Architectural Criticism



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    AIA, Architects, and Architecture: The Struggle for Relevance

    Jessica A.S. Letaw
    Jul 15, '15 1:12 PM EST

    In a bucolic rural setting one hot Sunday afternoon this July, a group of Michigan architects gathered to discuss the future of their local AIA chapter.  In some form or another, this conversation is happening all across the United States: a crisis in fate and faith of architects in "their" group, and the chance to choose a new path that should feel like opportunity and instead feels kind of gloomy.

    Some facts:

    • In 2013, the AIA conducted an exhaustive survey of members and nonmembers about the perceived value of the organization.  What benefits were they offering that were of value to folks?  What weren't they offering?  What were they offer that was not bringing benefit?
    • As a result of the survey, the organization determined in 2014 to make structural changes at every level - local, state, and national - to reduce regional inconsistencies in member value.
    • In October 2015, all Michigan AIA chapters, or officially "components", will have to vote on whether they want to be classified as "components" or "sections".
    • A "component" entails a part- or full-time staff member, and requires 300-500 members at a minimum to support.  It has a voting voice in the AIA and is represented on the AIA Michigan Board.
    • A "section" is essentially a themed social club: members pay national and state but no local dues and in return receive limited control over their own funds and no voice in governance.
    • 80% of chapters nationally and 10 out of Michigan's 11 chapters do not meet AIA National's definition of "chapter", and so will automatically get categorized as a "section" unless they take measures to A) work with National to change the definition or B) work together with other Michigan sections to combine and meet the definition.

    The struggle of the AIA is reflective of the larger architect population, and that of architecture in general: the struggle for real and perceived relevance, the struggle both to provide value and for that value to be perceived by its clients and members.

    Unfortunately, the AIA's strategy seems consistently to be that of exclusion.  As with their recent strenuous objection to classifying international practitioners as architects (without necessarily having done due diligence in doing so), so they are reducing the number of people who have access to national benefits while placing an undue burden on regional chapters to both define and deliver their own value propositions, without providing any additional resources for doing so (and, in Michigan's case, also reducing the governing board's size by 37%, meaning that underrepresented areas will be even MORE underrepresented after the change).

    By the mere fact of the survey and its conclusion, the American Institute of Architects has good intentions, and practitioners everywhere will benefit with a solution that truly does raise both the perceived and the true level of services being provided to all of its members.  Unfortunately, and a little alarmingly, it seems to be mandating bootstrapped changes without having found that solution.  Architects and architecture still find themselves in search of the professional network they deserve.


    • Wilma Buttfit

      Why do architects want to network with other architects anyways?

      Jul 16, 15 9:08 pm  · 

      How about I rephrase that question... tintt.

      Why would architects want to resist networking with other architects?

      Networking isn't about just networking with your fellow architects. It is about networking with all kinds of people. This means to be an architect especially in the role of principal or starting your own practice, you better develop social skills and network through social connections and build your social connections.

      Jul 17, 15 3:16 am  · 
      Wilma Buttfit

      In my experience networking across multiple disciplines is more effective. The author mentioned that the AIA's strategy seems to be of exclusion, do you disagree, Richard? Why do architects want to be exclusive? They certainly exclude you, a building designer, but why? The point should be outreach, not exclusion, just my radical non-status-quo-maintaining thoughts. 

      Jul 17, 15 9:29 am  · 

      I am a member of the Associate AIA but not on the factor of me being a building designer but if you look at what AIA, its history and also its involvement in the creation of architectural licensing. You would understand there has been a trend beginning back in the 19th century during the progressive modernism movement. 

      Exclusion has been a part of the AIA mission to establishing licensing but it isn't explicitly about exclusion purely on exclusion sake. In those days, the matter was between academically trained architect who when to colleges and various schools with architecture education (Yes, there was education programs of architect long before there was NAAB) and those who were not academically trained.... most particularly the 'architect-builders' and architects who had no formal training or those that academically trained architects felt were not sufficiently trained. 

      This issue still exists in the culture of architecture and in fact is part of the culture of licensed professions. The idea of a license is in part an ego things to differentiate. 

      I'll get back to the rest of this....

      Jul 17, 15 1:56 pm  · 

      I'll say they are and aren't excluding me per se. They don't represent building designers so much. There is already AIBD which is a good professional society to be a collective voice but like any professional societies including AIA, membership is voluntary. AIBD also accept architects as members, too. There is distinct focus areas of the different organizations.

      AIBD certainly looks to its predominate members who are building designers (or residential designers or home designers) and other unlicensed designers about protecting our practice from legislative onslaughts but some architects that works through writing bills to effectively outlaw. 

      You got groups with various interests. There's a group of architects that wants unlicensed designers to not be allowed to practice building design on exempt buildings by removing exemptions. This would create harm to those already in business because it forces those well established to have to undergo a lengthy process of legislation. That lengthy process is cost prohibitive, the IDP process and pay rate is far less than what a building designer could make and in several cases, they would be well into retirement age when getting done and there would not be many years left in career or life to pay off.

      Then again, they don't care. They just want that extra competition gone so they try to legislate them out of business.

      Then you have architects who aren't trying to do that and would be fine and happily compete fairly with building designers and other architects. 

      We all like to make more money for our work. There have been many proposals from all groups. As a building designer, I wouldn't want to be restricted from practicing building design because some a--hole architect who got his panties in a twist and pull a hair in his arse to just legislate.

      This is why unlicensed designers should be active in and/or with AIBD, their local chapters or be part of it and help to defend this area of domain. 

      Think about it those aspiring to be licensed someday. This exempt building domain is an area you can practice with smaller projects when you aren't employed. Architects who are in the residential and light commercial domain, AIBD is always interested in their thoughts and inputs... after all.... they are building designers (by definition), too. 

      With any professional society, a professional society does more and able to do more by size of membership and activity of its members. It is important that organizations build membership and encourage active membership. That's a reality with any organization. 

      The problem in our culture of the younger culture is they expect everything done for them so they don't have to do anything.  This isn't unique to architecture/building design.

      Regarding your question about why AIA would exclude building designers. I am not entirely sure they are so much doing that now. Although, SOME architects hold a dim view of building designers or any unlicensed designers (unless they are Interior Designers). The issue lies with the fact we may compete for projects and that naturally is frustrating for some architects but then lets remember, you didn't have to go through all the process of becoming an architect to design exempt buildings. Architecture education as well as other paths to learning how to design buildings and places or spaces are valued by AIBD and its members. You need to know how to design if you want to be a design professional so you learn but that is an investment we all do or at least most of us do.

      I don't see AIA and AIBD necessarily has to be enemies or anything like that. They represent different bodies of memberships and areas of focus and needs of their respective membership. 

      As a professional member of AIBD, they represent my needs in the realm of building design as a building designer as a business. As an Associate AIA member of AIA, AIA represents predominately that of licensed Architects and that of firms. They also are involved with the matters of Architect licensure matters. They are because they essentially created architectural licensing so it is their pet. Ironically, I am right there in the middle. I seen the different sides of the issues. 

      With regard to my statement, the idea of a license is in part an ego thing to differentiate, it is but it may or may not be a significant part on an individual by individual case but there is that thing for 'standing out' which by definition implies some degree of ego. Without any ego, you wouldn't stand out or be different. You would be a faceless drone with no distinctive identity. So don't take it out as implying it is meant to convey that it is entirely about ego. If you dive deep into the subject matter who how licensing came to be, it can get convoluted with all sides and their voices and their intent.

      Just look at the more contemporary discussions today. Many of us have a degree of being independent minded. So tintt, I agree that networking across disciplines and with the client market places we want to be involved in. I do see there is also a need to network with each other.

      Jul 17, 15 5:06 pm  · 

      I'm an active local AIA member, through which I've met tons of local contractors, suppliers, businesspeople, elected officials, and yes, other architects.

      The other architects are good to know because while I'm not looking for a job right now, I might be in the future, and rather than cold calling it will be easy to build on an existing social relationship to call around and see who might be hiring AND know which firms may or may not be a good fit for me. This also helps if I want to team with a local firm for a specific reason.

      Just last week we had an evening event, after which I  was able to directly contact a city council person to give him my opinion on something we discussed at our little social gathering. It turns out he had questions about a topic on which I happen to know a lot. 

      This is how networking works. 

      Jul 18, 15 2:15 pm  · 

      Oh, and Jessica, to your actual post: Here in Indiana we are looking very hard at the implications of the one-AIA-per-state proposal. There are pros and cons, and we are moving forward slowly to make sure all our members' voices are heard. It's not easy to change but I feel like overall the change is positive in giving a geographically large state closer ties.

      Jul 18, 15 2:17 pm  · 

      Can you elaborate on the one-AIA-per-state proposal?

      Jul 18, 15 2:31 pm  · 

      Richard that's what the original post is all about.  As usual you took it off on a self-serving tangent.  

      Because 80% of existing chapters are too small and/or inactive to qualify as components, most would need to combine with others in order to meet the definition and have any voting power within the AIA.  In most states that will mean one component for the state, because there aren't enough members and resources to support multiple components.  In some states there may not be enough even to support one component.

      Jul 18, 15 8:00 pm  · 

      I'm wondering if this is simply a Michigan thing or AIA nationally? I haven't seen anything about the "one-AIA-per-state proposal" by AIA itself. I'm asking for a link to the original proposal itself or a good elaborated explanation aside from the OP that isn't enough. In other words, I am trying to get a third party and especially a primary source reference on this.

      Jul 18, 15 8:39 pm  · 

      It's a national structural change.  It was in the amendments to the bylaws that were voted on by delegates at the AIA convention in May.  I saw the results of that at some point in the AIA's magazine.  The full text of all the amendments was also in there some months prior.

      Jul 18, 15 8:55 pm  · 

      I didn't catch or recognized the 'One AIA per State". That is what confused me as I never saw such a proposal referred to that.

      Jul 18, 15 8:57 pm  · 

      "... The Bylaws currently authorize a Chapter to form one or more Sections within its territory under guidelines set by the Board. (AIA Bylaws, Section 4.21.) A State Organization, however, may not form a Section unless it is a "statewide chapter" (that is, where it functions as the only Chapter in the state). It is therefore impossible in many locations for a State Organization to form a Section, even though that is what members believe to be most beneficial..."

      Jul 18, 15 9:03 pm  · 

      Ok. Thanks for the contextual reference. This helps to understand. At AIBD, we are undergoing a degree of restructuring as well. Re-designing the organizations into more localized chapters but we have challenges as well. Getting member rosters and growing membership. With local chapters... we need 5 members of AIBD. This can be various membership categories but members. 

      All members of AIBD is members of AIBD nationally but then we have local chapters which I am also working with organizing. Generally the idea is about 50 mile radius but that is not a hard rule. It maybe a matter of practicality that some chapters are elongated or extend past 50 mile radius in order to have an effective chapter with sufficient membership. 

      The idea again is about getting stronger grassroot  connections and building our mission and making an impact where our members are. Too big or too small can be a problem. 

      Jul 18, 15 11:02 pm  · 

      You should start an AIBD thread and not hijack this one if you want to talk about that.  In general, it seems like you'd need much larger geographical radii to have 5 members per local chapter of AIBD.  There are only about 700 members worldwide. More than half of all states have membership in the single digits, and some states have zero members.  So even if all members were in the continental US, the average region would need to be over 21,000 square miles to round up its 5 members.  I would think that resources would be better spent strengthening the core operation of something that small - grow the membership base substantially before splintering into tiny chapters - especially since the current membership is so heavily based in only a handful of states.

      Too small is exactly the problem that the AIA is trying to address - and that's with 60,000+ members.  Too many local chapters don't have enough members to sustain consistent involvement and outreach. 

      Jul 18, 15 11:56 pm  · 


      The point isn't about AIBD so much. Getting 5 members isn't necessarily hard. They don't have to be Professional members or CPBDs. They can be associate members, student members, etc.

      Be back later to discuss more.

      Jul 19, 15 10:35 am  · 

      AIBD is tiny. Even at its highest enrollment it never reached 1000 members.  The entire current membership, including every category of member, is just over 650, as of last week. Almost 20% of those members are in Texas, another 30% are the combined total of the 4 other states with the highest memberships.  That leaves 0 to 20 members in almost every other state. There aren't 5 current members within a few hours driving distance of each other in most parts of the US.

      AIA's studies show that the optimal component size is +/-400 members of all types.  This is not to say that AIA's model correlates with AIBD's goals - but a 5-person chapter (or committee or board) of anything is always difficult to maintain.  It becomes exhausting to the more involved members, so there is a lot of turnover in local leadership - and then the lack of continuity discourages new members.

      Jul 19, 15 12:06 pm  · 

      Then you do membership drives to boost membership. AIBD at its highest was considerably over 1000. That is something going back a long time ago and I don't mean in the last 15 years.

      I here your thoughts. It just means we have to have different degrees of membership and with increased membership, cost will go down in membership fees. 

      What is challenging with any association these days is that younger generations do not get involved in organizations. I see this is a problem with our younger millenial generations not being active. 

      I'm only bringing AIBD and other associations as a collective thought on this matter. The thing is in the past AIBD had been having trouble making a presence at the local level where it matters at the local level. This is something that to some degree of another applies to AIA. Historically AIBD much like AIA would focus around state legislative circles but members aren't looking at those issues as much. Sure, there is importance in those issues. 

      When I talked to Steve Mickley of AIBD National office, I had concerns with local chapter but also see potential to bring AIBD to the neighborhood which is possible to grow members by bringing local building designers (architects included), and other professionals, inter-association collaboration, involving members of of varied professions whether members of AIBD or not, and so forth. So for me, connecting a local chapter with associations such as Lower Columbia Preservation Society in Astoria area and other organizations including allied professions, lets not forget bringing the people who are also have stake in the built environment such as city planners, building officials, etc. 

      It is possibly just out of Astoria, that we can bring in 5+ members if not more. When I was involved with the forming of the "Columbia-Pacific Crafts Preservation Guild", we had more than 5 people as it is. Lucky enough, AIBD has a number of members in Portland area and scattered around.

      The biggest thing AIBD has been having issues with is public awareness. The most powerful awareness mechanism that is going to bring members is at the grass root. Not by some far off national office. What Florida is doing is essentially a good job of outreach for its scale. Alot of members are centralized around cities but being connected and being active and being involved. My goal maybe a tad ambitious but if we can get city officials (building officials, community development directors, city planner, etc.) involved, connecting with other associations that are important in the community and participating in matters important in the here and now where we are, then growth will occur. 

      AIA in some degree has some similar issues. I can not say our models correlate as straight apple to apple comparisons but both organizations comes out of a Top-Down model with the National office at top. This model has difficulty being relevant when they don't see AIA or AIBD in the day to day. When they see the 'brand' (AIA or AIBD) correlating and involved in shaping communities, the built environment, etc. then they see the relevance.

      Membership fees are always something that makes a tough sell but also they can be lowered when more members are present. Then again an organization has a certain level of cost to operate. If membership can increase significantly then it will make it easier to lower membership fees to the AIBD itself. 

      We constantly complain about relevance? Let me ask you, what does it take for AIA to be relevant to you. This can be the same basic question in relation to AIBD.

      Organizations aren't built to serve you. They are built so the members serve the profession. Like farming. You don't see fruit in the store just magically appear but that's the same kind of cognitive problem in society and us. It takes us to make things happen. Someone has to be the farmer but we got too many who doesn't want to be the farmer.

      It is relevant when what you do with the organization has impact that you can see.

      The premise might be that if we start the ball rolling and all organizations (including chapters... start small), takes getting out their and inviting people into the organization and build membership.

      The same can be said of AIA components.

      AIA currently doesn't really represent unlicensed building designers. They only represent me to the extent of me being enrolled in IDP... more or less. 

      There relevance to me is limited. AIBD has more inherent relevance to me and what I do. There is no other organization ANYWHERE that represents building designers like myself as professional members and not demean us as sub-professional or less than a high school graduate which AIA sometimes gives that impression. That is a criticism that is not intended to mean AIA is bad or evil but fair.

      Jul 19, 15 4:30 pm  · 

      I apologize for length but there is several thoughts. This isn't AIA vs. AIBD. I think both organizations can and should have good working amenable relationship.

      Jul 19, 15 4:31 pm  · 

      copy pasting bot like formulations is not writing Richard................this sounds like those moves old architects make. it probably makes a lot of sense within the AIA but not sure why it even matters or is deemed a solution in the outside know,like when the realtors, developers, lawyers, contractors, engineers,and consultants all sitting around a large comference table discussing timeline and completion of job and the old fart whose name is the architecture firms door chimes in to discuss the importance of walk off matts in the main building lobby. what the fuck old famous architect?!?(true 2nd hand story)

      Jul 21, 15 6:57 am  · 


      Jul 21, 15 6:59 am  · 

      I do not recall copy and pasting above so what are you ranting about when you said, "copy pasting bot like formulations is not writing Richard" ?

      Aside from that, I am unsure what you are trying to get at.

      Can you rewrite what you are trying to get at when you are not drunk?

      Jul 21, 15 11:59 am  · 

      balkins you may be mildly retarded.

      Jul 21, 15 5:05 pm  · 

      No. You wrote without coherence. I don't speak ebonics. I don't speak Chinglish or Korenglish or Japaglish, etc. 

      Your first sentence, I understood just fine. I responded to that. Your second sentence seems to be screwy a bit and from that point on is all guessing. 

      I am not going to spend my time guessing what you think. I don't want to read other people's minds. There is enough garbage and crap on the published mediums of internet and TV. Even if I could read other people's minds, why the fuck would I want to read that shit? 

      Now, rewrite clearly what you were trying to say.... CLEARLY. 

      Jul 21, 15 5:45 pm  · 

      indoctrination. repeating myself here........and I can not wait until you get licensed, to then give the people with no license a run down on the law that you imagine and have learned via The Google.

      Jul 21, 15 5:58 pm  · 

      The laws I learned is the laws that applies to you, me and everyone here. Laws are published online so google just makes looking up the licensing boards quicker. 

      From there, you can find links to the published statutes and rules. 

      Jul 21, 15 6:00 pm  · 

      google - in practice versus the law......i do not mean really googling that exact phrase. think about the phrase and realize what it means and then do research from would make a good building department examiner - you would approve nothing! Balkins for NYC DOB commissioner.

      Jul 21, 15 6:10 pm  · 

      Are you saying I am too literal?

      Jul 21, 15 6:42 pm  · 

      Laws are one thing that is suppose to be pretty much exact and literal to how it is written. 

      Jul 21, 15 6:46 pm  · 

      from Douglas Coupland - Everybody on Earth is Feeling the Exact Same Thing as You: Notes on Relationships in the Twenty-First Century

      "11.  I sometimes wonder about people who wake up and spend almost the whole day online.  When they go to bed at night, they'll have almost no organic memories of their own.  If they do this for a long time, you begin to say that their intelligence is, in a true sense, artificial.  Which I guess means sex lives have never been as artificial as they are now."

      add being literal to that, holy shit!

      now let's get back to topic here...

      Jul 21, 15 8:35 pm  · 

      And why the f--- you read this stuff?

      Jul 21, 15 8:52 pm  · 

      All Architects, Edifice Envisioners, and other breeds of design professionals should wear their lapel pins all the time to increase all our collective relevancies.  Insignia is what separates us from roofers.  

      Jul 21, 15 9:09 pm  · 

      It seems when I received my chapter newsletter, my lapel pin was missing.  The mailman must have stolen it. 

      Can you send a new one?

      Jul 22, 15 1:42 pm  · 

      yes you can order one. Simply buy one. It doesn't cost much. I have two. One with my Assoc. AIA membership and one extra as a backup.

      Jul 22, 15 5:10 pm  · 

      Backup? For lapel pin emergencies?

      I've never seen anyone ever wear one, even at AIA events.  Are you using it to hold up your pants or something?

      Jul 22, 15 5:27 pm  · 

      No. I have it with my blazer. The have two in case one gets misplaced.

      I actually did wear it at an AIA meeting in Eugene.

      Jul 22, 15 6:33 pm  · 

      I wear my professional associations pins most times but in some situations it might not be professionally as appropriate for instance when I wear my blue shirt for my side work at Best Buy I don't wear the professional regalia associated with my design professional career because there might be confusion of branding in the heads of clients or shoppers or some shoppers might also be clients.   Or when I go to the mailbox in my bathrobe I always take the pin off my robe in case of future or present clients who might form sloppy impressions and to not destroy the illusion of my existing when I'm not designing.     If everybody wear their pins to the DMV so they would have them on their drivers license picture or personal ID card if they don't know how to drive then the police would be more familiar with what that pin signifies and your next speeding ticket might lead to a connection for getting a job to design the police station.  


      Its important that we take care in our professional appearance and I emailed AIA to suggest written guidelines but each state would have to adopt there own dress code because of needed modifications for climate differences and state colors.   When I get dressed if I'm meeting a client then I cogitate about what does my clothing speak about my skill set and relevance.  For meetings I wear a vest with a gold watch on a chain which I spent the extra at the flea market to get one that works because if a client asks me what time it is I need to be informative.   If I had an employee or independently contracted legally zoned part time drafter I would give him a copy of my office dress code to study so when clients come he should wear a button shirt and at least a clip on tie.  I could lend him one or he could get one at Costco and it would be ideal if he would wear dark pants and the same color of shoes but not as important because his work surface will be next to the dishwasher and we could just open the refrigerator door when clients come to conceal him from the shoulders down.

      Jul 22, 15 7:16 pm  · 

      "... so they are...placing an undue burden on regional chapters to both define and deliver their own value propositions"

      Oh woe is the local AIA.  It is undone.

      Good grief!  This is the way it should be.  Architects defining their value from the local component as the base upward to the national level.  Not the other way around.

      Outsourcing the proposition of value to some bureaucratic machine in DC hasn't exactly been working out has it local AIAs?

      Someday, perhaps, the AIA and its members will develop a local spine or two again.

      The AIAs latest 'lookup' campaign is simply a membership drive for like minded fools easily blinded by the ephemeral allure of eye candy.  If anything to Joe Public it simply reinforces the disconnect between everyday architecture and its relevance to everyday Joes.

      *sigh* when is this profession, as represented by the AIA going to get a substantial remodel?  A wrecking ball to tear it down to its foundations would be most appropriate.  Perhaps even some dynamite at the foundation.

      Jul 23, 15 3:36 pm  · 

      Guess I’ve got to be the curmudgeon on this one, I belonged my whole career, I found National to be “Valuable”, readings kept me from doing stupid things, State was simply “Pathetic” and Local outright “Laughable and Useless”…got my first clue when a prominent member called a budding client of mine and stole the project.

      As Donna suggested, if you are an employee, doing local AIA things can be fruitful (don’t drink and sell), but if you own a firm learn how to get drunk, hold your nose and keep your mouth shut at the same time.

      Networking is essential on all fronts, but remember that architects don’t buy from other architects…concentrate on the buyers and they are on the art scene & fundraising events.

      To be relevant to the OP, they can monkey with the local component all they want, but building a bigger cage for monkeys just means more stolen bananas.

      Jul 23, 15 5:39 pm  · 

      this thread seems to have gone awry, but let's take a shot at the OP's original question. i'll also just make clear that, even though i'm the aia georgia president this year, i'm not speaking for our chapter or any others in the state. but i do think i can actually speak to some of the issues:

      first, understand that there's no uniform organizational structure that is repeated across all states, in terms of their legal organization or the associated nomenclature. in georgia, for example, all of our chapters (the state and each of the 7 local chapters) are independent non-profit corporations. our smallest chapter is little over 25 members; atlanta, our largest, is over 1,700 - they include our only official 'section'. atlanta and georgia are the only two chapters with paid staff. 

      north carolina, by comparison, has one corporation/chapter - aianc, the state organization. all of the local groups are actually sections under aianc. a couple of the sections have paid staff, as does aianc.

      the organization of both affects our voting (nationally) and the relationships between our respective state/local groups. in georgia, it's more a meeting of equals; in n.c., the state has more effective power. i think we both manage our affairs reasonably well. 

      i'm curious to where you received your information about "having" to choose to be a section/component, as we do not understand this to be the case (at least as far as repositioning is concerned). 5 of our 7 local chapters would be less than 100 members, which is the official threshold to have formed an independent chapter (at least before the bylaws change this past June). groups that want to form a section under a state chapter can now do so, with the same 100 person minimum. we are supporting our smallest chapters as they decide to keep their charters and dig into the minimum requirements aia national has asked of them. we'd like to see them do well. 

      i think what aia national is asking all of us to consider, though, is simply this: how do we get to (as you allude to) a relatively consistent "minimum" level of services or experiences that define 'aia' for members. meaning, if i'm in chapter "x" , which has 20 members and because that's where i've moved to, is it ok that all they do is get together for beers once a month? while a larger chapter will offer all sorts of programs and other opportunities? i don't think aia is say 'no' but i think they want all of us to be conscious of that decision. 

      operationally, too, there's a huge question (implied in your statement about 300-500 for a component) we should be asking: is it ok, for example (to use my own state) to have two chapters that each have an executive director and staff for programs and communications while, effectively, we have the same exact membership? meaning, all 1900 of mine belong to our largest, staffed local chapter. should we look at having, like aia colorado just did, a single ED and single chapter (saving monies in a lot of ways), with staff devoted to atlanta, but also supporting the smaller chapters? again, i don't know - but that's the sort of thing this process should be encouraging. 

      there's not going to be an answer that works for each state. and i do genuinely think aia national has given each of us, as states, the flexibility to figure out what works best for us. perhaps, in your case, your state has had these conversations and these are the conclusions you're presenting to us? 

      good luck with it either way...

      Jul 24, 15 9:38 pm  · 

      Thanks Gregory Walker for this post. It gives us some good thoughts on the matter. Personally, I think we definitely as chapters should be more than just a gathering for beer. As a non-beer drinker, it isn't a compelling reason to be involved. Having programs and other opportunities are the most compelling reason for having any chapter. 

      I speak this, universally... AIA, AIBD or any organization.

      Jul 25, 15 12:02 am  · 

      ".....chapters should be more than just a gathering for beer". I agree completely, chapters should work collectively on business problems, community education, openly advocate for better design in their communities and speak out about bad design….huge failing of our profession, but it’s a big country and I’ve only been a member in 2 states, I’m sure it’s peachy everywhere else, that’s why the profession is thriving.

      Jul 26, 15 9:56 am  · 

      This is a fascinating discussion to come in on the tail end of!  I am glad to see that my post did exactly what I hoped: got folks talking and sharing information and understandings.

      Gregory: you are correct (and hi from a Georgia native!).  Each state is not being mandated to do these things.  Michigan has chosen to make this a required decision, and I believe it goes to vote in just a few weeks.  Like Georgia, our state has wide discrepancies; chapters on the east and west sides of the state have over a thousand members, while the Ann Arbor chapter has just over a hundred, and many of the ones farther north have fewer than three dozen.  It's complicated by the fact that, while the more remote chapters may not be getting the same level of service that the larger chapters are, they also may not WANT it.  Your example of Colorado is a good one, but it's being pointed to by the AIA staff here as an undesirable example for us to follow (I don't remember exactly why; I'd have to go back to my notes).

      Richard Balkins: I really appreciate your thoughtful contributions throughout.  I have to agree with you; as a long time associate myself, sometimes I feel like members like us may receive proportionately more benefits than full members do!  We have access to educational events and resources that we might not otherwise have, and this can be invaluable - sometimes making the difference between staying in or going out of business!  I am glad you have found value in your association with the AIA.

      Carrera: I am glad you were fearless about being the curmudgeon.  We all need them!  I think your case is a great example of folks getting out of an experience what they put into it.  One difficulty about the AIA is that it is proportionately such a small number of people trying to provide such a wide spectrum of service to such a large professional body.  If you found it productive, I am sure it is because you worked to make sure it was.

      Good Knight: In some really substantial ways, I vehemently agree with you.  I regret that architecture has gotten away from the architect-mason or architect-builder model; perhaps it's an inevitable side effect of an evolving society, but I think our profession is the poorer for it.  That fundamental practical distance from the work that we do is, I think, amplified by a professional organization that is even further distant.  I'm not sure whether the bigger problem is the AIA or the fact that architecture is an inherently plural and turbulent profession.

      Donna: thanks for your comment!  I'll be interested to hear what Indiana settles on.  And yes, you are exactly right that the AIA is fantastic for networking with more than just architects - as long as the chapters are setting it up that way!

      Thanks for the commentary, all! 

      Sep 11, 15 8:19 pm  · 

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Architectstasy is a resource for the current, past, and projected built environments of Ann Arbor, SE Michigan, the U.S., and occasionally the world. Jessica A.S. Letaw and invited critics present critical readings of the city's trajectories that are situated within architectural discourse as well as news that is pertinent to residents and citizens.

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