National Issues for an Evolving Architecture Profession

by Stefee Knudsen

Through my involvement as President-Elect of the Portland chapter of the American Institute of Architects (AIA), I had the opportunity to attend the annual Grassroots Leadership Conference in March, and attended several presentations on the changing climate for the architecture profession.

The AIA was founded in 1857 – a very different time than the fast, complex, technology-driven and interconnected world of today. Who could have imagined how drastically the world would change in the next 150 years? The AIA’s original mission has remained the same:  to “promote the scientific and practical perfection of its members” and “elevate the standing of the profession.” However, the changing needs of the profession, our practice, and our challenges necessitate some profound changes to our professional association, if it is to remain relevant and valuable to its members.

From a presentation by Frank Stasiowski, “What’s Next for the Profession,” there were three monumental turning points for architects in the last century, and there are three major forces driving change now.

3 monumental turning points for architects:

  • Onslaught of liability and aversion to risk which has reduced the scope of work that architects undertake in-house versus through consultants
  • Shift from “value” to “time” based compensation based on the antitrust lawsuit in the 1970s
  • “The great AutoCAD give away,” which pushed the profession toward an industry-driven methodology

In an effort called “Repositioning,” the AIA has undertaken significant research to understand the challenges facing the longevity of the profession and its association. The in-depth presentation by LaPlaca Cohen summarized more than 31,000 points of contact combined with market research and recommendations for reassessment. Their key findings regarding AIA-member architects:

Architects design a better world.

AIA Members create enduring value.
We benefit clients and communities through innovative design solutions.

AIA Members drive positive change.
We work collaboratively and creatively to transform clients’ goals into reality.

AIA Members lead with vision.
We meet the ever-changing challenges of the designed environment.

AIA Members shape the future.
We value talent and diversity in new generations of architecture professionals.

As a profession, it’s time to shift the conversation away from what, and toward why: from what architects do, and toward why we do it and why it matters. And we need to recognize that our value is measured by our ideas. Over the next decade, our profession will continue to evolve with the ever-changing global climate, shifting demographics and technology. The question is how will our business models, practices, and cultures evolve to embrace the new paradigms?

 

Image: architecture buttons, from Yesware’s Etsy shop.

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