Photography: Ben Rahn The Richard Ivey Building at Western University, a 2016 AIA Education Facility Design Awards recipient designed by Hariri Pontarini Architects, offers students well-lit and airy surroundings in a traditional academic setting.

How many times has a client asked, “Can you explain these plans in language I understand?” Or requested answers to some basic questions on the design process? That information and more can now be found at

TopicA, as it’s also known, launched in the spring of 2017 with the goal of increasing awareness of the profound value that architects represent. Aimed at homeowners and decision-makers in the professional and community circles, TopicA reinforces the fact that great projects grow out of great partnerships between clients and architects. To do that, the new site addresses three broad topic areas—home, work, and community—with a special section on how to effectively work with an architect.

At the highest level, answers one of the biggest questions asked of an architect: “Why should I hire you?” Rather than search for the right words, you can now point your prospective client to No matter your area of expertise, the prospective client will find something on TopicA that demonstrates an architect’s commitment to the client, to society, and to design solutions that can transform lives.

Why TopicA Matters to Your Practice

For homeowners who are looking to renovate existing spaces or undertake a small improvement that will make a big difference, TopicA will help them see the whole picture— such as how decisions about materials can have a physical and emotional impact or how energy costs can make or break a household’s budget. As resilience in the face of a changing climate moves to the top of the list of client concerns, an architect’s expertise can make the difference between safety and peril. TopicA aims to showcase that expertise for residential clients everywhere.

Designing for the workplace also takes center stage on TopicA. It seems like every week offers up a new trend for employees, managers, and business leaders to embrace or shun: open or semi-open offices, trendy standing desks, or company-wide wellness initiatives. It’s enough to drive a business owner or CEO to madness. But, investing in a relationship with an architect to create the right environment with strong bones will ensure fewer headaches and produce an office atmosphere that people will want to work in. TopicA can help here.

And when it comes to buildings and spaces that knit communities together, architects are needed more than ever, to design schools, libraries, hospitals, public safety complexes, and town halls that need to be beautiful, long-lasting, healthy, and accessible—for an aging population or for the next generation. If community leaders consult an architect beforehand, they’ll see these projects flourish in a whole new light. TopicA can help here, too.

Of the Institute’s public-awareness efforts, which have featured three nationally televised commercials and the I Look Up Film Challenge, TopicA will serve as the centerpiece in the process of educating prospective clients on the work of architects. The site will continue to highlight general best practices when commissioning an architect for home renovations, schools, churches, or workplaces. It will also take a deep dive into the stories behind the projects and people featured in AIA’s public awareness campaigns.

It used to be that anyone looking to hire an architect had to rely on their own knowledge and experience. Concepts such as the “five phases of design” were industry-speak that clients couldn’t decipher. What TopicA proposes is that the architect-client business relationship can be a close partnership based on a common set of concepts and trust. When trust is mutual, the power of design and the needs of the client can come together to produce the perfect end result.

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