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President’s Letter: Are You Not Dazzled?

Malvin Whang, AIA

The monthly chapter program is important. It is the regularly scheduled event for the whole chapter that gives us an opportunity to meet, learn, share and catch up. We’ve been trying to “up our game” with the monthly programs as to reach not just the members of the chapters but also serve as a vehicle for outreach.

During the Board of Directors retreat earlier this year, we discussed thinking about the programs in one of three buckets: one for our members, another for the AEC industry and another for the general public. And following up with the idea of going to the customers to understand what is valued, we gathered a panel of 15 or so to have a lively brainstorming session on how to improve our programs and to generate ideas on areas of interest for the programs.

We agreed that the monthly programs should serve our members. We discussed many different ways we can use the programs to engage with members. The spectrum of interests matched the wide diversity of practices in our chapter ranging from large firms focused on institutional work to sole, residential practitioners that make up our chapter. There were lots of great ideas for topics that ranged from technical to legal/business and sustainable programs. The idea that impressed me the most that evening was the idea of sharing what inspires us as architects.

Thanks Doug. It’s been a week and I’m still thinking about this.

I appreciate the learning opportunities the monthly programs represent and past programs have been interesting on many levels. But like good architecture, simple is powerful. Within the diversity of practices and interests, what binds us together is the pursuit of elegant solutions to the problems presented to us by our clients. Instead of trying to serve the many different, and sometimes divergent needs, let’s focus on the common thread we all share in our practices. And like other good ideas, this one is going to require some ruminating, some massaging, and a lot of work to execute.

Another bucket of programs was to serve as outreach and networking opportunities within the AEC sandbox we all play in. There are lots of reasons we need to connect with our industry partners. With alternative project delivery methods on the rise and opportunities abound, architects need good contractors, but more importantly, contractors need good architects. This isn’t simply an opportunity for us to meet them, it’s an opportunity for them to meet us. We want to highlight the value architects bring to the industry and create ways for architects to engage with the partners in a meaningful way. Again, more ruminating, massaging and work.

Lastly, we talked about programs as a way to engage with the public. This is not entirely an altruistic endeavor to increase the awareness of good design but to also an attempt to increase awareness of our profession and the value we bring in our work. Where do good clients come from? How can the Institute plant the seeds and grow good clients? Great clients collaborate with us to bring to fruition designs that we couldn’t have produced on our own. They help us see their world through their eyes and we, in turn, help them see their world through ours. Work, work and more work.

Those are the three buckets for our programs and the ways we hope to get there this year. We’re going to try new things, try old things, and just try different things to improve the programs until we get them right.

Then, we’ll do it again.

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