Russell A. Davidson, FAIA, 2016 AIA President
Photography: Carl Bower Russell A. Davidson, FAIA, 2016 AIA President

“A future for architecture depends upon a new sense of reality, a different success ideal, a deeper social consciousness,” said Frank Lloyd Wright in a lecture at Princeton University in 1930. Although that lecture was published in 1931 by Princeton University Press, it did not become popular until 1953 as part of the Wright anthology The Future of Architecture.

In the middle of the last century, the future seemed bright and full of opportunities. Promoting the impact of excellent design then was an almost evangelical movement and made America a leader in design thinking. We need to rediscover Wright’s same sense of urgent purpose for the 21st century for an architecture that is global in its outlook and local in its impact. Architects practice in a unique era today, when technology has never been more powerful yet social consciousness can be defined, even inspired, by grassroots movements. It is also a time when success itself, to echo Wright, has once again been redefined—not just by the architect’s expanded role in society, but by the performance of our buildings and spaces.

Indeed, we have always wondered about architecture’s future, but our sense of reality—the world in which we work today—is measurable. Architects uniquely prove ourselves to be indispensable by articulating how our work is thoughtful, healthy, conscientious, and, most of all, vital to our neighbors, our clients, and our communities.

So what does architecture’s future look like from today’s vantage point? Imagine a future for architects where clients and the public trust and truly value the imagination and technical skill of our profession. The AIA’s new public website, Topic Architecture, will be instrumental in helping us get there by engaging clients and design enthusiasts alike.

Imagine a future for architects where AIA membership and involvement carries with it expertise in communicating our value. The Institute’s public awareness effort, building on last year’s Look Up campaign, will evolve to empower every member to skillfully demonstrate the value and relevance of all we do. Initiatives will expand beyond a compilation of feel-good taglines to include user-friendly customizable tools and resources available to volunteer leaders and members across the country.

Imagine a future for architects where we advocate together at federal and state levels to ensure prosperity for our futures. Self-promotion cannot be outsourced. Every member is an advocate and a messenger.

Imagine a future for architects where this is all being accomplished. This is the profession moved by profound social impact that we must deliver to future generations. A better future for architecture can and should be our new sense of reality. This opportunity—this cause— should serve as a unifying mantra to every AIA architect: Every day, architecture matters. I invite you to join me in this cause. Let’s do this together. 

Russell A. Davidson, FAIA
2016 AIA President