One Tribe: the April President’s Letter

Malvin Whang, AIA

AIA. These three letters after my name stand for The American Institute of Architects. There are an estimated 83,000 dues-paying members of the AIA (including associates and emeritus members) out of an estimated 105,847 registered architects in the United States. Local chapter, such as the AIA East Bay, serve members in the areas we live and work.

Local chapters come in different shapes and sizes. AIA East Bay currently has 743 members. (If you haven’t renewed yet, please do and we’ll add to that number). Across the Bay, AIA San Francisco is one of the largest in the country with 2007 members and eight staff. We in California have 22 chapters, each serving a distinct area with its own mix of members, practices, services and needs.

I’m a proud member of the AIA East Bay. And I’m also proud member of the Institute. As much as I’m thrilled to be a part of the AIA East Bay, I also joined the Institute for all of the things the Institute does outside of my local chapter. One of the initiatives our Board of Directors has recently discussed is to explore how we can collaborate with our neighboring chapters to provide even better service to our respective chapter members. In fact, many of our neighboring chapters do the same exact things our chapter does. Together, we may be able to create critical mass for areas of interest we can’t start and maintain in our separate efforts.

To start working together in an area that is geographically, economically and politically entwined such as the Bay Area, we can start by lowering the boundaries that separate us. After all, these boundaries are constructs that have been put up to designate chapter areas based on factors such as driving times and population sizes. These boundaries do not serve our members nor other members of the Institute. As such, we should treat all members of the Institute equitably. After all, we all have the same three letters after our names. Globally, this outlook would benefit the AIAEB chapter members as they gain the same access to other chapters.

This may not be simple and quick to implement. There are projections, plans and practices that would have to be overcome to eliminate barriers to members of other chapters at our chapter and our chapter members at other chapters. It will take time, effort and willingness to open up our chapter to other members of the Institute. But in return, all our members will be part of the same tribe that is the AIA.

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