Vincent Ricardel

In February, the AIA Foundation (AIAF) appointed Sherry-Lea Bloodworth Botop as its executive director to revitalize the nonprofit’s public outreach, philanthropy, and advocacy initiatives. Bloodworth Botop, a 2014 White House Innovation Fellow, joins AIAF from Architecture for Humanity, where she served as senior adviser and director of strategic development. “The public is everyone,” she says, “and if I can get people to understand how architects impact their individual lives, then it’s a productive day.”

For me, the value of architects and architecture is very personal. When I worked for Architecture for Humanity, I made a commitment to more than 900 people who I evacuated from the Gulf Coast after Hurricane Katrina—I told them I’d help them return home. And I couldn’t have kept that promise without architects.

Most people know the word “architect,” and some think they design only skyscrapers. Obviously, the explanation is much fuller than that; a good architect can make our lives better. I believe that, and I think it’s the core of the AIAF as well, which is committed to educating our communities about the central role of architecture.

One of the projects that the AIAF is focused on right now is a national resilience program, which will have its start in Newark, N.J. It’s part of a partnership with the Clinton Global Initiative, the Rockefeller Foundation’s 100 Resilient Cities Program, Architecture for Humanity, and Public Architecture—and it will consist of five regional studios that will work with local, state, and federal partners, NGOs, architecture firms, universities, and other organizations. The goal for each studio is to raise important issues surrounding resilience but also to find and implement solutions to strengthen communities. I’m also excited to announce that the AIAF will launch a national Designing Health initiative that capitalizes on the work undertaken by the AIA’s Design+Health team centering on social equity, sensory environments, access to nature, and other improvement tactics.

But you can’t talk about resilience in the larger sense without talking about stewardship of our historic buildings. In addition to public outreach and fundraising, the AIAF is the steward of the Octagon. The Octagon is the gateway to the AIA and our intention is to fortify it—through restoration, through exhibitions, and through public-facing programming. Coming to work each day keeps me focused on preservation’s importance to this small corner of Washington, D.C., as well as all the corners in this country enriched by older buildings. It’s about introducing the elements of stewardship to the public—a building’s value, how the building contributed to historic events, how the building continues to contribute to the everyday lives of the people who live and work there.

And, then, hopefully, people begin to see how a continuum of architecture—old and new—is fundamental to the quality of their lives. —As told to William Richards

Read Sara Johnson’s Q+A with Bloodworth Botop here.