Original photo by Liz West

AIA members attending this year's AIA National Convention, which is being held in Philadelphia next week, get the opportunity to vote for candidates for the Institute's national offices. We queried the three individuals running for 2017 First Vice President/2018 President-Elect to learn about their plans to engage membership, educate the public about the role of architects, and to learn how they'll face the array of challenges facing the profession.

The candidates are: Brian Dougherty, FAIA, principal of Dougherty + Dougherty Architects, in Costa Mesa, Calif.; Carl Elefante, FAIA, principal of Quinn Evans Architects, in Washington, D.C.; and Ellis "Lanny" McIntosh, AIA, principal of the McIntosh Group, in Tulsa, Okla.

We posed the same three questions via email to each candidate. Here's what they said:

Brian Dougherty, FAIA, principal of Dougherty + Dougherty Architects, in Costa Mesa, Calif.


Why do you want to lead the AIA, and how will you engage the membership?
I want to lead the AIA because I feel passionately connected to this profession that has given so much to me both personally and professionally, and I am excited about the contributions I feel I can make to strengthen the organization for the future. Our professional relevance is strongly bonded with our core values and our commitment to being at the center of societal issues for the coming decades. Traditional practice is shifting, and the nature of architectural firms as the primary platform for the transformation of resources into the built environment is being challenged. We must have a prosperous future to ensure that we attract the best and the brightest to architecture to build the strength of our collective voice. The AIA has the opportunity to lead this transformation by empowering the member, the firm, and the local component and by strengthening the collective national voice in the global market.

What is the role of architects and the AIA among the greater public?
Outreach requires both leadership and engagement. The skills to integrate complex issues and find unique solutions that enhance the quality of life for our communities are intrinsic to the value of our profession. As architects, we have the ability to create a vision for each local community, and collectively for the global community, that is grounded in the principals of shared experience and resource conservation. We must equip our members with the tools that will enable them to inspire action and lead to a preferred future. For example: The growth of Centers for Architecture from the grassroots efforts of our AIA components provides the perfect opportunity for the AIA to partner and resource these forums for outreach. Through our component leaders we have the ability to develop the skills for public leadership in each of our members. Additionally, the AIA must develop materials on multiple platforms that can be accessed and shared with our components, members, and communities.

What is the biggest challenge facing the profession today and how can firms and individual practitioners respond to it?
Our professional challenges provide an opportunity to energize the AIA and to bring together our membership as a unified voice to elevate architects and firms. Our future relevance is being eroded by a public that is focused on “faster and cheaper.” This occurs at a time of rising global concern about resources and our ability to be resilient in the face of increasing pressure on our environment. Our collective vision has the ability to synthesize complex issues and provide a clear path to a prosperous future. The AIA, at all levels, must resource our firms and individual practitioners to: be at the table in the formation of public policy that will impact the environment of future generations; restore the architect as the voice for the value of design as the client’s trusted adviser; advance the prosperity of individuals and firms; empower emerging professionals; strategically grow our profession on a global platform; and embrace nontraditional careers.


Carl Elefante, FAIA, principal of Quinn Evans Architects, in Washington, D.C.


Why do you want to lead the AIA, and how will you engage the membership?
Over the past three years, the AIA has marshaled its resources to re-position the Institute, streamlining national governance and realigning components. AIA membership is at an historic high. It is time to look outward to re-position the profession. I want to be AIA president to assure re-positioning is rapid and purposeful. The AIA needs leaders who understand how the AIA can best support practice today, while also assuring our relevance and prosperity over the next generation. My experience both as a practicing architect and AIA leader at local, state and national component levels has prepared me to lead the Institute as it moves forward. It has afforded me a deep appreciation for the evolving value of architecture, the opportunities for innovating practice, and the importance of strengthening our profession's diversity. I am prepared to effectively articulate the aspirations and concerns of members. Working with the Board, Strategic Council, and component leadership, I will continue to activate your representatives and strengthen communications. To assure this, I will implement monthly conference call and/or online chat sessions to provide a direct line of communication to me that is open to all AIA members.

What is the role of architects and the AIA among the greater public?
Architects shape the built environment. We are drawn by the gravitational pull of materiality and form. Yet, on a whole, the greater public sees our work differently. They appreciate the impact our work has on their lives: staying dry under a sheltering overhang; enjoying a sunny corner over a cup of coffee with co-workers; trading a white-knuckle commute for the pleasant walk from a new condo in town. Architects shape lives. Increasingly, the human dimensions of our work are gaining currency with the greater public, and also with decision-makers. School boards want to know how our work will improve educational outcomes. Corporate boards want to know how our work will increase productivity and well-being. Public health boards want to know how our work will reduce the causes of obesity and heart disease. Understanding the human dimensions of our work is fundamental to our future relevance and prosperity. It is the AIA's role to compellingly demonstrate the human benefits of well-conceived and beautifully executed architecture. It is also the AIA's role to articulate the value proposition of those benefits.

What is the biggest challenge facing the profession today and how can firms and individual practitioners respond to it?
On April 22, 175 nations, including the United States, signed the Paris Agreement to combat climate change. The Paris Agreement will shape our profession for the next generation at least. Rather than being anxious about the new requirements this may impose, our profession will be better served to proactively embrace the design challenge it presents. If we rise to the challenge, the Paris Agreement could become a tremendous jobs program. To make the most of this opportunity, we need to step outside our comfort zone. Improving building performance must become a core competency for all architects. Each of us will be called upon to contribute regardless of firm size, project type, community context, and region. We have the technology and know-how. As AIA president, I will work with you to confront climate change opportunistically. It is essential to our profession's future.


Ellis "Lanny" McIntosh, AIA, principal of the McIntosh Group, in Tulsa, Okla.


Why do you want to lead the AIA and how will you engage the membership?
With my experience as the first moderator of the 2015 Inaugural AIA Strategic Council, and as a small business owner from the Midwest, I have a fresh perspective about the Institute and our profession. I have the time, the passion, and the proven leadership skills to lead the Institute. I hope to engage and directly involve every member in our public relations efforts by creating tools that line up with our messaging and purpose that every member and chapter can use to communicate the value of design and the value that AIA architects create.

What is the role of architects and the AIA among the greater public?
Every member, architects and associates alike, should get directly involved in our communities. Volunteer and lead. The more direct exposure the general public has to us, the more they will understand what we bring to the table; the value we bring. Follow our passion: it could be in the arts, in health, social services, or education. Visibility is the key. This builds political capital and introduces us to our future clients. In addition, we need to speak up. All of us. If there is an issue affecting our profession, we need to write a letter or an op-ed or call our elected officials and express our opinion. We may not have big numbers or big money, but we do have a voice. One is good. But 87,000 are much more effective.

What is the biggest challenge facing our profession today and how can firms and individual practitioners respond?
From where I sit and from what I hear, our biggest challenge is that we all conduct business yet we have almost zero exposure to business in our education, and the messaging coming out of the Institute and the academy places financial literacy near the bottom. As the average firm is less than five people, education and support for small business should be near the top of our priorities, and if you look at our strategic plan, prosperity is one of our four strategic priorities. Firms and practitioners and especially emerging professionals should seek out and invest in rigorous education in business, strategy, leadership, risk, negotiation, ownership succession, etc. For every one hour of HSW we should invest in two hours of business. A business-savvy profession will be ever more relevant. All of us should insist that the AIA be the provider of this education; I intend to.