One of many benefits of the AIAS is its commitment to hosting and encouraging a diverse demographic of students to bring their passions and perspectives to the profession of architecture. As we graduate and become emerging design professionals, it is important to know that we can look forward to pursuing our personal interests and equitable responsibilities in the AIA.
The AIAS created the Advocacy Task Force in order to develop, promote, and express our diverse and united student voice on relevant issues and things that impact architecture students. Though we categorize equity, diversity, inclusion, accessibility, and resiliency as facets of our advocacy, the AIA defines and separates these initiatives, which can sometimes make them difficult to discover.
But the AIA has been hard at work developing its own advocating voice.
In 2015, the AIA declared a “Year of the Advocate”, in which professionals were encouraged to get involved in their communities and specifically contact their local and federal government representatives. Architects were pushed to be advocates for the importance of architecture and its social impact.
Bruce Herrington, of the AIA-Birmingham in Alabama, had already been working towards that effort for years. He began advocating at a political level when he and other local architects proposed a citywide award for excellent architectural and environmental design. From there, Herrington went on to help educate municipal and state officials about the importance of architectural design and often represented the economic and ethical interests of architects in the state of Alabama. In 2016, Herrington created ‘Advocacy 101’, a presentation intended to empower and guide architects through contacting and engaging with government representatives. He has since taken his show on the road, and visited several young architect groups and professional practice classes.
Though the AIA may have put a political limit to their definition of advocacy, their actual outreach still continues with various programs and initiatives.
Since 2014, the AIA has published a ‘Diversity in Architecture’ Report with the most up-to-date facts, figures, and survey responses to several issues within the architectural profession. Statistical topics include: job satisfaction rates, impacts on the representation of minorities, perceived representations by race and gender, and opinions on building the pipeline of architects to young children in school.
Another program is the Equity in Architecture Commission. The Commission is charged with developing “specific recommendations that lead to equitable practices”. In order to do this well, the AIA has taken surveys, compiled evidence, and even hosted specific summits to determine the most up to date opinions of architects and their workplaces. In January of 2017, they published a full report detailing their findings and their recommendations for amending the deficiencies of equity that exist in most practices.
If you are looking for information regarding the AIA’s position on equity, diversity, and other aspects of advocacy, you will not see it under the “Advocacy” tab on their website. As with most good things, you’ll have to dig a little deeper to find it: from the homepage, click on the “About AIA” tab, and then click on “Equity, diversity, and inclusion”. This is where you’ll find the AIA’s definitions of equity, diversity, and inclusion and a few statements regarding their promises to pursue them.
The AIAS has kindled generations of advocates, leaders, and deep thinkers, all passionate about our profession and our role in the world. Forgetting our purpose and our power is not an option, nor is becoming disconnected from the state of our profession. One day, we will be the firm leaders, licensed designers, and the movers and shakers of the AIA. Take this time to discover your voice, so that you’ll be prepared to use it and shape your own legacy in the future as well as the futures of AIAS members after you.