July 2, 2020

July 2, 2020 — Washington, D.C.


The American Institute of Architecture Students (AIAS) is pleased to welcome Ricardo J. Rodríguez De Santiago, Assoc. AIA, LEED AP, ACI to its incoming 2020-2021 Board of Directors. Currently, in his Global Virtual Design & Construction (VDC) role, Ricardo spearheads the global implementation of VDC solutions and BIM for construction product manufacturer BASF’s Master Builders Construction Chemicals Group (MBCC). He is also certified by the United States Green Building Council, LEED – AP, and the American Concrete Institute’s BIM Committee (ACI 131), and was a Certified Architect in Puerto Rico (CAAPPR – AIT).

As a Liaison to the AIAS Board, Ricardo will serve as a direct bridge between the AIA and the AIAS. By attending quarterly and special Board Meetings, and by giving regular reports about AIA goingson, he’ll keep AIAS members updated and will speak on behalf of the AIA when necessary. Similarly, Ricardo will also speak up for the AIAS and its initiatives to the AIA, and will keep them abreast of our activities and programs. As always, our collateral liaisons are often mentors to AIAS Boardmembers both as young designers and as future activists and leaders. President Curry asked our new AIA Liaison a few questions about his past, present, and future with architecture and its architects; the following is Ricardo Rodríguez’ story in mostly his own words.

Ricardo grew up in San Germán, Puerto Rico, the Island’s second-oldest city and one of the hemisphere’s oldest towns. He says that having grown up in a town that’s over 450yrs old, surrounded by colonial architecture, made his “selection” of architecture as a career almost a given: “My dad was also a real estate appraiser, and my grandfather was a carpenter and construction foreman, so to study architecture was always in my mind.”

Ricardo earned his Bachelor of Architecture at the Polytechnic University of Puerto Rico (ArqPoli), where he notably co-founded AIASpoli, one of the first AIAS Chapters in Puerto Rico, around 2003. He never would’ve thought that he would return to AIAS service, which makes this role a full-circle honor for him. During his time in the AIAS, he had the opportunity to attend both Grassroots and FORUM, and while serving as Chapter President, he doubled active membership and helped his fellow students win 3 of the 6 possible National Honor Awards for that year. Ricardo says that his time with the AIAS is where he, “learned how rewarding it was supporting others to reach their goals; a passion that has stayed with me ever since.”

Despite having failed studio twice (he says this encouragingly!), Ricardo graduated Cum Laude in 2007; and after a brief visit to Taliesin West post-graduation, he immediately started working at a boutique design firm in San Juan. In 2008, he made the hard decision, and took a big risk, to leave everything and everyone he knew behind, and move to DC to work for Gensler. Ricardo lasted there for just under 2 years before the recession hit and he lost his job. Never during those 8 long and jobless months did Ricardo question whether he wanted to “remain” in the profession or not. That time is also when Ricardo met his wife, who he says was instrumental in supporting him and his sanity. 

These days, at work, Ricardo is typically traveling nationally and internationally quite a bit, speaking at events, consulting with clients, and scouting emerging tech to try out! He finds it extremely rewarding to teach and guide folks in their digital transformation. It also offers a great perspective into how AEC practices work around the globe and the variety of issues that are important to each region. Regardless of the accomplishments though, working remotely and constantly having to prove one’s worth as an innovation engine brings an underdog spirit to the practice. Ricardo has learned that “there’s really no comparison to an architect’s work ethic and drive towards excellence,” which he finds very reassuring. 

Outside of his regular work, Ricardo is an extremely proud scholar of AIA|DC’s Christopher Kelley Leadership Development Program inaugural cohort, where he eventually served as the program’s Chair, and guided several local AIA chapters on their implementation of the program nationally. Locally, he has also served as Chair of AIA|DC’s Emerging Architects Committee, and as a guest lecturer for several institutions including AIA|DC’s La IDEA’S Tertulias, ITT Institute’s Future Trends in Architecture, DC-based startup SocialTables, and an Architecture Workshop for Kids that he co-developed which focuses on Latin-American architecture at the Washington Architecture Foundation. 

Luckily, Ricardo’s capacity for volunteering his time and energy has yet to run dry. The AIAS was able to snag him for his 3 year term as our AIA Liaison due to his simultaneous role on the AIA National Strategic Council as an At Large Representative where he also serves on the Technology in Architectural Practice Workgroup. 

Despite all these accolades and experience, Ricardo still feels that he is not doing enough to advance our practice and that he should be even more engaged in service roles, whether through academia or consultancy. His goals for his new role center around wanting to be a resource and a sounding board for the AIAS, and to share that the world and our profession’s “limits” are far wider and deeper than what we traditionally are made to believe. Ricardo hopes to embrace segments of our profession that are underrepresented and that challenge “business as usual”:

I’m exceedingly optimistic that the future of the profession is not only culturally diverse but also open to operate outside the usual lines. Given how dynamic and fast things are operating, we must respond in kind but embracing the fringes of what we consider practice. Our social/civil contract, the belief in our craft, are values that separates us from the myriad of other experts in the market. We should weaponize this social responsibility, as should we embrace our ability to balance the importance of experiential and humanistic with the importance of the technical and pragmatic. 

Ricardo also believes that this next generation of architectural leaders need to chart their own professional paths, which might not include becoming a licensed architect. “The dogmas tied to what we do have continually been a hindrance to our role and I think that we will witness the first generation to surpass many of these challenges.” He recognizes that we have inherited a set of conflicts and problems that are far greater than anyone had anticipated and that it will take a special set of skills and grit to navigate these waters. We can tell that Ricardo already embodies the spirit of the AIAS!

Ricardo will be officially sworn into his role of AIA Liaison, alongside the 2020-2021 National Board, this summer at the AIAS Grassroots Leadership Conference, held virtually this year from July 28-31. Ricardo will be serving a 3-year term, following the legacy of 2017-2020 AIA Liaison, Timothy Hawk, FAIA.