Repositioning

The American Institute of Architects is a venerable institution, the voice of our profession in fact, both a standard to sustain and a community to involve. The AIA has over 156 years of dedication towards “promoting the scientific and practical perfection of its members, and elevating the standing of the profession” (The founding members stated goal!).

“Well that’s just your biased opinion!” you shout?

Perhaps, but consider this: the AIA is ever evolving. In 2012 the AIA introduced the AIA Repositioning, an initiative representing the most extensive research and strategic assessment of the organization ever conducted. Graphic Design and Branding firms La Placa Cohen and Pentagram spent a year exploring the perceptions, beliefs, attitudes, needs, and value of “the Architect.”

A noble undertaking for a Sesquicentennial, don’t you agree?

Through interviews, discussions, and other probably more secretive branding techniques, the initiative sought input from not only AIA member and non- member Architects, but also EPs, students and faculties of institutions, clients…even out to the general public. The AIA Repositioning initiative is the Institute’s proactive shift in perspective, an honest questioning of just what the purpose of the AIA is today and what it should be moving into an uncertain future.

Now the fun part begins, actually implementing the lessons learned.

So just what are those lessons? Well obviously my little 500 word post can’t begin to skim the surface of this very deep pool, but the Repositioning the AIA website tells us that the central focus is that the institute’s aim should be to empower its members. Two key points emerged around that theme. The first is that the AIA must “align its organizational structure to demonstrate that it is structured around and guided by member needs and interests”. The second is that the “AIA’s ideal role is to act as visionary member organization.”

To assist during this period of growth as an organization, the AIA offers the following Statement of Purpose:

The AIA is a visionary member organization providing advocacy, leadership, and resources for architects to design a better world.”

From that Statement of Purpose comes four Position Statements:

  • AIA members create enduring value.
    We benefit clients and communities through innovative design solutions.
  • AIA members drive positive change.
    We work collaboratively and creatively to transform clients’ goals into reality.
  • AIA members lead with vision.
    We meet the ever-changing challenges of the designed environment.
  • AIA members shape the future.
    We value talent and diversity in new generations of professionals.

Finally, four focal points were identified as topics to consider moving forward:

  • CONNECT
    -Component autonomy versus unity
    -Component structure
    -Tier coordination
  • ENGAGE
    -Engaging emerging professionals
    -Effective communications
  • INNOVATE
    -Prioritization of initiatives
    -Reactiveness
    -Resource allocation
  • LEAD
    -Leadership (tenure and agendas)
    -Board (size and composition)

So go ahead and call me biased, but this all sounds pretty good! As a profession we face unique challenges each and every day. Doesn’t it make sense to have an ally in our corner? Perhaps Michael Bierut of Pentagram puts it best:

“…This thing we do cannot be done alone. We need clients who can believe in the power of a reality that doesn’t yet exist. We need to listen to the people who will live, work and play in the places we create. We need leadership in our communities, and in our profession. We need each other.”

But don’t just sit back, what do you think? Have insights to share? The AIA is listening! Now’s our chance, let’s not miss it this time around.

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