ship is important to establish trust. Designers engaged in socially responsible architecture in underserved communities have often been criticized for being elitist. And PID practices have been described as a form of colonialism, where wealthy, educated designers impose their way of life on a culture they do not understand.
PHOTO BY HOLLY REED.
It is essential that we challenge our assumptions about the way we think others should live, behave, and interact with their environments. We must learn by observation. It is also important that we not assume that we are the best equipped to tackle a problem. We should form partnerships with local operators — community organizers, leaders, or other professionals who might be in better positions to lead a project. Often we are tasked with working in conditions that are dangerous or unhealthy; we must be mindful of threats to our own safety. All of this is not to suggest that we put down our tools and decide not to tackle these issues because they are too hard, unsafe, or overwhelming. It is the challenges of PID that make it most rewarding and worthwhile. There is another component of socially conscious design that is worth mentioning: It is important to younger people. As Blake Mycoskie noted in his keynote address, working for the public good will allow your firm to attract the very best and brightest recent college graduates and employees new to the field of architecture. We just might do our profession a great service if we nurture this interest in our workplaces and give our young designers the support they need to succeed. In the last session I attended in Denver, I listened as educators from across the country debated how we might turn around the declining enrollment in architecture programs. The dean of one college noted that the profession is no longer considered as exciting and vibrant as it was in the time of Ayn Rand’s depiction of Howard Roark in “The Fountainhead.” The comment made me wonder if the optimism of those practicing socially conscious design was not shared by the people in this room. But, as I lingered after the session, another architect and friend of Mockbee looked back at me and said, “Isn’t Sambo Mockbee the Howard Roark of our time?”
On the AIA and Coming Together by Jeff Potter, FAIA
If you are an architect (or about to become one), and you’re reading this, you are likely an AIA member. Assuming you pay your dues, and possibly the dues of others, you may ask yourself, “Am I receiving commensurate value in return?” I’ve been immersed in the deep end of that question for the last few years and have only become more convinced the answer is “Yes!” As a baby boomer, I joined simply because it was expected of me. My mentors were all actively engaged in AIA activities, and following their example seemed an unspoken imperative — a sensibility that has not necessarily transferred to the values of the millennials now rising in our ranks. Looking back on 30 years of AIA successes and failures, I believe we have never had a greater need for “coming together” as a profession — as was the agenda at the founding of the AIA in New York City in 1857. that the public understands the three letters AIA to mean “licensed architect.” This brand penetration is of no small effect. But like all relationships in life, the value of our membership in AIA is proportional to the opportunity it creates for giving rather than the occasion it presents for receiving. While our discipline and profession have a highly developed aesthetic proposition, we find ourselves now at a much busier intersection in time, where the contributions of science impart significant meaning and value to many of the professional dialogues that operate in the urban and public domains. The individual creative spirit is no less important, but collaboration across disciplines is increasingly delivering the highest-quality outcomes. It is the new ne plus ultra. Our profession must evolve, and the AIA must evolve along with us.
Our surveys tell us
We are all proud to be professionals in the field of architecture, but that doesn’t mean our profession is optimally realized. One dimension of a more highly evolved ethic is our stewardship of the efforts and enterprises that lead us to the future. Creating a profession worthy of succession will be realized not only through design but also through mentorship. I write the check for my small staff to engage in the AIA, and I have the utmost respect for large firms who do the same. Over the last few years, it has become more difficult to do this. I encourage all leaders not only to subsidize the price of membership, but more important, to share your experiences about membership with those inside and outside your office. This helps to shape the future of the profession. More than anything, our emerging professionals seek this experience. I believe our time and place, cloudy as it may be, will subsequently be judged as pivotal. Demographics, global transformation, environmental changes, and technology, among countless other factors, call for a more robust and confident architectural profession. A forward-thinking profession will have no reservations about building the platform — with licensure at its core — that will deliver the collaborative action that our emerging professionals desire and demand. An aspirational profession will seek higher standards of design practice and hone broad-based communication efforts that relate the story of why architecture matters to the public. Today, “coming together” remains a timeless design for AIA. Jeff Potter, FAIA, is a former president of AIA (2012)
Margaret R. Sledge, AIA, practices architecture at Lake|Flato in San Antonio.
We are all proud to be professionals in the field of architecture, but that doesn’t mean our profession is optimally realized. Medicine and law have historically enjoyed more developed and explicit ethics. By ethics, I don’t simply mean the ways in which we treat our clients and each other, but rather the understanding that society has of architecture and our professional practices. Through research, advocacy, and communication, we can assume a more prominent place in the collaboration of art and science in the public discourse.
and current vice president of Potter Architecture,
Jeff Potter, FAIA, speaking at the Texas Society of Architects 73rd Annual Convention in October 2012.
Landscape Architecture and Planning.
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