William Stewart


In these past 12 months, the AIA has moved surprisingly quickly towards becoming a more nimble, innovative, and relevant professional community than it was a decade ago. The Institute’s Repositioning Initiative has transformed the ways in which we represent architects, as well as the ways in which other initiatives, programs, and projects align with a new way of thinking and behaving.

This past year, we emboldened the AIA Foundation, an organization that, as our public outreach arm, is intent on emphasizing good design as the key to elevating public perception about architects and architecture. We chartered a new component, AIA Shanghai, whose members reflect the Institute’s growing international design presence. We also collaborated with strategic partners to advance critical issues where architects can have great influence, such as resilience and how design affects health.

In addition, in 2014, the AIA Board of Directors voted to refresh its governance structure to reflect a new vision of leadership. The particulars of this shift have been covered extensively already, but I will make this point: The new, bicameral structure will open the AIA to new and varied representative voices that chronicle our changing demographics as well as the growing practice diversity of our profession. The ability of a 157-year-old organization to renew itself speaks to the power of leadership and the creativity that is our core skill.

There is more work to be done and, indeed, many of the Institute’s efforts are just building momentum. Nowhere is our professional challenge greater, nor more urgent, than the ways in which we support emerging architects. They represent our best hope. Indeed, our vibrancy as a profession tomorrow depends on the men and women who are just starting their architecture journeys today—and how we mentor them and care for them. It’s a subject in which all of us should be deeply invested—as the AIA; as local and state components; and as architecture firms. They remind us that design thinking is an instrument for social equity and a necessary strategy to balance human needs with stewardship of natural resources. In this, we must never allow ourselves to believe that design thinking is merely a subjective or aesthetic exercise—a trend, a fashion, or something to be commoditized. To our emerging professionals, design thinking is a medium to bear witness to the force of life that seeks a better world.

Helene Combs Dreiling, FAIA
2014 President