With the A'22 Conference on Architecture scheduled from June 22 to 25, elections for The American Institute of Architects new board leadership are upon us. From June 10 to 14, accredited AIA delegates will cast their votes for the Institute's national level leadership and, in the event of a runoff, a second round will take place from June 15 to 17. These delegates, each selected by their local chapters, must be AIA members—architect, emeritus, associate, or international associate—in good standing.

As is tradition, ARCHITECT asked each candidate running for elective office about their qualifications, platform, and outlook on the profession. Below, you will meet Illya Azaroff, FAIA, and Kenneth J. Filarski, FAIA, the two candidates running for the role of 2023-2025 at-large director. Responses have been lightly edited for clarity. You can also find videos of the candidates presenting their platforms at the end of this article.

Illya Azaroff

Title: Founding principal, +LAB Architect
Local AIA component: AIA New York State
Leadership Roles: AIA New York State Immediate past president (2022); Chair AIA Unified Crisis Task Force City and State (2020-Present); AIA New York State President (2021); AIA New York State Board as First Vice President (2020); AIA National Strategic Council, New York Regional Representative Leading Resilient working group and technology transformation (2015-2018); New York State Disaster Co-Coordinator by AIA National (2017-2022); Houston Visions 2020 Advisor and Design Competition jury member (2019); Appointed to AIA Manufacturers Council (2018-2019); Appointed Chair, AIA National Board Knowledge Committee (2017); Appointed Chair, AIA National Honor Awards (2016-2017); AIA National Advocacy Director, Young Architects Forum, Advisory Committee (2015-2016); AIA New York Board of Directors, Vice President for Design Excellence (2013-2018); AIA New York State Board of Directors (2012-2014); AIA Regional Director, Young Architects Forum (2011-2014); Founding Co-Chair, AIA Regional Recovery Working Group (AIANYS, AIANJ, AIARI, AIACT, AIANY) (2012-2014); Founding Co-Chair, Design for Risk & Reconstruction Committee AIANY (2011-2021); Chair Design Awards Committee,AIA New York Chapter (2008); Member AIA New York Chapter (2007)

Why do you want to hold this leadership position at AIA?

I am being called to service and I believe I can help lead the institute through these unprecedented times. According to the latestIntergovernmental Panel on Climate Change reports, we have 11 years to turn this around. The impacts of climate change and environmental degradation are bringing about unprecedented disruption. I believe that unprecedented disruption requires unprecedented action. Being called a service is something I do not take lightly, understanding the commitment of time and effort necessary for the national board of AIA. Seeing where we are today dictates that it’s time to stand up and work for a better world—the very reason why I want to hold this leadership position.

Now more than ever, architects must be agents of change, audaciously acting on the climate crisis, shaping the future of our post-COVID cities, and reimagining our environments to create and sustain resilience. We can, and must, harness AIA’s 94,000 members to actively shape policy. Our capacity to tackle today’s complex challenges must be linked to a strategic allocation of AIA resources, member support, and action focused on powerful solutions.

How have your experiences prepared you for this role?

I am the son of a war refugee and have been taught never to shy away from challenges, to stand up and help others in need. I am also a father, husband, small firm owner, and educator who embraces the ideology of citizen architect. My experience serving on boards of directors and advisory groups across the AEC industry, with scientific not-for-profits, and intergovernmental agencies, makes me an ideal candidate for the National Board in our drive for visibility, impact on society, and elevating the value of architects. I understand fully the value of what we, as a profession, offer to our communities. I have responded to disasters across the world, helping communities to lift themselves up and build a better future. I know firsthand that architects are uniquely positioned to bring answers to the most challenging issues we face today and in the future. Ultimately, I believe architects are the tip of the spear in leading the world to a better future. We can, and must, demonstrate the transformative value that we as a profession bring to the world.

What key issues do you hope to address in this role?

The strategic plan is an instrument of action. In my role on the Board of Directors I will identify the key issues that our members and their communities face to bring about substantive and sustained change. The challenges we face such as climate impacts, global migration, post-COVID cities, and equity can only be addressed through supporting our members. Arming every design professional and member with the ability to take on those challenges is the key issue I want to address through the strategic plan.

I hope to move the institute in supporting each and every member to become an instrument of change, to be a citizen architect with the resources needed to advance their communities and, by extension, the world.

What are the greatest challenges facing architects today? How can AIA respond to them?

The issue we face that is nearest and dearest to my heart is climate migration. People are on the move. Global warming and extreme weather, resource stresses, and political instability are driving huge migrations across the world—2021 events alone displaced 79 million people. Architects can prepare receiving communities and facilitate adaptation to a hotter, wetter world.

There are several pressing and immediate needs surrounding post-COVID communities. Our collective experience tells us that we know that we cannot go back to the way it was before. The COVID pandemic laid bare the fragile, ineffective, and inequitable systems of our cities and nations. We need to support architect-led new and innovative systems that are emerging, catalyzing national and global change.

As AIA, we need to recognize the power of who we are, the largest professional design organization in the world. We must further recognize that we have extraordinary solutions for the wicked problems we face across our communities. I believe the Institute should and must position our members for success in their own communities by supporting members to create solutions and advocate on their behalf, opening doors wide for the profession as experts, knowledge leaders, and citizen architects.

Kenneth J. Filarski

Kenneth J. Filarski
Edward Catucci Kenneth J. Filarski

Title: Sole Proprietor, Filarski/Architecture+Planning+Research
Local AIA component: AIA Rhode Island
Leadership Roles: Fellow, AIA(1988-present); LEED Fellow, U.S. Green Building Council (2018-present); Registered Architect (1976-present); NCARB (1985-Present); Co-Chair, Member, National Disaster Assistance Committee, American Institute of Architects: Disaster Assistance Handbook, 3rd edition, 4th edition; Re-occupancy Assessment Tool, v1, v2, v3; Re-opening America—Strategies for Safer Schools, Retail, Offices, et al; (2020-Present); AIA Disaster Assistance Communications Task Force (2017-2020); Richard Upjohn Fellow, AIA (1985-present); Morse Stone Fellow, American Institute of Architects Rhode Island (2017-present); AIA State Disaster Assistance Coordinator, Rhode Island (2020-Present);President and Founder, Rhode Island Architects and Engineers Emergency Response, Task Force 7 (2010-present); Advisory Board, Rhode Island Executive Climate Change Coordinating Counci (2020-present); Vice Chair, Member, Rhode Island Floodplain Management Association (2010-present); Vice Chair, Member, Rhode Island Ratepayers Advisory Board; Executive Committee, Member, Providence Cranston Workforce Development Board (2014-Present); Chair, Founding Director, U.S. Green Building Council Rhode Island (2006-Present); Vice Chair, Member, USGBC LEED Location + Planning Technical Advisory Group (2018-present); USGBC LEED Technical Committee (2021-Present); USGBC Faculty, LEED, SITES (2018-present); USGBC LEED Fellows Evaluation Committee (2020); SITES Accredited Professional (2017-present); AICP Certified Planner (1989-Present); ASFPM Certified Floodplain Manager (2001-present); Cal-OES Certified Disaster Responder, Disaster Response Trainer, Train the Trainer (2011-present); Member, ASCE 24-14 “Flood Resistant Design and Construction Manual” Committee (2012-2016); Member, HUD/Home Innovations Lab “Designing for Natural Hazards—A Resilience Guide for Builders & Developers & Developers” (2020-2022). Click here to see more of Ken's leadership roles.

Why do you want to hold this leadership position at AIA?

My candidate video and profile statement begis to explain the why. Ecologyis, and always has been, at the core of my thinking and my practice. In its essence and reach, ecology is the why. It embraces and includes all. Ecology is holistic. We are living in one of the most extraordinary of times. Our times are rich, robust, filled with innovation and wonder. At the same time we are in the midst of a tale of two planet earths, with haves and have-nots, the served and the underserved. Mirroring the thoughts of Charles Dickens in his A Tale of Two Cities, “It was the best of times, it was the worst of times, it was the age of wisdom, it was the age of foolishness…it was the season of light….”. Architects seek the season of light.

Ecology is layered, interconnected, and integrated whether we are speaking of our planet, people, our organizations, our ideas, our designs. Ecology in all its forms moves towards equilibrium, the balancing of dynamic forces. Ecology is our season of light. Social, economic, environmental equity are not now in balance. We can see that imbalance in the patterns of our landscapes, housing, neighborhoods, towns, cities, and what opportunities that are there or not. In my professional and civic work I continue to act in the intersections and the confluences of the issues we face in the world today, and the world that can be tomorrow. Leadership is:

  • connecting, coordinating, cooperating, collaborating, and convening all the voices
  • listening to, and learning from, the voices that are at times loud and strong, the voices that are soft and often not heard, and the voices in between
  • multidisciplinary and multiorganizational
  • encouraging the individual and collective professional and civic leadership from our members and our components
  • crafting the big picture and putting on the work gloves to get things done
  • optimistic—bringing a smile to our face, appreciating the wonder, and filled with joy!

The leadership team of AIA will be doing that. I can, and wish to, be part of that AIA leadership team.

How have your experiences prepared you for this role?

First, I am an award-winning sole proprietor in continuous operation since 1976 involved in large complex projects for institutional and government clients and smaller projects for homeowners and the homeless, which also can be complex.

I bring multidisciplinary, firsthand knowledge and experience of the world inside AIA, and the world outside the circle of AIA. I have been fortunate and blessed with the joy, richness, the journey of multidisciplinary exploration and positive impact of design and design strategies as an architect, as a proud member of The American Institute of Architects and other aligned organizations, sharing passionate interests and projects, and hopefully for everyone—the successes.

Growing up in Cleveland as a second-generation American in a blue-collar, factory-working family, I was the first person in my family to attend college, studying architecture at Catholic University in a unique program that integrated all architecture courses. In the summer I worked in the steel mills as a boilermaker on one shift and in the engineering office in another shift documenting the operations and lines of the mill with axonometric drawings and narratives. I received my M.Arch. and masters in and environmental design as a graduate teaching fellow from Goddard College in their renowned program where the students were designing and constructing the college buildings.

Actively involved in leadership positions nationally, regionally, and locally with AIA and other professional and civic organizations from the beginning of my career, I continue that work to this day. I served on the national AIA Board of Directors from 1982 to 1985 and bookended Board Membership Services Commission and AIA Strategic Planning work with chairing three AIA Committees: Component Resources, Public Education, and Environmental Education.

Serving as 2022 and 2021 co-chair of the AIA Disaster Assistance Committee, and member since 2020, we developed the “Disaster Assistance Handbook, 4 edition”, I also contributed to the 3 edition. Recognizing COVID as a natural disaster, we developed in collaboration with others the “Re-occupancy Assessment Tool, v1,v2,v3"; and with the series, “Re-opening America: Strategies for Safer Buildings, Schools, Offices,…et al." Working with the U.S. Green Building Council the toolwas quickly adopted as the basis for one of the initial LEED Safety First Pilot Credits. The Committee continues to strengthen and provide support to the AIA State Disaster Coordinator Network, and connect with allied organizations.

While chairing the Public Education and Environmental Education Committees, we developed the award winning Learning By Design program and the Sourcebook, volumes 1 and 2. As chair of the Component Resources Committee we revamped the Component Operations Manual and developed Standards of Service for AIA members and the then 300-plus AIA components based upon component size and levels of staffing.

In co-authoring historic state legislation in 2009, Rhode Island became the first state in the nation to incorporate LEED into public law with The Green Buildings Act (RIGL-37-24). In 2017, I authored amendments to the Green Buildings Act incorporating LEED for neighborhood development, and the Sustainable Sites Initiative into public law creating a continuum for all public buildings, public structures, and public real properties. As an Advisory Board member to the Rhode Island Executive Climate Change Coordinating Council we are now integrating the Green Buildings Act with our historic Act on Climate (RIGL 42-6.2), developing the strategies and implementation actions statewide to achieve net-zero greenhouse gas emissions by 2050 and 100% renewable energy by 2030. I served on the committee developing the “ASCE 24-24 Flood Resistant Design and Construction” code document, and on the HUD/Building Innovations Lab “Designing for Natural Hazards—A Resilience Guide for Builders & Developers & Developers.” Intertwined is my experience in developing and implementing:

  • high performance green building standards
  • workforce development opportunities for the green and blue economies
  • heating and cooling assistance programs for low income households
  • ecosystem services practices for coastal, riverine, forest sustainability, disaster mitigation,
  • green infrastructure, and carbon sequestration
  • affordable workforce housing
  • housing and funding for critical supporting services for the homeless
  • legislation and government policies with coalitions consisting of architecture and engineering professional organizations, environmental organizations, home builders, union construction trades, the AFL-CIO, legislators, bureaucrats, lobbyists, and elected and appointed government officials
  • full-scale disaster response scenarios with the Rhode Island Emergency Management Agency, FEMA, and 93 state and local agencies
  • innovative architecture and design applications of graphene and aerogel in a wide range of products including air filtration as a consultant to an international nanotechnology company
  • the future of LEED

What key issues do you hope to address in this role?
Climate change, social equity and environmental justice, and the pandemic and its variants are the key issues that are on most minds. There is no question that we need to holistically address these issues and others that will arise. I believe that AIA operates as an ecology, an interconnected system. Layering and integrating our initiatives as a holistic ecology in concert with the AIA Strategic Plan will result in natural occurring interrelationships having exponential potential. That is one guiding framework that can address the key issues before us. Enhancing and supporting our AIA components and their network is central to this.

We can also take a fresh look, and perhaps a look back, at our AIA resources with an eye toward discovering how we can innovate, align, and re-align our use of those resources.

Disasters are occurring with greater frequency and with increasing damage. We have the existing AIA resources of the Disaster Assistance Committee, the State Disaster Coordinators, our trained disaster responders, components, and 94,000-plus members. There is a gap in between disaster response and recovery. Disaster stricken communities are short on resources and focused on quick recovery. Far too often the recovery becomes more of the same, not having the time or wherewithal to assemble the resources and the knowledge to recover for a future that is resilient with greater sustainability in plan and design—that is the gap. AIA can quickly assemble a knowledgeable multidisciplinary Design Innovation Rapid Response Team, requested by the community and AIA , addressing the specific needs of the stricken community and their experienced disaster. The multidisciplinary team would be led by an AIA member, operate rapidly and at very low cost using the now familiar Zoom and other interactive platforms in open participation with citizens, involving local AIA members and AIA. With this initiative AIA can build relationships and communities.

Reaching back to other AIA resources, we have the issue of design and public education of design. The AIA Environmental Committee and the Public Education Committee developed the award-winning Learning By Design program and the Sourcebook, editions 1 and 2. These programs included a conceptual framework, a regional network, resources, environmental education models for the public, regular articles in Instructor a magazine for classroom educators, and curriculum development with state education departments. These highly successful AIA programs were recognized by government, environmental groups, and editorials published in Architectural Record magazine:

  • “AIA’s new Sourcebook—the most effective tool yet for encouraging public education in architecture”; Walter Wagner FAIA editorial, Architectural Record; February 1982.
  • On getting more of the public to care about good design”; Walter Wagner FAIA editorial, Architectural Record; October 1982.

The AIA Strategic Plan gives us our working continuum for our present, our future, and our past.

What are the greatest challenges facing architects today? How can AIA respond to them?

The greatest challenge architects face is our ability to remain relevant, useful, and to possess an effective, intelligent courage and leadership in AIA, as architects, and as citizens in harmony with our world.

Being architects, our success can emanate from the power of one, but our true success comes alive and grows by being in concert and collaboration with the exponential power and thoughts of the many. That is where AIA family can be front and center—our members, our components, our national organization, and working with others and other organizations.

AIA president Dan Hart, FAIA, speaks of "design is our superpower." Dan's words truly resonate but we do have another superpower as well...the design of design. What is that? Architects can, and do, design wonderful buildings and places. People might take notice of our work. But that incredible building might well be a one-off for the viewer, quickly seen, maybe learned from, and then society turns their attention to something else. We can be the very catalysts, the catapults, the lever arms by not only designing buildings, the spaces and places of our human settlements, lands and waters, but also by designing the design of programs, policies, regulations, codes, ordinances, comprehensive community plans, legislation, laws, and statutes that give birth, give life, give purpose, give guidance to our stewardship of Mother Earth.

The design of design works with ecology as a guiding framework for our stewardship of our planet. It fosters a better context for design to take place in a wider realm and with a wider audience, with a greater likelihood for success. The design of design lifts everyone and everything, gifting us greater possibilities, greater potential, designs for all, and thoughtful collective design in harmony with our planet.

Ecology—our guiding framework: connect, cooperate, coordinate, collaborate!