AIA Grassroots 2019 pushes architects towards civic involvement

The American Institute of Architects held its annual Grassroots Conference last month in Washington, DC which focused on advocacy and leadership. As the Central States Region’s Senior Regional Associate Director, I had the privilege to attend the convention for a second year in a row.  The conference brings chapter leadership and architects together from across the country for discussions on how the practice of architecture can positively impact our society. This year, the central theme was “People. Purpose. Partnership.”

The first day was AIA’s Capitol Hill Day, which has been dubbed “one of the most ambitious and successful advocacy events in recent years.” Capitol Hill Day provided attendees the opportunity to share this year’s advocacy priorities with elected leaders specifically, sustainability and school safety. More than 600 AIA members participated in 474 meetings that covered 83 percent of the country’s congressional districts. “We want [our elected officials] to hear how architects are more than designers of structures and spaces,” explained William J. Bates, FAIA, 2019 AIA President. It was valuable to speak with our elected officials about different concerns we have in the industry and to share how they can help us facilitate change. The day left us all feeling very energized and hopeful.

The remainder of the conference consisted of panel discussions, speakers and breakout sessions that engaged the group on architecture’s impact on society. One panel included mayors and elected officials from across the nation. They advocated for architects to not only get more involved in their government, but also in local chapters and communities. Jane Frederick, FAIA, 2019 AIA First Vice President and 2019 Conference Chair, stressed how “we don’t talk about the future, we create it.”

We, as architects, have the ability to better shape not only the built environment, but the people it serves. This is something I have considered with my own involvement here in Kansas City. As an associate architect, I feel my experience and knowledge can lend itself to better improving our community. After attending the AIA Grassroots Conference, I am even more eager to start my civic involvement and help shape the future of this city where I am putting down roots.