When we reflect on what makes a project successful, client engagement is the most important factor. The best projects are the ones where this engagement enriches the relationship, creating a design that reflects the client’s values and embodies their aspirations.
Why should AIA be different? The American Institute of Architects is its membership and should reflect the values of the profession and respond to the needs of the members. So often I hear, “What has AIA done for me lately?” In response, I ask how the member has been involved with AIA. To this question, the disengaged members respond:
- that AIA took a position on an issue with which they didn’t agree;
- that the AIA contracts are cumbersome and expensive;
- that the organization is antiquated and bloated at the national level; or
- that there is little relevance for AIA in today’s interdisciplinary world.
The commonality in the responses is that disengaged members don’t see themselves reflected in the values of the AIA, which should reflect the values of the members. Paying dues without engagement leads to an organization that does not reflect its members’ values. In parallel, designing a project without client engagement creates a project, but it will be based on arbitrary/projected values. Dissatisfaction is not a reason for disengagement, but a reason to engage and to work in shaping the organization to better serve the members.
Embodied within the Chapter’s Strategic Plan are ways in which a member can engage with the AIA. My involvement began with Historic Resources Committee, where I connected with the architects and contractors who were bringing new life into buildings I valued. Through my networking at AIA Baltimore, I have grown my professional network to find new job opportunities, recruit new staff, and build relationships with allied members and boards of complementary organizations. Ultimately, AIA Baltimore has provided me with leadership and professional growth opportunities at every level that I would have never had if I only kept asking, “What has the AIA done for me?”
In 2005, when I went to my first committee meeting, three years after becoming a member, I had no idea where my involvement would take me. This year, I am proud of and grateful for the opportunity to serve as the president of AIA Baltimore. As we begin this year, please consider ways that you can help shape our chapter to reflect the values of our 1,000+ members. As one of the largest chapters in the country and with a member, Tom Liebel, FAIA, on the Strategic Council, we are in a position to help shape AIA National policies also.
Two immediate ways to engage with the Chapter’s Strategic Goal of Advocacy are:
Join AIA Maryland in meeting with State Legislators to build relationships and advocate for our positions on upcoming legislation. This year, we are joining efforts with the membership of Preservation Maryland to increase our impact. There is a range of opportunities for participation to match your level of interest.
CivicLAB offers the opportunity to expand your understanding of civic engagement through exposure at local, state, and national levels. AIA Baltimore’s CivicLAB has become a model for advocacy training at other AIA chapters across the country.
I am looking forward to collaborating with a broader base of our membership, sponsors, and allied members in the upcoming year. Please join me in shaping our chapter to better reflect values and priorities of the members.
Ann Powell, AIA LEED AP BD+C
Ayers Saint Gross