With the AIA 2014 Convention only a few short weeks away, campaigns for the three national AIA offices (first vice president/president-elect, vice president, and secretary) are in full swing. The 2015–2016 candidates for first vice president/president-elect are: Don Brown, FAIA; Russ Davidson, FAIA; and Gabriel Durand-Hollis, FAIA. The candidates for vice president are: Bill Bates, AIA; Frank Pitts, FAIA; and Ed Vance, FAIA. The two running for secretary are: Jerry Eben, AIA, and John Padilla, AIA.

Meet the Candidates  
(responses in their own words)


2015 First Vice President/2016 President


Don Brown, FAIA; AIA Montgomery

Credit: Stephen Voss


Benefits of Membership

You have to provide value and explain that there is a value to belonging. It’s not a cost, it’s an investment. ... You determine what that [value] is by understanding what it is that you’re seeking and what people perceive as value differs enormously from the walk of life that they’re in. ... Everyone needs a different resource from AIA at some time in their career, and their perception of value varies. My singular belief is that we can do all of the above, it’s not either-or. ... We can also look after practice problems everyone has to solve to do great work and get compensated for it fairly and find a way for those in very unusual aspects of practice that frankly can use the benefit of the enormous resources of AIA to be more successful. I’m an “all-of-the-above” guy. I can sell value to anybody at any walk of life, because I know what the AIA resources are and how we can shape those to meet that person’s needs.

Emerging Professionals

It’s not hard to [reach out to emerging professionals]. You have to do two things: one, you have to ask the congregate leadership of emerging professionals—the National Associates Committee, Young Architects Forum—what is it that we can do to provide an opportunity for you to fulfill your potential as a contributing member at various levels. Recently, what I did as the Board Knowledge Committee chair was get traction. A plan without action is just a speech or commentary. You have to actually do something that has continuity and that will continue to work regardless of whether I am in that seat.


Russ Davidson, FAIA; AIA Westchester & Hudson Valley

Credit: Stephen Voss


Benefits of Membership

I love this phrase that comes from an economics book: the "enlightened self-interest." I believe that the AIA really looks out for the “enlightened self-interest” of the whole profession—everything from contract documents to knowledge communities and its advocacy programs. It really helps you individually and collectively as a profession be better at what you do, to feel like you’re part of a bigger community. As a guy who grew up in only one firm, I’ve always felt like the AIA has had my back, from the beginning to today. It becomes a second family and support system for you. 

Emerging Professionals

Because of my 20 years of AIA experience, I know a lot of the people on the national associates committee, I think that they will speak well of my inclusiveness of my voice. I think it is a cultural shift that still has a ways to go, from the sort of “ol’ boys club of architecture” to a broader tent. I am especially concerned about our changes in governance and really pleased that we are providing a quick pathway for young people to serve on the board. Certainly, young people can’t afford that kind of time, so there’s got to be a short pathway for them to get into a meaningful position in AIA leadership and their firm’s leadership. A lot of that is just giving them a chance, a seat at the table.


Gabriel Durand-Hollis, FAIA; AIA San Antonio

Credit: Stephen Voss


Benefits of Membership

I can look someone in the eye and say "the AIA has been good for my business." I’ve found projects; I’ve collaborated with other architects. If it hadn’t been for the AIA, it would’ve been either impossible or much more difficult to do any of those associations, joint ventures, collaborations. The AIA has represented my interests in the state legislature and the national legislature, as far as tax policies and other things in the interest of my business. Number one, it has helped me become prosperous. ... If someone doesn’t know whether to join, they’re really missing out.

Emerging Professionals

We’ve done studies and we’re losing young professionals. We’re losing them for different reasons. Here is where I would want to move the needle: diversity. If you look at schools, we have lots of women and diverse backgrounds, but by the time you get to the college of fellows and established architects, diversity is thin. We’re getting better but it’s not enough. Why are we losing them? Sometimes we have difficulty juggling life balances, but also prosperity. If they can do better off somewhere else, they might just leave the profession and do something else. I think we can help retain and inspire those people who were initially attracted to architecture if we have a message that “you too can prosper and you too can do better. We want you and we need you.”


2015–2016 Vice Presidents (two will be elected)


Bill Bates, AIA; AIA Pittsburgh

Credit: Stephen Voss


Benefits of Membership

I can only go by my own experience—[the AIA] has been a tremendous asset for me and a great resource for information and learning, but also the opportunities and jobs have been presented by the AIA itself. I wouldn’t be in the career I’m in without the AIA—not that I wouldn’t be an architect, but when I first became an architect, I was in private practice. As time went on, the connections I made in AIA led to other jobs that were more expansive, exciting, and interesting than where I began. I moved into corporate practice because of an opportunity that an AIA contact presented to me. I’ve been doing corporate practice for 30 years now.

Emerging Professionals

We’re starting to see the baby boomers getting closer to retirement and it’s leaving a void. There are a lot of spaces and opportunities for architects to take on new things and new challenges in the profession. We want to expand what architects are doing and elevate their position in the eyes of the public and to get the public to start thinking about the value architects bring. There's a great opportunity for young professionals and we have to get through to them and help them understand that there's a place for them and that licensure is important, and that they have to be creative about what they do in their careers. I don’t think we’ll be looking at the future with the typical box of what the architect does. 


Frank Pitts, FAIA; AIA Eastern New York

Credit: Stephen Voss


Benefits of Membership

I literally wouldn’t have the career that I have but for the AIA. It started from the day I started practice and found The Architect’s Handbook of Professional Practice that David Haviland wrote and started to learn how to run a business. ... The AIA has taught me so much about how to run a practice and it has introduced me to people that have different leadership styles and different kinds of practices. It’s an extraordinarily rich place that I think of like a watering hole in the jungle. We compete at home, but when we come here [to AIA Grassroots], we’re all drinking from the watering hole and not competing. It's that kind of a place. We all benefit from its existence.

Emerging Professionals

My daughter is an emerging professional working for Bohlin Cywinski Jackson in San Francisco. I think the way you reach young professionals—from what I’ve learned in my own practice and I think it has to continue through the AIA—is an honest engagement where you give people responsibility and support. You ask them to do a job, you make it possible for them to do the job, and you understand what their interests are, just like anyone else. You align what you’re offering and what their interests are, but you give them a job, and make them responsible and help them get that job done. When you do that, it goes beyond emerging professionals. People become professionals.


Ed Vance, FAIA; AIA Las Vegas

Credit: Stephen Voss


Benefits of Membership

I treat the Institute like my partner and it has been my partner for over 25 years. ... That partnership was never more important to me than in the last four years. The relationships I built and the people I met meant my survival—it literally was my lifeline. When I hear that half of the registered architects in this country are not members, I scratch my head and think "we could do better." This chapter taught us how to be leaders, not just in our firms or in the chapter but in our communities where we serve. ... It's about building leaders.

Emerging Professionals

[Emerging professionals] are the pipeline for the rest of the world. If you don’t attract them and get them engaged in the institute early, they become disenfranchised and they don’t see the value. One of the things we, executive director Randy Lavigne, [Hon. AIA] and I, did in our local chapter is we developed a program where we go to the state board of architecture every six months when they’re swearing in new architects and we’re there with a certification of appreciation and an application for membership, saying "congratulations and welcome to the licensed world of architecture. We hope to see you at our next general membership meeting." We’re also giving away free membership for a year for them. Once we get them to general membership meetings and to young architect forums to start understanding how to network with peers and hopefully find a good-paying job that’s interesting, then they realize the people they meet and the relationships they build are critical for their career. That’s how we can keep building our base.


2015–2016 Secretary


Jerry Eben, AIA; AIA New Jersey

Credit: Stephen Voss


Benefits of Membership

I am probably responsible for over 500 members over the course of my career. I talk to students all the time at [New Jersey Institute of Technology] School of Architecture. ... I tell them when they leave school and get a job—or even before they get a job—they should immediately seek out an AIA chapter and join. The best help for them is to really start talking to members of their chapter, ask questions, and become involved in the chapter through projects and they will grow.

Emerging Professionals

I think that [emerging professionals] is the foundation of AIA National and all of our components for the next 50 to 60 years as we go into this new repositioning. I think it’s very important that we try very hard to get as many young people involved in AIA as fast as we can get them involved.


John Padilla, AIA; AIA Santa Fe

Credit: Stephen Voss


Benefits of Membership

I feel that the benefit of membership is the resource that is available, whether it’s in your everyday practice or your everyday ability to be engaged within your community. The experience you can gain from being engaged in your local chapter provides you the expertise and the tools to be able to truly be an advocate for the profession and your community. ... As a member of the AIA, the resources that are available to you include everything from how to practice more efficiently and sustainably, to contracts and documents that allow a firm to support its clients and projects to basically become better architects. The advantage to the AIA is that you also have the hallmark of AIA behind your name. There’s a certain respect that comes with AIA that allows me to be successful within my practice and community. ... AIA sharpens your skills on many levels and I feel that's a significant benefit to members. ... I feel that [AIA] is an additional tool in your toolbox to make you a better architect.

Emerging Professionals

What I think is key when we talk about the AIA’s focus on emerging professionals is that it’s not just about younger members. It’s not age-related. It could be what we refer to a lot of times as “re-emerging professionals.” It could be an individual that has gone on a career track in some other profession and has decided to get back into architecture. The focus is that if we aren't looking at the future of our profession, we will become dinosaurs. We need to make sure there is also a focus on the next generation of not necessarily just architects, but the industry of which we are a part. ... The focus is not just on AIAS, recent graduates, and young architects; It reaches deeper than that, to [students in] K–12. By the time they’ve made the commitment to attend architecture school, you’ve got them. ... We need to look at the future of our profession, which stems into individuals in third, fourth, and fifth grade, who may have no idea what an architect is, but we need to engage them and be a part of their art and educational programs to individuals making career choices in middle or high school. 

Look out for more AIA candidate Q&As in ARCHITECT's Countdown to Convention.