through the tiny tubes! So it’s no mystery that our professional organization, AIA North Carolina, engages in a constant effort to redefine ourselves. As the profession changes, so does AIA NC. In this, our centennial year, we need to catch up with some of the changes reshaping who we are and how we work.
Currently, the average AIA member is a white male, fifty-two years old. If you look at schools of architecture, however, you see ethnically diverse students; more than half of whom are women. Only seventeen percent of AIA members are female. Clearly, if our organization is to thrive, we need to do more to reach out to this diverse, younger generation of architects. This year, we’ll make a concerted effort to include more women and students in our events, and to highlight their contributions. As an organization, we’ve got to be attractive to our new member base.
While reaching out to new members, we need to increase the value of AIA Membership for those who are already members. We’ll acknowledge what’s always been true; we are mostly small business people, engaged in small projects. AIA NC will do more to respond to the needs of smaller practices. We need to spread the word about how much AIA NC does to protect our rights as professionals, and to deliver valuable resources to members.
Beyond advocacy, beyond continuing education and documents, we need to be champions and leaders; advocates for quality of life through architecture and design in our many communities. This year we’ll highlight architects who are doing just that. Members can help with these efforts by contributing to the AIA NC Political Action Committee (AIANC PAC) or by coming to AIA Legislative Day in Raleigh, March 27th. Get in touch with your local representatives in Raleigh and Washington DC. AIA will help by furnishing notices of legislative issues that impact our profession. When this happens, nothing works better than having an existing rapport with your elected officials.
The new Center for Architecture and Design has attracted much needed attention to our profession. Now we need to push our message to capitalize on that attention. The North Carolina Architecture Foundation is chartered to educate the public about the value that architects and architecture bring to our communities every day. This year, the Foundation will expand that mission with a new board of directors and a new mandate to develop programs to reach out to the public and increase awareness of architects’ work. We’ll create, through the Foundation, a “big tent” to engage non-architects who want to appreciate architecture.
The centerpiece of our anniversary celebration will be an exhibit of significant architecture from each of the seven sections of AIA NC. We’ll collect five examples from the past, and five more contemporary building designs. But here’s the twist; this year we’ll also include a photo and a short biography of the architects, both from the past and the present. We’ll emphasize that great architecture is being created every day, everywhere in North Carolina. We’ll unveil this exhibit at our convention in Wilmington, September 12-14. Then it will become part of the resources for public education at the CfAD.
AIA NC architects must be opportunistic and proactive, to maintain our important role in the marketplace of new building. As the traditional process of design becomes more fragmented and specialized, we alone, as professionals, have the training and the overall vision to bring building projects to reality. We need to manage the changes in how projects are delivered to stay at the center of the process. That means embracing new technology, clarifying the ownership of our intellectual property, and offering new services that bring us into the process earlier-- where our true value as problem solvers and visionaries is needed. Evidence Based Design, Integrated Project Delivery, Design-Build, Energy Modeling, Disaster Preparedness and Response, Building Commissioning (including the enclosure) and Sustainable Design Strategies (beyond just LEED compliance) are all services architects can offer. AIA NC must continue to broadcast that message to the public and our members.
To paraphrase Daniel Pink, anyone can have access to enormous amounts of data and technology. Architects, and in some cases, only architects, have the ability to comprehend, synthesize, and make meaning from all that information. That is what makes our future secure as professionals and as members of AIA North Carolina.
It’s humbling to think of the great architects who’ve been board members and leaders of AIA North Carolina in the past. As an organization, we stand on the shoulders of giants. There’s only so much that can happen in one year. So we owe our on-going success to the legacy others have made for us. My hope for this year is to manage the changes we must make, and to celebrate our 100th. anniversary looking both forward and back. Remembering where we have been, but clearly focused on the next 100 years of AIA North Carolina. It’s a privilege to be a part of this great organization.
Roger Leeson, AIA
2013 AIA North Carolina President