CivicLAB 2018

Fra Carnavale, The Ideal City, 1480-1484, Walters Art Museum, Baltimore

About CivicLAB

Gain the skills to be a citizen architect.

Architects are advocates for the built environment. CivicLAB is an opportunity to learn from experts about the local, state and federal issues that directly affect architects and develop the skills to be an effective advocate. Learn how to use your skills as an architect to take on leadership roles in your community, professional lives and in academia.

CivicLAB prepares AIA members to guide and implement public policies and community initiatives that ensure healthy, livable, sustainable, and high-quality built environments for future generations.  These sessions will introduce participating architects, interns, and allied professionals to opportunities for civic engagement across the full spectrum of their careers. We invite the chapter’s emerging leaders to expand their role in critical issues facing our communities and the profession, and to communicate and demonstrate how architecture makes a difference.

During monthly sessions, and hands-on research and fieldwork, participants will learn about approaches to advocacy from proven leaders who have guided communities to achieve results at local and national scales. Participants will learn tools of engagement and the impact of architects in multiple areas of advocacy. Group activities, assignments, research, and fieldwork will illustrate how we can make a positive change within our community.

CivicLAB in Washington

CivicLAB participants and graduates attend AIA Grassroots in Washington DC to meet with representatives.

The Importance of Training New Architect Leaders

Klaus Philipsen, FAIA

Thanks to the increasing awareness of environmental and social justice concerns, as well as a general realization that the built environment, indeed, plays a huge role in the well-being of both the planet and its people, architects are presented with a huge opportunity and responsibility. As professionals who are trained to coordinate many disciplines and solve problems holistically through the integrated approach of design, we are uniquely positioned to address these concerns.  But even for us generalists, truly integrated design requires that we move out of our comfort zone and into areas that are adjacent and outside our fields of training.  Learning to engage community and achieve acceptance; to influence legislators and the regulatory framework; how our designs fit into the bigger picture; how to reform established methods and procedures for better outcomes—these skills are not only essential for progress in our society, but are increasingly necessary for personal advancement in our industry.

AIABaltimore is one of the leaders in the nation in its level of committee activism and involvement in a wide range of topics relevant to the profession. We can only remain successful if we foster and support new talent.

Selection Process

While tailored to emerging professionals (Associate AIA or AIA members within their first 10 years of licensure) participation in CivicLAB is open to all AIA members and limited to a maximum of 20 participants. Participants will be selected on the basis of a nomination and statement of interest. Criteria for acceptance to the program will include expressed interest in becoming involved in community advocacy or prior involvement in community organizations. Each participant should be sponsored by a member firm, as evidenced by a nomination statement; however, scholarships will be available for members who are unemployed or employed by non-member firms. Applicants may self-nominate.

Tuition and Funding

Tuition is $100 per participant and covers food, administrative fees, and other miscellaneous meeting expenses. Scholarships are available to participants for whom funding is a challenge. Tuition is due after applicants are selected for the program and prior to the first session in early March.

Time Commitment

Four monthly sessions will be held on weekday evenings from March-June from 5:30 pm – 7:30 pm at AIABaltimore. Applicants are expected to attend all sessions. Additional outside preparation time for assignments, research, and fieldwork will be required to complement the monthly sessions, and to broaden and enrich participants’ experiences with interactive community engagement. A light supper will be provided at monthly sessions.

Session Dates
March 7: Citizen Lobbying
March 28
April: TBD
May 23

More information to come!

Participants will also be encouraged to to participate in a Hill Visit in Annapolis to meet with state legislators. More details to come. Additional meetings and opportunities may be suggested after the program begins.


Completed applications and nominations are due by Friday, February 2. Each applicant will be notified of selection results by February 6.

How to Apply

Step 1: Complete the application.

Step 2: Have your firm principal, employer, or another reference fill out the nomination form. Self-employed or unemployed applicants may self-nominate. Nomination forms must be received by February 8.

Step 3: Pay the $100 fee online.

Or send a check to:

11 1/2 West Chase Street
Baltimore, Maryland 21201

Scholarships are available to cover the cost of tuition. Contact Zevi Thomas at or 410.625.2585 x104 for more information.

Further Information

If you have questions, please contact Zevi Thomas at or 410.625.2585 x104

CivicLAB Spotlights on Advocacy

martina headshotName: Martina D. Reilly, AIA LEED AP BD+C 
CivicLAB Class: 2012
Alma Mater: University of Maryland, College Park
Bowie, Maryland

Why was it important for you to take part in CivicLAB?

I have always been passionate about social justice and how architecture can positively influence social sustainability. I was encouraged to participate in the program by a principal at my firm to learn more about how architects can make a difference in their communities through the built environment.  I saw it as a great networking opportunity where I can hone my leadership skills and learn more about the intersection of architecture in politics, policy, and people.


Laura headshotName: Laura  Wheaton, AIA
CivicLAB Class:
Alma Mater:
Virginia Tech
Columbus, Ohio

Why was it important for you to take part in AIABaltimore CivicLAB program?

I was new to Baltimore at the time and CivicLAB helped me integrate more quickly into the local design community. I gained a more thorough understanding of the current advocacy issues and design conversations in our profession through presentations by Chris Parts and Klaus Philipsen, and met several like-minded fellow architects both in my year and when I’ve come back since to present.  


Trey headshot

Name: Tilghman ‘Trey’ Shamer III, AIA, LEED AP BD+C
CivicLAB Class: 
Alma Mater: Virginia Tech
Manchester, MD

Why was it important for you to take part in AIABaltimore CivicLAB program?

I’ve always thought it was important that, as professionals who help to shape our environments, we use our particular talents and experience to improve the lives and communities we touch. It was also a great opportunity for networking, and to better understand the intersection of the public, the design community, and the government.


camessia headshotName: Camessia Johnson, Assoc. AIA
CivicLAB Class: 
2014, 2015
Alma Mater: 
Morgan State University
Fort Washington, MD

Why was it important for you to take part in AIABaltimore CivicLAB program?

I have always believed that the built environment can be used as a medium for change and inspiration. As a young designer seeking professional growth, I saw participating in CivicLAB as a great networking opportunity. Furthermore, as a graduate of Morgan State University, I am dedicated to sharing my time and talents to promote diversity and inclusion in the fields of architecture, design, real estate, and construction. Morgan’s design curriculum is deeply rooted in community based research and project development. During my time there, I learned to be a steward of the neighborhoods and context in which I live, work, and design.


About AIABaltimore

We are third oldest chapter of the American Institute of Architects, and have over 1,100 members creating and advocating for great, sustainable design in Charm City!
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