As late as the mid-19th century, architects as such were few in number in the United States. Most building plans were drawn up either by talented amateurs or by contractors themselves. Those practitioners who actually studied architecture as an art and science and regarded their practice as a profession were hampered by public misconception. Eventually, this desire to educate the public in an attempt to gain recognition and support led to a cooperative effort among those concerned. Although they were scattered, architects began to form a professional society.
In 1857, a group of thirteen men in New York City succeeded in establishing the first professional organization for architects in the United States. Led by the respected designer Richard Upjohn, they drafted a constitution and bylaws. The society’s aims reflected their main concern: that of uniting in fellowship the architects of this continent, and to combine their efforts so as to promote the artistic, scientific and practical efficiency of the profession. This fledgling group eventually came to be known as The American Institute of Architects.
Vision and Purpose
Today, the AIA has over 80,000 members and Associate members. Though the AIA functions as a national organization, at its heart are almost 300 local and state organizations providing members with the essential local focus that reflects the nature of their professional lives.
Guided by its officers, directors and committees, the AIA’s programs are carried out by members and staff. The AIA, through its public outreach, education, and governmental affairs activities, works toward a better public environment and is responsive to the people it serves. The AIA supports efforts to create livable cities that are inviting, affirming expressions of community life.
The Institute serves its members with professional development opportunities, contract documents, information services, personal benefits, and client-oriented resources. By speaking with a united voice, architects in the AIA can influence government decisions that affect the practice of the profession and the quality of American life. The AIA strives to meet the needs and interests of the nation’s architects and the public they serve by developing public awareness of the value of architecture and the importance of good design.
The governing body of The American Institute of Architects is the Board of Directors and consists of a President, First Vice President/President elect,Treasurer/Secretary, six Vice Presidents, Executive Vice President (who serves ex-officio, is non-voting and supervises the Institute’s administrative staff), two Public Directors, the National Associate Director, 32 Directors representing the grassroots members and elected from the 19 regions throughout the United States, the President of The American Institute of Architecture Students (ex-officio) and the chairperson of the Council of Architectural Component Executives (ex-officio). The Board meets four times a year in various locations throughout the U.S.
Employees are divided into different departments and provide staff support for the various committees, task forces, and Knowledge Communities Supervision of the Institute’s staff is the responsibility of the Executive Vice President. All program activities at the national level of the AIA stem from priorities set by the Board of Directors and the membership of the AIA.
At the national level, policy making starts with either a member, committee, knowledge communities, or a Board member advocating a policy proposal for consideration by the Board of Directors. Once the AIA Board approves a policy proposal, it is assigned to the appropriate AIA policymaking body for further development. The final version is again presented to the Board for review. Upon approval, the Executive Vice President assigns the new policy or program to the appropriate department for implementation.
At National’s annual convention, any state or regional component may initiate convention resolutions for the AIA Board of Directors’ consideration. Local chapter components may also initiate resolutions, but must have co-sponsorship from a national AIA Director, a state component or a regional component. At national AIA’s annual Grassroots meeting in Washington DC, a member Congress helps the AIA develop priorities for the year and voice concerns from the grassroots level.
The Institute is composed of nineteen regional components as follows: California, Central States, East Central, Florida/Caribbean, Gulf States, Illinois, Michigan, Middle Atlantic, New England, New York, North Central, Northwest & Pacific, Ohio, Pennsylvania, South Atlantic, Texas, Western Mountain, New Jersey and Region of the Virginias.
Depending on the regional component’s membership size, it elects one or more AIA directors to serve on the National AIA Strategic Council. California not only has enough members to make up a region but also has the distinction of being the single largest regional component in the nation, with three representative to the AIA Strategic Council. AIA national directors. Each year at Grassroots and the national Convention, the regions gather in caucuses to discuss issues of concern.
State AIA Components
Many regions contain more than one state, in which case there exists an AIA state component in addition to the regional component. When a single state makes up a region, such as in the case with California, that entity serves as both a state and regional component. In some sparsely populated areas, the state component is the only AIA chapter in that state.
In 1944, at the request of California’s existing AIA chapters, the “California Council, The American Institute of Architects” was chartered as a state organization by the AIA. In 1950, AIACC was incorporated as a non-profit California corporation. In 1981, the AIACC moved from its original home in San Francisco to Sacramento, where the organization could reside more closely to the capitol. In 1992, the name of the organization was changed to “The American Institute of Architects, California Council.” It is also known as the Council or AIACC. Today, the AIACC is comprised of 22 local chapters.
The AIACC is an association of individual members. The members of the AIA California Council include Members, Members-Emeritus, Associates, Students, and Allied members. Beginning in 1997, the AIACC began a new membership category called “Allied” member. The AIACC also offers free membership to students who are members of their local AIAS chapter or their local AIA chapter, whichever opportunities exist. If neither chapter is available in the area, the student is still eligible for free student membership at the AIACC.
Vision and Purpose
The AIA California Council’s purpose is to “give unified representation in all statewide matters affecting the architectural profession within the State of California.” (From the Articles of Incorporation). Located in Sacramento close to the state capitol, the AIACC’s primary mission is to advocate on behalf of architects and the architectural profession to the Legislature and state regulatory boards and agencies.
At the state level the governing body is comprised of three groups, totaling 58 members. They include the Board of Directors comprised of 42 directors (members are represented by one or more directors per chapter based proportionally on the size of the chapter). Secondly are the ex-officio officers consisting of three California regional representatives who sit on the National AIA Strategic Council, and three representatives on the Academy for Emerging Professionals, Council of Advisors (YAF Director and Student Director). Finally, are the AIACC Officers, also known as the Executive Committee, or ExCom. Their offices are as follows:
- President (one-year term)
- First Vice President/President-elect (one-year term)
- Secretary/Treasurer (two-year term)
- Vice President of Legislative Affairs (two-year term)
- Vice President of Communications/Public Affairs (two-year term)
- Vice President of Regulatory Affairs (two-year term)
- Vice President of Professional Practice (two-year term)
- Vice President of the Academy for Emerging Professionals (two-year term)
- Vice President of California CACE (two-year term)
- Executive Vice President, a staff position. He is considered an ex-officio, (which means by virtue of his position) non-voting member of the Executive Committee.
The Executive Committee conducts the business of the Council between Board meetings and is responsible for the implementation of Board policies.
The AIACC Board of Directors
The American Institute of Architects is a representative organization. Members join for various reasons and enjoy many benefits, including the right to vote in the governance of the organization. Members elect other members to act on their behalf in the decision and policy-making bodies of the Institute. These elected representatives often have the authority to appoint other members to further representative positions.
Members of the AIACC Board of Directors serve as the elected representatives of local chapter members at the state level of the AIA. They are responsible for setting and approving policy decisions and directions for the AIACC, approving the annual plan and budget, setting the dues amount for the AIACC, and debating issues of concern to architects and the architectural profession in California. A key responsibility of state directors is to communicate back to their local chapters. This can occur in several ways, newsletter articles, reports at local chapter board meetings, reports at local chapter membership meetings and events, personal contact, and written meeting reports.
The Council’s operations are conducted primarily through four program areas: Legislative Affairs, Communications/Public Affairs, Regulation and Practice, and Membership Services. Staff members may be assigned to one or more programs, and lend administrative support to all program committees and task forces. Supervision and management of the AIACC staff and operations is the responsibility of the Executive Vice President.
The AIACC Board of Directors meets three times per year in-person and has several virtual meetings as well. The schedule includes meetings in February, July, and November. The Executive Committee almost always meets the day before the Board meetings. Although local chapters are responsible for budgeting for their own travel to the meetings, the AIACC budgets for Board lunches and travel for the Executive Committee and staff. The Chapter Executives sit at the Board meeting, but they are not voting members of the Board. Invited guests and staff sit on the outside of the Board setup.
In addition, there are four Board Committees established to deal with overall Council planning and administration, Planning and Finance Procedures and Documents, the AEP Council of Advisors, and The Pension Plan Advisory Committee. These committees, provide direct reporting and accountability to the Board of Directors.
Matters may be brought to any of the four Board Committees by action of the Board, the Executive Committee or by direction of the President. Committee members are appointed by the President.
Chapters are at the heart of The American Institute of Architects, and in most cases is the first contact a member will have with the AIA. Some states have only one chapter, which is then also the state component. Other states are made up of many chapters. California, with 22 local chapters, has the largest number in a single state in the nation.
Like National and the State, local chapters are governed by a Board of Directors. Election or appointment to the Board and its committees varies among chapters. Consult your local chapter for specifics.
The AIACC also has several standing committees to assist in policy direction and implementation of the AIACC’s programs and activities’, task forces may also be appointed at any time by the President to serve a specific purpose. Their duties are determined at the time of creation. Committees include:
- Academy for Emerging Professionals (AEP) Council of Advisors
- Advocacy Advisory Committee
- Design Awards Committee
- Residential Awards Committee
- Achievement Awards Committee
- Capitol Forum Board
- Committee on the Environment (COTE)
- LRP and Strategic Planning Committee
- Monterey Design Conference Planning Committee
- Pension Plan Advisory Committee
- Planning & Finance Committee
- Procedures & Documents Committee
- Urban Design Committee