Struggling With AIA Portland

This blog post just went up (I first saw it on Christmas Day).

Struggling With AIA Portland:

It's by Mike Riscica and explains how he has felt mistreated by his local AIA chapter, in many ways around the very bizarre legacy of the anti-trust order we have been subject to, I think.

He also discusses the lack of focus on Emerging Professionals, and what sounds like a fairly significant contretemps around member disagreement with the statement "licensing is the only path to success in architecture" which makes me think LOLwut? Who says there's only one way to do *anything* in this world we live in?!

As we discussed in our year-end wrap-up Sessions podcast, we think it's time for younger blood at the AIA.

Would love to hear opinions on this topic, including ideas for how AIA can be made more relevant to a greater number of us in the profession. I mean, I would argue that as basically the only professional organization representing our profession, it is TOTALLY relevant to all of us, and yet it's not representing many of us in ways we would like it to.

What are your ideas?


Dec 27, 16 9:15 am

I read the post too around Christmas and was wondering about all the background leading up to it. I've met Michael and spent some time with him and have many great things to say about him, but I also wonder if we are getting the whole picture. It would be nice to hear AIA Portland's side, but I doubt we'll ever get it. 

I find the events surrounding the statement "licensing is the only path to success in architecture" interesting. In one hand, of course the AIA (local or national) would want to promote that viewpoint ... it is an organization for licensed architects. However, on the other hand, AIA has many different options for membership that don't require a license.

When did the AIA start offering allied membership? Do all chapters offer inclusion for allied members (the AIA website recommends checking with state or local chapters)? Why wouldn't allied members be allowed to be members of state or local chapters by default? What percentage of AIA members are allied, or associate members? Do allied and associate members get the same voting rights as architect members at the national convention? ... do international associate members? What about voting at local or state levels?

Dec 27, 16 12:05 pm  · 

AIA is a scam.

Dec 27, 16 12:44 pm  · 

I happen to be in Portland this week.  Shall I go kick some AI-Ass?

Dec 27, 16 2:35 pm  · 

I've met many people who suggest that, other than networking, the AIA is only really useful for their contract documents.


I listened to the Schiff Hardin pro practice lectures and the man practically tears the AIA a new one, stating the documents are full of bad legal language and loopholes that a savvy client can take advantage of.


IF this is true, it's terrifying, as most of the architects I've met couldn't care less about bullet-proof contracts, instead desiring to keep their eye on design. Combine that with the reluctance I see regarding the profession allowing people in who don't come from a design background (PMs, CA folks, CD specialists, Spec Writers, all of these could easily be focuses in university but instead everyone is funneled into the same design-focused programs) and I think you have a house of cards ready to topple with one too many change orders.


I think the AIA could do a lot of thinking on how to reconcile the way we teach and gate-keep architecture and the way we actually design and build buildings.

Dec 27, 16 3:46 pm  · 

^yup.  The AIA has been too occupied with lobbying for statist protections when they should have been occupied with lobbying for improving the quality of the built and natural environment.  By doing so, they would be raising the bar on the knowledge required to build rather than on trying to control who gets to play.  An elitism of knowledge has more value than one of associations, titles, and beurocratic proceses.  If the aia were to lobby for a max carbon footprint for new construction, or a max ppm of vocs,  the knowledge required to deliver that higher quality end result , from concept, to analysis, to construction, would overall demand a higher level of experience.  In essence, make the game harder for competing fields to encroach upon by raising the bar on the quality of the product and the needed knowledge to achieve that product.  Simultanuously, expand the field by pushing for more diverse paths to licensure... 

Dec 27, 16 4:14 pm  · 

Working for yourself is a form of freedom. Working for others is a form of servitude; not only to your client, but also to the owners of the firm/company. People go into an office and work for others because they don't want the hassle of looking for clients or dealing with the financials. The only way to work on your own as an architect is to be licensed (unless you go into other fields and offer different types of services). Therefore, the only way to truly be free in architecture is to work for yourself and be licensed. Period.

Dec 27, 16 5:53 pm  · 

BulgarBlogger, are you saying that success in architecture = freedom to work for yourself? If not, I'm not sure I follow how freedom to work for yourself got brought into the discussion.

Dec 27, 16 6:57 pm  · 

If making money is success to you- great. I don't entirely disagree. But unless you are a partner in an architectural firm (you would have to be licensed in most states to do that anyway as you will be part owner, hence working for yourself to an extent), you wil always be working for someone else. So yes- my idea of success is making it on your own... Rem did it, Herzog did it, SOM did it, etc etc. Some of their employees might make a lot of money riding their tail coats, but their design always carries their name... who do you want to be? Someone desiging behind the scenes or being the one who owns the design? 

Dec 27, 16 8:04 pm  · 

I've read the link twice and don't see where the AIA chapter was at fault.  They don't seem to have failed the guy - they gave him a forum, they just wanted him to remove self-promotional material from his presentations, which is the same rule that applies to all presented content in every chapter.  

As for focusing on emerging professionals:  most AIA chapters help with connecting EPs to mentors and jobs, many give them their own categories in awards competitions or even their own dedicated competitions, we organize field trips and study groups, we have EPs on our chapter boards, we have liaisons to NCARB and state boards, we provide study materials and presentations on test content and navigating the path to licensing, we have networking events and continuing ed content.... what else do they want?

And how long are we supposed to consider someone an emerging professional?  The timeline for testing eligibility has gotten shorter, the internship requirement has gotten shorter, and there are fewer exams required than there used to be - and yet the numbers of perpetual interns and those choosing never to get licensed don't seem to be shrinking substantially.  If you're 5 or 10 years past graduation and you decide that a license isn't necessary for your career then no problem - don't get one - but if you've made that decision then you're no longer "emerging" as a professional - you're a fully-fledged person who has decided not to get licensed. What more support do you need with that?

Dec 27, 16 8:05 pm  · 

(Long- sorry)

Regarding the post-

It seems to be a fair argument- at first. I liked the manifesto for the most part, but the bio was redundant and the business philosophy was when it started unravelling for me. Those three links to purchased content were a little too close together and targeted. Not to mention the content was all organized to create sympathy around the person and  products to right as a result. "He's just this guy, ya know?" 

The yellow flag for me was that there was a passive expectation that he should be compensated for his volunteer work. The real tipping point was that an ad for one of his books popped up as a I was reading the post. So while he may have a point, I'm in agreement with Threesleeve.

Regarding the AIA-

Transparency: I'm not a member of the AIA (dues become dates, which become legos). In addition, long ago I felt that the AIA did not reflect my concerns or practices as a non-licensed designer- even when working around built projects. The organization has too long fetishized buildings and only buildings as architectural practice. This has been to the great disadvantage of all the other design (I can't say thinking here because that has been co-opted by others -ahem) activities related to the built environment. Think of how the youth these days are looking regional climate conditions instead of a parti to address a building envelope conditions. And many of you are thinking "so what this has been going on for some time," which is my point. It's rare that these advancements- or transformations of design practice- are celebrated as such in the form of awards or professional recognition. 

So looking from the outside in, it would seem to me that one step in advancing (updating?) the AIA would be recognize what all the new "work" young and midrange practitioners are bringing to the table. Put the patents and the programming on the glossy covers, not just another tower or library. Put stuff on the cover that makes people think they're looking at Fast Co. to get them to realize the breadth of the profession and to actually encourage evolution in the discipline.

Sidebar- imagine if that patronizing "We look where we think you want us to look (give us a treat)" ad campaign was more about "We look here, because it's our collective future." That would get things rolling.

Dec 27, 16 11:17 pm  · 

Excellent post, Marc.

In my experience at the 2014 AIA Emerging Professionals summit, it seemed clear to everyone in the room that embracing architecture graduates who are *not* following the prescribed, traditional path to licensure was in the profession's best interests. As with your reference to Fast Co, Marc, the sentiment in the room - a room full of AIA leaders - was that we needed to embrace people who say things like "I'm an award-winning filmmaker and I graduated from architecture school"; that this diversity of application of the skills learned in school is a *good* thing for the profession.

Regarding Mike Riscica being told he's not allowed to say the name of his company in a CEU presentation: come on. I mean, we all know that's the rule, and we also ALL know exactly which supplier is there giving us a lunch-n-learn presentation. I feel pretty confident in saying that older members of AIA Portland felt more comfortable being harsher about this rule with Mike than with a window supplier because 1. the anti-trust ruling makes the AIA skittish to the point of paranoia about anything that could be seen as collusion in the industry and 2. as Mike is a young pup in the profession, the leaders collectively feel he needs to earn his stripes the hard way. 

We all know the attitude of "I suffered through a shitty internship so you can too" is a foundational myth of our profession, and it's time for that stupid, outdated attitude to change. 

Dec 28, 16 9:20 am  · 

When the AIA understands the anti-trust laws and shows some leadership in compliance instead of the grand stupidity they currently exhibit, I'll consider joining. Until then, please. I don't pay dues to ISIS and their campaigns either in the hopes of changing them. This answers the question, "what more can they do?" It's not more networking groups nor more CEU opportunities or more awards or any of that garbage. Please.

Dec 28, 16 10:07 am  · 

i don't know.  just seems the guy is mad because the aia doesn't want him using their organization to target his demographic when marketing his side businesses.  he's trying to make the claim that he's being altruistic, but i find that hard to believe.  it looks like it's more important to him to display his product.  otherwise, he could just mention the website at the start and end of the presentation and maybe hand out swag with his name on it like everyone else.

i don't think that's skittish to the point of paranoia on the part of the aia.  i think it's more like the aia sees him as someone who is trying to bind himself to their brand, or position himself as an industry resource that is bigger than what he really is.

maybe 'earn his stripes the hard way' is the right way to put it.  if what he's producing really rises to the level of being an important industry resource i would think the aia should recognize that.  maybe it is, and he has 'earned his stripes.'  i'm not that young of an architect any more so i might be out of touch.  on the other hand, i don't think the aia has an obligation to promote him, especially when it means promoting his business over others who are trying to accomplish the same thing like or whoever carried that mantle when things went down for them.

props to the portand building yoga pants he's selling though.

Dec 28, 16 10:21 am  · 

I'm inclined to think Michael needed an excuse to stop paying his dues because deep down he knows the AIA is a flawed entity. Something to blog about.

Dec 28, 16 11:16 am  · 

"Paying your dues" is a bullshit concept for suckers.  A young grad owes the aia nothing. 

Dec 28, 16 12:21 pm  · 

Seeing the YoungArchitect website I was always inclined to think of Michael as the way he seems to be painted so far in this thread (someone looking for more money, clicks, exposure, etc.). The popup ads, the pages and pages of links to other content, etc. make the website seem more like buzzfeed or some other clickbait website rather than a repository of helpful information for aspiring architects. IMHO, a lot could be done to redesign the site to make it easier to navigate and find content ... which seems would be more in line with his philosophy anyway ... but I digress. 

After having met the guy, I think he simply didn't know when to stop. Rather than being some type of savvy entrepreneur that sees immense value in the ads and links, it's a little more like he thought if one or two links is good, then 100 must be that much better. He does promote his website, but he is also someone that respects boundaries and I believe him when he writes, "AIA Portland’s Executive Director (Robert Hoffman) called me and insisted that I do not use my lecture to market my products or services. I agreed with him and reminded him that I have never done that" (emphasis mine). I haven't ever been to one of his lectures, but if anyone who has is willing to verify that claim, I'd be interested to hear what they have to say about it. I do know he has gotten AIA CEU approval for his lectures which requires him to sign and agree to the AIA Speaker Agreement which outlines exactly what he says he has agreed with and done in his lectures.

Mostly, I think Michael feels he has something to share that can help aspiring architects and emerging professionals. He has been able to share that openly with the architectural community in Portland up until now. I think his complaint with AIA Portland probably stems more from a personal matter regarding the leadership of the chapter rather than anything else.

He can still share his knowledge without AIA Portland and seems ready to do just that. I don't think he really needed AIA Portland to market to a target demographic anyway. He gets out well enough without AIA ... he moderates the NCARB ARE Facebook group for example. Plenty of emerging professionals know who he is and about his website. He doesn't need AIA Portland for exposure.

He still believes in AIA, and is still willing to pay for membership ... he's just planning on paying locally into another chapter rather than Portland. "I’ll find other ways to build community here in Portland, and find another AIA Chapter that likes and supports me. AIA Portland will not receive my local membership dues in 2017, another chapter will" (emphasis his). He writes a whole section at the end of the post titled, "My faith in the AIA as an organization," so I doubt he thinks AIA is a flawed entity. 

P.s. I'm not sure if it is the same popup ad for everyone that visits the site, but the ad for me was to signup for his newsletter and get the advertised content as a free download rather than something to directly purchase ... just sayin'.

P.p.s. The Portland building yoga pants are cool, but I don't think I can pass up the 98% pure shit mug ...

Dec 28, 16 12:30 pm  · 

What does "embracing" those not following the traditional path mean?  If it means that they're welcome to join the AIA, be involved in events and committees, and benefit from services - no problem, what's stopping them?  If it means bending over backwards, making special rules for them, and dumbing down the standards of a professional organization:  why?  Architecture school graduates who become filmmakers, poets, cobblers, and chefs are all wonderful, and can contribute tremendously to the profession of architecture - what's stopping them?

As for the YoungArchitect site, I have a hard time believing that's actually real and earnest.  It sums up everything that's wrong with the attitudes of millennials in the workplace.

And most of those manufacturer "sponsors" of AIA continuing ed content contribute TO the AIA in various ways.  This guy is bitching because the AIA isn't paying HIM to present self promotional material.  WTF?

Dec 28, 16 1:12 pm  · 
Honestly, I find that what he's written is too emotionally charged for him to even consider just how wrong he is, and given his narrative, only has me empathizing with that particular chapter.

I mean, how do pat yourself on the back for volunteering, in one breath, then get pissy at only getting a $20 gift card?

$25 for a LL lecture is a pittance, especially if it's a space the AIA needs to rent space, technology and provide a meal for future members.
Dec 28, 16 1:39 pm  · 

I think the lectures he is complaining about are the ARE Lecture Series (poster below) where AIA Portland charges ARE candidates to attend ... not a lunch-and-learn. The space is The Center for Architecture, a non-profit founded by AIA Portland. If there is a cost to rent the space for the lectures, it wouldn't be much for their founding organization. I think his point was that AIA Portland is profiting from the lecture series, but they are treating it like a lunch-and-learn.

I don't understand his complaint about only getting a $20 gift card. If you understood you were a volunteer, you volunteer and don't expect anything in return. He'll get no sympathy from me here.

Dec 28, 16 1:51 pm  · 

It all just seems like the grownup version of the everybody gets a trophy mindset.  

This thread has made me rethink this whole idea of helping emerging professionals by being more inclusive.  We should be going in the opposite direction:  it's a professional organization - if you want to join it and benefit from it then become a professional.  If you're 2 years out of architecture school and you're looking for a mentor, sure I'm in favor of the AIA helping you out on that.  If you're 8 years out of school and you're not done with IDP or you can't pass your exams, or you now think maybe you want to be a web designer instead, then go away.  The AIA should have a class of membership called Emerging Professional, and it should come with a time limit of five years, after which you've either made yourself eligible for a real membership as an architect, or you time out and get lost until you can get your act together.

And the AIA isn't profiting on that - they're returning the fees to those who pass within 1+ years.  The fee is just supposed to be a kick in the pants incentive.

Dec 28, 16 1:52 pm  · 

And the AIA isn't profiting on that - they're returning the fees to those who pass within 1+ years. 

They're returning the fee to those Assoc. AIA members who pass before an arbitrary deadline not even close to 1+ years. The last lecture is in May, the deadline is August 1st. If you can't schedule your last test or a retake before the deadline, sorry. If you don't feel like paying dues for two years to be an Assoc. AIA, sorry. Decided to take ARE 5.0 instead of 4.0, sorry, the poster says you had to pass all 7 exams ... there are only 6 in 5.0. 

Edit: Not to mention the fee is less for Assoc. AIA members so the refund is less as well. The $200 for the series or $25 per lecture for non members is AIA Portland's money to keep regardless.

Dec 28, 16 2:03 pm  · 


One of the goals of the AIA is to promote work that has a significant impact on it's built environment and context (scale and range vary), and the persons responsible for it. I'm assuming this is an important part of the organizations mission, or there really is no need to make Architect publicly available on the shelves of Barnes and Noble (membership savings!). but often the problem is that the work that is really celebrated is building centric- representing a traditional path. However, we are all aware that you can make an impact on the profession and the built environment as someone with an architectural degree w/o following that traditional path. 

Which begs the question-

If you can make an impact, but the organization that supposedly represents your interests doesn't recognize your work/effort, why maintain membership? 

Put another way- you discontinue cable service because it's too much of the samo samo that doesn't engage you and/or costs too much for what it contains. Are memberships to organizations (professional and otherwise) any different?

Dec 28, 16 2:17 pm  · 

And a question-

If expanded modes of practice don't matter why would you invite Kevin Spacey to speak at the annual meeting?

Dec 28, 16 2:19 pm  · 

kjdt, The architecture = building design crowd is limiting architectures sphere of influence.  Architecture is much broader than building design in a real sense.  The AIA seems very short sighted.  Many many other acedemic and professional fields contribute to the built environment, and many of the people in those fields are graduates of architecture programs who have either applied knowledge and expanded the field in some way, or entered other fields acting as a sort of ambassador of the built environment.  If you want to drive away successful and entrepreneurial people whom likely have something important to contribute the go ahead and self insulate.  The AIA is a private org and can do as it likes.  Personally, I would love to see a new org emerge that is much more inclusive...a society of environmental art, design, and sciences..I dont see the benefit of turning away a sociologist that studies urbanism, or a young guy that builds tiny prefab homes, or an artist that works on large public spaces, or an arch grad turned chef who wrote a book about restaraunt design...To me, it seems like an ego driven anti-academic position.  

Dec 28, 16 2:21 pm  · 

The AIA is already inclusive.  There are so many categories of membership that anybody who wants to join can join, and participate in whatever there is in which to participate. This guy just seems miffed at not getting paid for a volunteer position.  If he wants to run a for-profit lecture series then who's stopping him? The AIA membership roster is available to the public, so he can advertise to the same potential customer base. He can pay for the space, the advertising, and the food, and charge whatever he wants.  If he needed to be paid for the series he arranged with the AIA then he should have negotiated that in writing well before the lectures were announced. 

Dec 28, 16 3:04 pm  · 

i'm a little baffled how this guy doesn't see his "volunteerism" as a direct marketing effort.

he is exactly like a window salesman & he should make some sort of disclosure about his business

if his business were only providing architecture services, then no disclosure would be needed because the education seminars don't directly bring him work...but he makes money selling ARE help, albeit not exclusively...

not sure why he's so offended the request...just add the disclosure. Many lunch/learn providers have realized that the disclosure IS advertising. It's even better than saying nothing.

(i have no horse in this race, not in AIA & don't know any of the characters involved)

Dec 28, 16 3:13 pm  · 

The AIA is already inclusive.  There are so many categories of membership that anybody who wants to join can join, and participate in whatever there is in which to participate.

First of all, that's not entirely true, otherwise, why would there be honorary membership? You can only be nominated for honorary membership if you are otherwise unable to join. Then you have to be accepted by a jury that reviews your nomination (by someone else). The fact that you are unable to join 1) by yourself, and 2) through a juried nomination process, means that there are people who might want to join but are not able to.

I asked these questions further up in the thread, but I'll repeat them again here to see if anyone can the alternative membership pathways in the AIA are actually equal to full architect membership and those members can "participate in whatever there is in which to participate."

  • Do all chapters offer inclusion for allied members (the AIA website recommends checking with state or local chapters)?
  • Why wouldn't allied members be allowed to be members of state or local chapters by default?
  • Do allied and associate members get the same voting rights as architect members at the national convention?
  • ... do international associate members? 
  • What about voting at local or state levels?

Adding a few other questions:

  • Are associate and allied members allowed to hold positions at local and national levels?
  • Can associate and allied members serve on committees?
  • Do associate and allied members have the same opportunities to be awarded the same or equivalent awards and honors like local design awards, national design awards, or even the AIA Gold Medal (in the history of the medal only Thomas Jefferson, Bernard Maybeck, and Frank Lloyd Wright were not FAIA or Hon. FAIA).
  • What about serving on award juries, can associate or allied members serve on award juries?
Dec 28, 16 3:53 pm  · 

Who would one pay to be an associate member?  That sounds like a second class citizen.  Maybe someone using the org as a platform to market products or services, not to participate in the overall betterment of the profession.  Big difference.  

Dec 28, 16 4:00 pm  · 

I think we might also be making an assumption that the lecture he is referring to was one that was offering continuing education credits. If it did offer CEU's then he would need to comply with the requirements about not marketing directly, putting in the disclaimer slide, etc.

However, if the lecture was just an informational lecture with no offering of CEUs, then there wouldn't be any requirement to follow the CEU guidelines, would there? I can't imagine AIA making Kevin Spacey putting up a slide saying they don't endorse any of his shows or movies and then forbid him from referring to any of them by name during his presentation. If he said, "You guys should really check out House of Cards on Netflix," or mentioned the name Keyser Söze, would they have turned off his mic and made him leave the stage?

Maybe I'm all wrong. Perhaps the disclaimer slide and the restrictions are why he backed out and they had to replace him with Julia Louis-Dreyfus & Terry Gross (those pushovers).

Dec 28, 16 4:18 pm  · 

Seems to me that not "anybody who wants to join can join, and participate in whatever there is in which to participate." Don't get me wrong, I don't really care what the AIA wants to do to limit certain groups of members ... but don't claim that anyone can join and enjoy full participation. Excerpt below from AIA Institute Bylaws, May 2016 (emphasis mine).


2.01 Categories of Membership. The Institute is a nonprofit membership corporation incorporated under the laws of the state of New York, with the following categories of membership:

2.011 Architect Members. Individuals admitted to membership with full voting status and privileges are called Architects. Architect members may also hold the titles Fellow and/or Emeritus.

2.012 Associate Members. Individuals admitted with limited voting status and privileges are called Associates. Unless otherwise provided, the term “Associate member(s)” in these Bylaws shall be understood to include International Associate members. Although Associate members may also hold the title Emeritus, however, International Associate members may not hold that title.

2.013 Honorary Fellows, Honorary Members and Allied Members. There are three categories of non-voting membership, Honorary Fellows, Honorary Members and Allied members

Dec 28, 16 4:42 pm  · 

What is there that Associate members aren't allowed to vote on?  Maybe it's different in different chapters, but in ours they are on all the committees and have full voting powers.  The only thing I can think of is that they may not have the power to "vote" at the annual dinner - but that's just a formality - there aren't any elections or questions decided there - everybody is just voting yes on something that's already decided.  All the decision making is in the committees (nominating committee, awards committee, and so forth) and Associates are on them all and have full votes.

The category of Allied Member is kind of obsolete, because the threshold for Associate is just that the person be eligible for IDP/AXP per NCARB's rules, and that only requires a high school diploma these days.  How many people without high school diplomas really want to vote on AIA matters?

Dec 28, 16 6:44 pm  · 

EI, it was an AIA presentation, not a presentation.  he relied on the aia's reputation and it's members to get the crowd he got.  if he was able to do that on his own reputation, he could have kept the $100.

it sounds to me like the aia does not want their brand to be tied to the brand.  they shouldn't be forced to say that since this mike guy is a member of the aia, his website is essentially endorsed by the aia.  i don't see why anyone would think it's wrong for them to prevent that.

kevin spacey and Julia Louis-Dreyfus bring star power to their speeches.  they draw a crowd.  if they wanted to talk to a bunch of people, they really wouldn't need to rely on the aia's reputation.  mike doesn't have what they have.

you know who has star power?  paul petrunia.  i bet if he went to an aia chapter, there is a fair chance he would be able to speak about the website, forum, news aggregator, etc. he built for architects.  of course if he told people he was going to talk about windows and then switched to advertising his website a couple minutes in, people might rightly be upset.

Dec 28, 16 8:08 pm  · 

In my experience, complaints about speakers "self-promoting" during a CEU presentation typically originate from those in the audience (via program evaluation forms) not the Executive Director of the component.  My guess is that the Exec. in Portland was just responding to what members of his chapter were telling him.

Dec 28, 16 8:18 pm  · 

my somewhat disorganized and loosely relevant thoughts on this and Donna's questions:
[with the note that i have been occasionally involved with my local chapter in the past, mostly helping organize events, and remain fairly active as a member. i like most of the people i've met there - but still don't see exactly what the point is, other than meeting such people]

-first, and underlying everything: very few people work at your local AIA chapter. nearly everyone really doing anything there is doing it in their spare time, unpaid, after work and on weekends (god forbid!). so there is a lot that happens which is rather unanticipated and disorganized.

-in larger chapters, and especially at the regional / national level, there are full time positions. Other than some clerical/support positions, I actually have no idea what they do. This perhaps is the most significant problem:

-very few people (including architects) seem to really know what AIA is and does. It is not a licensing board, it is not an overseer of architectural education, and it is not really aimed at promoting the business of its members.

-maybe it should aim to do some of those things. or make more explicit what it is it tries to do.  Right now it seems to encompass a fairly limited cluster of odd knowledge groups and ceremonial processes, with initiatives that come up every few years on diverse and sometimes worthwhile aims.

- Mostly I see it trying to do 3 things:

/make architecture (the profession) better for architects. The DOJ ruling frustrated the most naked approach to that - everything else has sort of been feckless. from this vein we get things like the letter to trump, which is both divisive and useless. I wonder if the architects with the aim and capability to develop this aspect of AIA well mostly keep to themselves / their own firms / thus AIA gets only leftovers here. All of the concern about developing young architects could fall in this category... which is probably AIA's weakest.

/make architecture (the art or profession) better for the public. It's a nice gesture. But inherently one-sided. The public are not members of AIA. Maybe better not to pretend this is the point of what we do. note: I feel the USGBC has done a much more compelling job finding a way to develop a mission of potential public relevance and promote it than anything that has come out of AIA. But they actually are open to the public, and very much involve a wide range of inputs.

/make architecture (the art) better for architects (meaning prioritize the recognition of insider-architects doing fancy stuff non-architects don't much care about). We spend a lot of time doing this with awards, and lectures by obscure practitioners. And you know, it's fun. I like this, most of the members seem to appreciate it. But if AIA should go this way, it really should go a lot further with it. Everyone talks about it, but so little of the upper part of the organization focuses on it. AIA publishes no material of value in this realm. Again, the Pritzker prize is not an AIA program either...

-interestingly, for a professional organization, there seems rather little interest in how to make architecture (the profession) work better for clients. Is this everyone's own trade secret?


So Donna, to react to your point: I think AIA needs to have a more focused mission, and really rebuild the organization around that. The main reason young architects aren't enthusiastic about AIA is quite the same as the reason mature (*or old) ones aren't: they don't see what the point is.

If AIA did an excellent job focusing on some particular goal, those young architects who see the relevance would get involved. In some ways focusing too much on the needs of young architects misses the point, and risks diluting what already seems to be a very thin souffle of aims.


as a more specific thought: i am not really a very old (*mature) architect yet - but I only got involved with aia when I moved and felt a need to develop a new network in an unfamiliar city. i suspect there will always be a step-up in commitment as architects mature and find a need to connect to a broader group of people.

On this line, it absolutely is necessary for AIA to broaden their base and get the involvement of people like Marc who have a common professional aim - otherwise it risks really just being a funnel to channel CEU providers towards needy license-holders. Even the traditional practice of architecture depends to an extraordinary extent on the efforts of non-architects - the future relevance of being a licensed architect is only going to become narrower.


on the post by Mike Riscica: this appears to be an ordinary case of misunderstanding magnified by personality conflicts. Everyone involved looks petty. I would be surprised if there was anything more to this story. But pettiness moves the world; Little fingers push big buttons. :(

Dec 29, 16 10:11 am  · 

Great post, midlander. ^^

Anyone put off by its length, do give it time to read. It's chock full of good advice for AIA.

Dec 29, 16 10:16 am  · 

i am put off by its length! apologies to all except the unnameable RWCB.

is Carrera still around? He had strong opinions on AIA - would be curious to see his thoughts.

Dec 29, 16 10:24 am  · 

I started an alternative to the AIA called Architects Without Egos (AWE). I couldn't find anyone to join. 

Dec 29, 16 11:05 am  · 

curtkram, he can, and does, do his own program based on his own reputation where he charges much more than $100 or $200 for helping people study for the ARE. As far as I know, he hasn't had any trouble filling up his programs over the years. Like I said before, he doesn't need AIA Portland to market for him.

According to what has been posted on the Portland Emerging Professionals Facebook page, AIA Portland came to him to do this lecture, not the other way around. It wasn't even the entire series, it was one lecture. He isn't seeking out AIA to then promote his website or book. Rather they were coming to him to give a lecture they had already sold. 

At any rate, enough has probably been said about Michael. I don't think anyone is convincing anyone else anything different about him and his motives. I think midlander's statement is right that this is probably a misunderstanding between Michael and the ED of AIA Portland, magnified by both of their personalities (this would never had happened in AWE. It's a shame there aren't any eligible members).


I'm much more interested in the discussion around the AIA in general and their support (or lack thereof) for emerging professionals. Personally, I was a member of AIAS for a year or two in school, but stopped participating because I never saw the benefit to me. I saw lots of opportunities to pay money to AIAS, but I never felt I got much in return. 

I never took the AIA up on their complimentary Assoc. AIA membership when I graduated. Again I never saw the value to me. Meetings were too far away and in a city I wasn't looking for work in so I never saw any value in going to meetings in order to network there. Resources they offered to me were things I didn't need help with (finding IDP mentor and supervisor, job postings through AIA, etc.). I was always able to get hours in the appropriate IDP categories so access to the EPC for IDP credit was never going to help me. I never needed to track CEU credits with the AIA transcript so I didn't need that. Other AIA resources were always available either for free online, or through my firm so I never needed a personal membership anyway. The point of all this being that if you really start to break down the "benefits" the AIA is using to sell you on becoming an associate member, none of it really penciled out for me.

As I look toward getting my license in a few months and the first opportunity I have of becoming a fully-fledged AIA member ... I still wonder what the AIA offers that will benefit me. Aside from contract docs, networking, and participation in meetings ... what else does the AIA get me? Of those things I mentioned above, I don't need access to the contract docs, my firm already does ... I already network well enough and I don't think I need an organization to tell me to talk to my peers ... and I already have plenty of meetings, do I really need any more? If I really felt like I wanted to join an organization and elevate the profession, I'd look toward something external where the value of an architect could be seen by people who aren't already architects. I'd join the PTA, a local historical society, a 'friends of the _____' organization, or something along those lines ... not the AIA. 

Dec 29, 16 1:39 pm  · 


This is Michael Riscica from  As I read through this thread, I wanted to comment about some of your remarks. Here are my comments about your comments, in no particular order.

I never expected AIA Portland to compensate me and only mentioned the $20 giftcard and thank you note, so I could fairly state they have never compensated me except once. The point I was trying to make is they made money and benefitted from my volunteering, not me. Part of my frustration is the attitude that they are the ones doing me a favor, by allowing me to speak to 15 people.

3 years ago these lectures were free for associates members and $10 for non-members. The Executive Director raised the price when he took over and they now cost $15 for members and $25 for non. He wanted them more expensive but received several complaints about it. When the Emerging Professional Committee tried to use that money to purchase pizza and ARE study materials there was a significant pushback and this still been resolved.

My lectures with AIA Portland were never Continuing Education. I never signed any forms stating it was, agreeing to a set of rules, and no credit was ever offered or given. They struggle and beg people to give these lectures. Adding on the Continuing Ed rules would make it even harder for them to find people to volunteer.

In all my lectures I share a significant amount of research, intellectual property and insight that is only available through the paid channels on Young Architect. If I write a book about How to Pass The ARE, and you show up to my lecture and I start telling you everything that is inside my book and by the end of the lecture, you have the tools and no longer need to purchase the product. I will argue that isn’t marketing. I have done myself a disservice by doing this several times and frankly I don’t even care. I just want people to pass their exams.  AIA Portland is the one making money from this situation and not vice versa. 

My program, The ARE Boot Camp isn’t created for the masses. It is very expensive ($495) 10 week program and tailored for a very specific person studying for their exams. I turn away almost as many people, as I accept into the program because it’s just not a good fit. I assume that everyone attending my lecture is ineligible of being accepted into the program. However speaking from my experience helping over 70 people study for their exams, I still have valuable information and insight that can help everyone and that knowledge isn’t available for free on Young Architect. I also argue that mentioning why I know all this stuff and sharing this insight and knowledge, isn’t marketing. 

I honestly don’t care about marketing my products to the AIA Portland audience at my lectures, but I care EVERYTHING about helping my community be more successful. has over 100,000 social media followers and email subscribers.  The 15 people at my lecture and the 550 people in their emerging professional facebook group is less then 1% of my audience. I wouldn’t spend 8 hours of my time creating an ARE Lecture for AIA Portland, if I cared about money.

In the bigger picture, I think my situation is petty. I acknowledge their bylaws, their opinions and there was never a constructive dialogue or  opportunity to meet in the middle. In exchange, they lost me as a member, water under the bridge.

I am more upset and frustrated how for several years AIA Portland has only told the Emerging Professional Committee what they can’t do and never asked how they could help.

The Executive Director has a personal problem with anyone that has a  disagreeing opinion with him that licensing is the only path in architecture. He has several times thrown around his power to bully people who do not agree with him and then he hides behind the curtain of AIA Portland Bylaws.  

Everyone is scared to speak up or challenge AIA Portland leaders in fear of being shamed or called out as being unprofessional. (Because that’s what they do)  Since AIA Portland hasn’t ever done anything productive for me as a Practicing Architect, except consistently ask for more money, tell me they don’t support me and create barriers for the young people in the profession. I’ll go head and be the sacrificial lamb.

Not all AIA chapters are same. I still support the AIA and will maintain my membership in another city, until I can be proud of what happening in Portland, Oregon.   

I am getting a lot of backlash for calling the kettle black. I’ll never be liked by everyone or ever have been. That’s ok.

Thanks for all the conversation and insight.

I’ve been a lurker on the Archinect Forum for years. The anonymity of this forum doesn’t work for me in this day and age, which is why I don’t participate. But I always appreciate the insights and opinions on this forum. What I like most about this forum is the sense of humor. You guys are pretty funny sometimes.

Keep up the good work everyone.  

Michael Riscica AIA

Dec 29, 16 8:23 pm  · 

"I never expected AIA Portland to compensate me and only mentioned the $20 giftcard and thank you note, so I could fairly state they have never compensated me except once. The point I was trying to make is they made money and benefitted from my volunteering, not me. Part of my frustration is the attitude that they are the ones doing me a favor, by allowing me to speak to 15 people."

See, this is part of the problem, I sense a lingering resentment, I think most people commenting on your situation feel the same thing. I think you're missing the point of volunteering. When I volunteered for my local, for AIA Search for Shelter, or St. Paul Unauthorized Design Charrettes, I was actually volunteering my time, for the direct benefit of others. I gave my design services, my ideas, my labor for gratis - the AIA committees did buy lunch - but the events were often weekend long, with students, and with real clients typically unable to afford design fees. Some of those projects were even built, without me receiving any compensation, or any firm I was with getting the work. That, is volunteering.

I've had David Thaddeus, and have used Professor Dorf's systems and materials, they've given lectures, and they get paid, but they also were always available, and gave way beyond the classroom.

I even volunteered as an NCARB test taker, and assisted with the Prometric question/format of the ARE. Never got paid by NCARB, but was able to stay in some primo hotels, and eat some awesome food. Is that compensation? I guess, but then I'd have to pay taxes?

What you do, whether you believe it or not, is not volunteering. What EFCO or Firestone does when they do Lunch and Learns, is not volunteering. While they don't have an expectation of business, they do know how humans think, and what the internet is, and if they don't someone will, and why chance it. You have a business dedicated to this same material, you write books on this material, a website, paid for knowledge and resources. You can't really expect me to believe that you don't have side conversations, during breaks, or after the session - off the record - where you let people know your real name, and what you do for a living, outside your practice? I know every vendor I've ever spoken to AFTER a LL has talked to me about their products. Come on now.

You are aware, there is the internet, you have a website, you are searchable.


As a volunteer, your benefit comes in the doing, not the complaining. They benefit from your experience, and you benefit from "making more architects", but you also benefit from selling your material, by virtue of your face time and exposure.

If you can't see they're doing you a favor, I say prove it. Prove that no one you've given these lectures to, have purchased your material, short of that, it's essentially on the same level as any absurd proclamation made by our Cheeto Jesus. Buptkiss. 

I don't buy this isn't about the money, it's always about the money; $495 for 10 week - really expensive lectures, 3 different formats for your book, three anonymous testimonials. You are very good at what you do, very good. I am not. I passed the exams in one year, retaking one. I know people that have passed all nine parts in 9 weeks. That's good. You are making money from your experience, on top of your practice; that, is real good. But please, spare me this Christ on Cross routine, it wears thin here, at about the third time you self-crucify.

I too want more architects, I think our profession is old, white and too male dominated. My concern is not about the test; FFS it's the easiest part of the fucking thing. IDP/AXP or whatever, is the fucking, fuck, fuck. No firm accountability, one should be able to test after graduation, and opportunities to get experience other than through paid work. All need to happen nationally. The test? I could take that drunk, in fact I have. 

Are you on any of the committees? I'd suggest doing just that. If you can't, then I'd stop acting like you speak for them, or at least pretend to be privy to conversations that happen behind closed doors, because you may be putting those members in a bind by suggesting there are grievances happening that the Executive Committee may not be aware. Let the EP start acting like fucking adults, and let them fight their battles; stop being a proxy.

"Everyone is scared to speak up or challenge AIA Portland leaders in fear of being shamed or called out as being unprofessional. (Because that’s what they do)  Since AIA Portland hasn’t ever done anything productive for me as a Practicing Architect, except consistently ask for more money, tell me they don’t support me and create barriers for the young people in the profession. I’ll go head and be the sacrificial lamb."

You really come of as though you are speaking for everyone outside the Executive Committee, do you have their approval? I'd like to read a counterpoint to your virtually one sided statement. Robert Ivy thought he spoke for the 85,000 members when he pledged fealty to Hair Furor, how well did that go for Bob?

I hate to burst your bubble, but you expecting AIA Portland to do anything FOR you as a Practicing Architect? Well, that is going to be wherever you go. NYC, NJ, WA, MN. I don't know of any chapter doing anything to benefit any one particular member, but I do know that the members do a lot for their respective chapters, but that could be just me and what I see in MN.

So waiting for the chapter to change, before you return, and are happy? Good luck. Wait, let me borrow one of your quotes, from your website:

"Not being disciplined is a very valid concern. Often the more creative people are the ones who struggle the most with discipline and distraction. Showing up to study is can be a harder task then actually studying."

Showing up to make change happen is often harder than complaining. Staying and working to make change, is what disciplined people do, opting out, is what weak and distracted people do.

Sacrificial lamb? So close to Christmas?

Dec 30, 16 12:27 am  · 
"I don't know of any chapter doing anything to benefit any one particular member, but I do know that the members do a lot for their respective chapters [...]"

You paint quite the rosy picture of parasitic chapters feeding off the members and giving them nothing in return. Where can I sign up!
Dec 30, 16 8:13 am  · 

Mike, thanks for showing up and being honest!

On the last podcast of the year I also talked about being inspired by jillisblack to use what she calls Revolutionary Honesty.  One of the reasons I posted Mike's blog post here was because I feel like he's being revolutionarily honest: stating his view, even if it might bring blowback from the established leadership of his local chapter. It's not easy saying something unpopular amongst your peers, especially with your real name attached to it.

In every group of people there will be personal dynamics that affect how decisions get made. AIA Portland not working out for Mike doesn't mean that it won't work well for other people, and part of how we need to be more skeptical in 2017 is both acknowledging what doesn't work for us, and why, AND acknowledging that the same system may be working very well for others, and understanding why. 

Good luck, Mike, in another chapter. I'm glad you're sticking with AIA, as I am doing this year, to keep pushing in the direction you think it should go.

Dec 30, 16 9:14 am  · 

I called out the AIA, at their own business meeting, at National, to the Executive Committee's faces. In front of hundreds of membership, without checking in with my local. 

I call them out on the podcast. Routinely. 

As for parasitic chapters. Prove it. Prove that a chapter favors one firm, over another. I know they favor outside, or allied businesses, the ones sponsoring events, and that is a problem. 

No one forces anyone at the MN AIA to do squat. No one. It seems that if anything some chapters suck, and some don't. But the ones that do suck, stay and fight for change. If it's too hard, quit, they'll probably be better off.

Dec 30, 16 9:57 am  · 
And EI, the AIA is membership and membership is AIA. Generally speaking, minus the staff to help make sure that the trains run on time, it's led by members. So when I give my time, and others give theirs, we're giving to each other. Without preconditions.
Dec 30, 16 10:08 am  · 

Q: how then does the the AIA at all levels- including individuals- create spaces for (1) revolutionary honesty, and (2) active listening. It seems to me that both those things are required to incite change in the organization, let alone making it happen.


Again, I'm an outsider, but I'm curious.

Dec 30, 16 10:58 am  · 
Marc, that kind of thinking, is dangerous.
Dec 30, 16 11:32 am  · 

Marc, I would say the Emerging Professionals summits and the Grassroots conferences are both national-level attempts to promote honesty, listening, and change.

The YAF Twitter chats are also a good way to be heard. They're on Tuesdays, I think, but not sure how often. It could be googled.

Dec 30, 16 11:37 am  · 

Ken, I think you missed my point. I don't need to prove anything about chapters not offering anything to benefit their members ... those were your nom de plume's words, not mine. Do you need to prove it to yourself?

With regard to giving of your time without preconditions ... I call BS. No one would join the organization if they didn't think they were going to benefit from it. The AIA itself tries to point out these benefits on their own webpage when they try to get you to join. If everyone were clamoring to join, claiming as you are that they are doing all without preconditions, the website would just have a box to fill out with your name and credit card info.

As for Marc's thinking ... how is it dangerous to wonder if there is a space for talking and listening? Or perhaps you think it dangerous that an outsider would question the AIA or be curious about it?

Dec 30, 16 12:28 pm  · 
Oh. OK. Contracts are cheaper.

As a professional, I care about the profession. I care that members and non members are not represented adequately by the profession.
Dec 30, 16 1:12 pm  · 

Search For Shelter

30 year history of volunteering. Members helping our community.

AIA MN Committees

Members helping the profession, helping members.

When I wrote:

"I don't know of any chapter doing anything to benefit any one particular member, but I do know that the members do a lot for their respective chapters, but that could be just me and what I see in MN."

You conveniently left of the qualifying statement, and you misunderstood my point. "...chapter doing anything to benefit any ONE particular member...". I stand by that statement, for all your hyperbolic Trumpisms, you fail to demonstrate an instance, that you, or anyone else is aware of, where the local is concerned with promoting one member, over the full membership it represents.

Dec 30, 16 1:30 pm  · 

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