First Impressions from the 'Outside Looking In' - Rod Ashley, FAIA

I am excited to have started the year as one of your Northwest and Pacific Region Representatives to the AIA Strategic Council.  Thank you to everyone who supported my candidacy, and I hope I represent all of our member’s concerns and aspirations while also keeping you informed about ongoing national issues.  I know that Dave and I will continue previous efforts of bringing all of our components closer together and sharing the knowledge we each have gained through our respective practices and communities.

Having had the opportunity to witness the creation of the Strategic Council second-hand, it has always been a bit of a mystery hearing about how the council was developing and what it was trying to accomplish.  The last four Regional Directors - Donald King, Chere LeClaire, Louis Fung, and Dave Huotari – each have their own perspectives during their tenure on the Strategic Council and AIA Board. Ralph Waldo Emerson stated that “people only see what people are prepared to see”.  Fitting words to remember as I begin my first term on the AIA Strategic Council.  Although first impressions can often be misleading, make no mistake that I have now witnessed firsthand an assembly of dedicated and passionate architects who I believe are discovering the council’s real purpose, and are working hard to refine its processes and goals to better serve the institute.  

A full agenda would be a huge understatement for my first attendance at AIA Governance Week.  And looking back at two full days of meetings and presentations has confirmed what I hoped the council would be about – looking forward.  My inauguration into the council started the morning of December 6 in the AIA Headquarters Board Room.  An assembly of 16 new Strategic Council Representatives and AIA staff met for the first time as the Class of 2020.  What impressed me most about this group was the divergent backgrounds of persons being asked to rotate onto the Council – eight women, of which two are mayors, and eight men; a component executive director; and an associate architect.  The afternoon was a standing room only meeting of the AIA Board, Strategic Council, new members of the Strategic Council, staff, and presenters for nominees for the highest awards given by the AIA.  Here the Gold Medal, Architecture Firm, Edward C. Kemper, and Whitney M. Young, Jr. awards were voted on.  Results of the voting are included later in this report.

The following morning each council working group presented their accomplishments from 2017.  Some of these ideas will continue to be evaluated and eventually integrated into the strategic plan of the AIA.  Next on the agenda, guest speaker Dr. Cindy Frewen, FAIA, an urban futurist and architect, discussed strategic foresight in the context of architecture and society.  Her introduction gave a broad overview of future thinking and challenged the council to engage this mode of thinking and actively project positive outcomes for the profession moving forward. A memorable conversation using the word “delighted” stands out from her presentation which she followed by leading the council in several mini-workshops about futurism.  Then a passing of the moderator’s baton from Jason Winters to Jaime Sobrino, who summarized what to expect early next year and challenged all of us to be fully engaged.

The idea of restructuring the board and creating a strategic council has resulted in a collection of diverse thinkers initiating constructive and expanding conversation about where the profession and institute are heading, and how to best position architects in leadership positions to assure ourselves and our communities that we have a seat at the table for decision making affecting our built and natural environments.  As the mechanism to inform the Board and other institute bodies of important professional issues and opportunities, the Strategic Council - often referred today as the ‘think tank’- is researching and developing issues that may eventually become concepts driving policies of the institute.  The council will continue to ask questions of our members and leadership, researching how to constructively maintain a relevance in the professional world, how to continue to evolve as our profession is changing, while trying hard to assure our over 90,000 members that everyone’s voices are heard.    

Although there has been some disconnect between the council and the board since its inception, 2018 AIA President Carl Elefante has asked that several council members sit on Board committees aligning with the institute’s Strategic Council Portfolios.  I am aware that the council will continue to evolve and mature, but what I witnessed was extremely encouraging!  My hope is that we continue to the have the clarity that was demonstrated in Washington last December, and as my class year title 2020 implies, the clear vision to continue looking forward.  I look forward to seeing all component leaders and any other region members in March at Grassroots San Diego.

2018 AIA Honor Awards announced

The afternoon of Wednesday, December 06, the AIA National Board and Strategic Council convened a joint session to select the 2018 AIA Honor Awards for the Gold Medal, Architecture Firm, Edward C. Kemper and Whitney M. Young Jr. Also the AIA 2018 Topaz Medallion for Excellence in Architectural Education was announced. The 2018 Honor Awards recipients are as follows, taken directly from the AIA website.

Gold Medal
The Board of Directors and the Strategic Council of the American Institute of Architects (AIA) voted today to award the 2018 AIA Gold Medal to James Stewart Polshek, FAIA. The Gold Medal honors an individual or pair of architects whose significant body of work has had a lasting influence on the theory and practice of architecture. Polshek will be honored at the AIA Conference on Architecture 2018 in New York City. Born in Akron, Ohio, Polshek earned a Master of Architecture degree from Yale in 1955. The office that Polshek began in 1963 as, James Stewart Polshek Architect evolved through multiple iterations. Following his retirement in 2005, the firm transitioned in 2010 to Ennead Architects. Polshek has fostered an environment wherein design excellence, effective collaboration and rigorous research work in concert to create enduring architecture. His unparalleled vision and leadership has earned the firm countless accolades, including more than 200 design awards, the 1992 AIA Architecture Firm Award, and 15 National Honor Awards for Architecture.

Concurrent to leading one of the nation's most recognized firms, Polshek served as dean of Columbia University’s Graduate School of Architecture, Planning and Preservation from 1972 to 1987. At the time, Columbia played a central role in the debate over style and meaning during a period in which architecture was being fundamentally questioned. His collaborative spirit led to a complete revision of the school’s curriculum and direction that, in turn, reversed its decline and attracted world-class faculty. Polshek’s 1987 restoration and renovation of New York’s Carnegie Hall began with a master plan that helped establish his enduring approach to revitalization. A complete restoration of the hall’s original details as well as the implementation of new ones — lighting, graphics, and a new marquee — were coupled with a heavy dose of advocacy for landmark buildings threatened by market forces.

In Washington, D.C., the 645,000-square-foot Newseum/Freedom Forum Headquarters, completed in 2008, is a monument to journalism and free speech. The architectural expression of the institution’s mission manifests in a symbol of openness: a 4,500- square-foot clear glass “window” woven into the fabric of the city’s Penn Quarter. Polshek’s National Museum of American Jewish History in Philadelphia, just a block from Independence Hall, references the immigrant experience in America through two interlocking volumes of opaqueness and transparency. The museum’s high-profile historical context bolsters its efforts to inspire people of all backgrounds.

Polshek’s sensitivity as an architect and his willingness to give credit to others — whether they be his clients, partners, staff or collaborators — have helped restore the promise that architecture can be an uplifting force in the world. Everywhere that he has worked, and throughout his eloquent writings, he has raised the level of discussion while pursuing an unambiguous goal of architecture as a healing art.

Polshek is the 74th recipient of the Gold Medal. He joins the ranks of such visionaries as Frank Lloyd Wright (1949), Louis Sullivan (1944), Le Corbusier (1961), Louis I. Kahn (1971), I.M. Pei (1979), Thom Mayne (2013), Julia Morgan (2014), Moshe Safdie (2015), Denise Scott Brown & Robert Venturi (2016), and Paul Revere Williams (2017). In recognition of his legacy to architecture, Polshek’s name will be chiseled into the granite Wall of Honor in the lobby of the AIA headquarters in Washington, D.C.

Architecture Firm Award

Snow Kreilich Architects earned this year’s AIA Architecture Firm Award, the top award the organization gives to practices in the United States. Known for its work in and around the Twin Cities, the firm is perhaps best known for designing humanistic ports of entry for the U.S. Department of Customs and Border Protection in Maine and Minnesota.

Edward C. Kemper Award

...the American Institute of Architects board of directors and the strategic council named Lenore M. Lucey, FAIA, the 2018 recipient of the AIA Edward C. Kemper Award, named after the AIA’s first executive director (1914 to 1948). Nearly every year since 1950, the program has recognized an architect who has broadly contributed to the profession through his or her work with the AIA. Lucey, who is the principal of the Washington, D.C.–based LML Consulting, has dedicated her career to the development of the architecture profession, and is an advocate for architects and the importance of their role in society. She will be officially presented with the award next June at the AIA Conference on Architecture 2018 in New York.

Lucey has a B.Arch. from Pratt Institute in New York and is a licensed architect in the state of New York and the District of Columbia. With more than 30 years of experience in the profession, Lucey has taken on various leadership roles. From 1986 to 1994, she served as the executive director of AIA New York and the New York Foundation for Architecture, where her leadership established the chapter’s voice among other organizations, and “generated a 46 percent increase in its memberships and a major relocation of its offices,” according to the AIA press release. In 1997, Lucey joined the National Council of Architectural Registration Boards (NCARB) as the organization’s first female CEO, where she led the nonprofit for more than 14 years. Prior to joining NCARB, she served as the vice president of business development for the New York City–based consultancy Lehrer McGovern Bovis (now LendLease). Since December 2016, she has served as the 55th Chancellor of the AIA College of Fellows.

“I see Lenore’s life’s work as energizing, effective communication,” said Joan Capelin, Hon. AIA, in support of Lucey’s nomination, in the same release. “She has vibrantly conveyed the value of architects, argued the issues affecting architecture, glued together organizations related to architectural practice, made her chapter and the profession’s regulatory organization accessible and supportive, and deftly helped architects become better representatives of themselves and their profession.”

This year’s jury comprised chair Rik Master of USG Corp. In Woodstock, Ill.; Patrick Burke III, FAIA, of the Capital Project Management group at Columbia University Medical Center in New York City; Linsey Graff, Assoc. AIA, of Ayers Saint Gross Architects in Tempe, Ariz.; Libby Haslam, AIA, of GSBS Architects in Salt Lake City; and R. Steven Lewis, FAIA, of the City of Detroit Planning and Development Department.

Lucey joins the 2017 winner, Ronald Skaggs, FAIA, who served as the 76th National President of the AIA in 2000; the 2016 winner, Terrence Brown, FAIA, who was recognized for helping architects prepare for working in disaster preparedness and recovery; and more.

Whitney M. Young, Jr.

Tamara Eagle Bull, FAIA, co-founder and president of Encompass Architects in Lincoln, Neb., has been named the recipient of the 2018 Whitney M. Young Jr. Award. Eagle Bull, a member of the Oglala Lakota Nation, is the first Native American woman in the U.S. to become a licensed architect, and has been a staunch advocate for the preservation and respectful representation of Native American culture within tribal nation built environments. She received her M.Arch from the University of Minnesota in 1993, and went on to co-found Encompass Architects with her husband, Todd Hesson, AIA, in 2002.

Comprising about 80 percent of her firm’s portfolio, the work she does for Native tribes aims to accurately address the needs of a culture she knows well. “Culture is the main element to consider; whether it is gas station or government building, the tribes always want culture to be a part of it,” Eagle Bull said in a member spotlight interview with the AIA. “A lot of non-Native architects go to tribes and expect them to open up and share everything right off the bat; it’s disrespectful. Knowing how to ask those questions in a respectful way is key.” Eagle Bull is also an executive board secretary at the American Indian Council of Architects and Engineers, where she was a key member in negotiating a memorandum of understanding with the National Organization of Minority Architects, allowing the two organizations to work together.

Eagle Bull and her firm have worked on numerous regional projects such as the Gila River Indian Community Governance Center in Sacaton, Ariz., and the Justice Center in Kyle, SD. She has also designed proposals for the Oglala Sioux Tribe for a memorial at the site of the Wounded Knee Massacre in South Dakota—an ongoing project that is currently exploring financing options for its next stages.

Established in 1972, the Whitney M. Young Jr. Award is named for the acclaimed head of the National Urban League during the Civil Rights Movement, and is awarded to architects or firms that actively contribute to social change through their work. Last year's winner was the Motor City-based Detroit Collaborative Design Center (DCDC), an initiative of the University of Detroit Mercy’s School of Architecture, which has acted as a resource for more than 100 community-centered organizations on a local and national level. The DCDC works together with residents and grassroots groups to make positive decisions for their communities that might otherwise get overlooked.

The 2018 jury comprised Rik Master, FAIA, USG, Woodstock, Ill.; Patrick Burke, FAIA, Columbia University Medical Center, N.Y.; Linsey Graff, Assoc. AIA, Ayers Saint Gross Architects, Scottsdale, Ariz.; Libby Haslam, AIA, GSBS Architects, Salt Lake City; and R. Steven Lewis, FAIA, TRC Energy Services, Detroit.”

Topaz Medallion for Excellence in Architectural Education

“The Board of Directors and the Strategic Council of the American Institute of Architects (AIA) and the Association of Collegiate Schools of Architecture (ACSA) named Jorge Silvetti, Int'l Assoc. AIA, as the 2018 AIA/ACSA Topaz Medallion recipient. The AIA/ACSA Topaz Medallion honors an individual who has been intensely involved in architecture education for more than a decade and whose teaching has influenced a broad range of students. Silvetti has taught at Harvard University Graduate School of Design (GSD) since 1975 as a gifted professor and mentor. Argentinian by birth, Silvetti’s influence at GSD may have been most strongly felt from 1995-2002, when he served as chair of the architecture program.

Currently, Silvetti is the Nelson Robinson, Jr. Professor of Architecture and leads design studios, as well as delivering regular lectures on history, contemporary theory, and criticism. The publication of his 1977 essay “The Beauty of Shadows” was groundbreaking in that it provided a compelling argument for how a profession caught between postmodernism and deconstruction should proceed. His later works, published with Rodolfo Machado, furthered his arguments and have greatly influenced his students as well as other schools of design across the country. The list of deans and department chairs that were former students, colleagues, or employees of Silvetti is long and impressive.

Since 1986, Silvetti has overseen a number of research programs, including an examination of Sicily’s urbanism and architecture, which won a Progressive Architecture award. Other projects have explored the future of public space in the shifting metropolis of Buenos Aires and the future development of previously industrial Bilbao. He is a recipient of the Rome Prize and, since 1996, has served as a Pritzker Architectural Prize juror. In 2000, he was a juror for the former Mies van der Rohe Prize for Latin American Architecture.

Beyond academia, Silvetti’s work in association with Rodolfo Machado since 1974 and under different professional firms that they founded and led (presently MACHADO SILVETTI), has been widely celebrated. Run like a studio where all employees contribute ideas and everyone shares in the learning experience, the firm’s notable projects include work at many major Universities and Colleges in the U.S., (among them Dartmouth and Bowdoin Colleges, Princeton, Harvard, Rice, and Arizona State universities), abroad at the American University in Beirut and the Vietnamese and German University in Vietnam, as well as notable cultural and educational institutions such as the Getty Trust in the U.S. The firm received the First Award in Architecture from the American University of Arts and Letters in 1991 and numerous design awards and citations from the AIA.”

The Jury was comprised of Keshika DeSaram, student at the University of Minnesota and AIAS National President, Toshiko Mori, founder of Toshiko Mori Architects and faculty at Harvard GSD, Donna Kacmar, FAIA, faculty at University of Houston, and Nadar Tehrani, Dean at Cooper Union. Chere LeClair, faculty at Montana State University, served as the jury chair.

Strategic Council Update

On Thursday, December 07, the Strategic Council conducted their final Assembly of 2017. After introductions, 2017 President, Thomas Vonier presented an overview of the past year. Following presentation of the 2018 Operating Plan and Budget, it was endorsed by the Council. Then each Study Group shared a brief presentation including an overview of their 2017 work and suggestions moving forward. The Study group summaries are available here.

Guest speaker, Dr. Cindy Frewen, FAIA, an urban futurist and architect, discussed strategic foresight and design futures in context of architecture and society. Her introduction gave a broad overview of future thinking and challenged the Council to engage this mode of thinking and actively project positive outcomes for the profession moving forward.

The declared candidates for National office were announced as follows:

2019 First Vice President/2020 President-elect
L. Jane Frederick, FAIA
William Carpenter, FAIA

2019-2020 Secretary
Jason Winters, AIA

2019-2021 At Large Directors (one will be elected)
Jessica Sheridan, AIA
Rob E. Walker IV, AIA
James Wright, FAIA