AIA DEEP dive … Texas Style

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mfm-at-large-statesIs AIA complex?  Yup … and then some.

Our Institute is multilevel organization – starting with a members’ “home base” – i.e., their local component, we have states or regions, and National as additional levels.  Diving in even deeper, there are other layers and groups – which together all form a texture that mirrors the incredible diversity of us architects and our places in the world.  As AIA members we can group by firm size, by type of project, by gender and/or minority, and more.  Even after 35 years in the AIA, I’ll admit to being still occasionally surprised to find another AIA wrinkle.  As but one example, my first direct connection with the AIA SGN (State Government Network) was not as an attendee, but as a speaker recently as they gathered in Washington, D.C. I spoke about my fav topic: Architect Led Permit Streamlining.  I would bet that most of the time, somewhere in the vast landscape of the AIA, a group of people are gathered, discussing something somehow connected back to the AIA.

Overall, what really struck me – the incredible capacity we have as an organization to muster our volunteer leaders everywhere across the country , each one carving big blocks of time from their busy lives, rolling up their sleeves and spending hours and hours sharing, debating, finding consensus, forming action plans, and doing.

Some of AIA’s “parallel organizations” are by invitation only.  That’s the case with the Large States AIA Roundtable, a group consisting of New York, Texas, Pennsylvania, Florida, New Jersey, Michigan, Illinois and California regions, formed to compare common threads in best practices and challenges, and to build relationships that help us create value for members.  Participation is limited in the interest of keeping the group small enough to have in depth conversations, and location adjusts.  Our meeting for 2016 just concluded in Austin Texas and I thought I’d share some of what resonated with me from around the country.

We began with a bang – in the form of the fast pace of a Pecha Kucha (20 slides, 20 seconds).  For some of us that meant a pretty direct path from a wee hour start through multiple airports to a presentation at the Texas Society of Architects’ spiffy and just remodeled headquarters.  Jana and I shared the narration of a snappy slide deck that gave a 20,000 foot overview of a few of the 100+ programs and projects that we tackle, organized via our AIACC three pronged strategic plan “Resources, Influence, and The Future.”   Rather than trying to cram as many facts and words into our 6+ minutes as possible, we hit on personal favorite high notes that we thought might interest the others in attendance.  The energy and flow of great ideas, programs and events was palpable; and a great introduction to the kind of open sharing of ideas, programs and highlights that made this so interesting.  A few of my fav’s from other components:

  • A People’s Choice Design Award that got over 200,000 hits from the general public (Florida)
  • Annual conventions/meetings: Texas attended by over 1,300 Architects (26%) and 2,800 total; $280,000 in sponsorships; contrasted with declines for NJ leading to a new 4 state joint gathering.
  • Reductions in board size and other organizational changes
  • Robust and multipronged leadership development programs (Illinois)
  • New public facing Centers for Architecture (New York, Illinois)
  • Robust K through 12 programs (New York, Florida)

Some other deep dives:

  • An EP panel discussion: focusing on student debt relief, career development and mentorship; titling, and membership support from large firms. The clarity of core issues and opportunities to address them will be shared.
  • A close look at the National governance model – three years after the repositioning led restructure – and a consensus on the need for greater communication between Board and Council, and with members; and greater attention to resourcing the Council. The specific suggestions are being formulated into a clear communication that will be shared.
  • A shift noted in MI: steep reductions in Community College and High School programs that lead to Architecture. This is of serious concern and we plan to monitor it in case it becomes a broad trend.
  • A Deep Dive conversation about credentialing which is an issue that is currently percolating in the National AIA landscape (after some 50 years of it moving in and out of the AIA spotlight)
    • What are the drivers toward or away from the AIA being involved in credentialing?
    • What are the issues that need to be considered if the AIA were to play some role in credentialing?
    • If there were some AIA involvement in credentialing, where might we start?
    • Comments from this gathering in preliminary form are being transmitted to the National AIA Board Task Force on Credentialing (on which I happen to serve). A straw poll indicated some evenly divided initial impressions.
  • State Government Network (SGN): how can this entity better serve components in their efforts to influence the regulatory and legal, share best practices and emerging threats and opportunities.    This conversation has led to plans for a February 2017 meeting to put into place a tool to gather and share detailed information throughout the year.

We had a group tour of Austin and a visit to one of the key projects in the Downtown that has transformed a former power plant to one of the hearts of the City.  We ate some great food, and we shared stories, laughs, plans, ideas, frustrations, and excitement.

Overall, what really struck me – the incredible capacity we have as an organization to muster our volunteer leaders  everywhere across the country ,  each one carving big blocks of time from their busy lives, rolling up their sleeves and spending hours and hours sharing, debating, finding consensus, forming action plans, and doing.

When you look around the room of an AIA meeting – whether at Large State in Austin, Texas, or at any of the hundreds of other AIA meetings that unfold each year – it’s clear we are not driven by fame or fortune to attend.  We are driven by passion – a shared passion to support Architects in shaping great places for people, in service to society.

How cool is that!!!

Comments? Drop me a line!  MFM@appliedarts dot net


Michael Malinowski, AIA

Michael F. Malinowski has been providing adaptive historic re-use, urban infill, residential including affordable housing, and commercial revitalization design solutions for 40 years as principal of Applied Architecture, Sacramento CA. A number of his projects have been ‘city shaping’ and widely recognized, including the Warehouse Artist Lofts 2015, Sacramento historic adaptive mixed use) Galt Place (2011, urban infill wood podium design); Globe Mill (2008, Sacramento, rebirth of an abandoned mill and silo complex) and Hotel Stockton (2006, Stockton, historic adaptive reuse). Michael has also worked with over 1500 families in shaping sustainable, functional and inspiring living environments.

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