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Repositioning the AIA


“We are America’s architects. We are committed to building a better world.” AIA is seeking to empower members and reposition itself behind this message, but the success of AIA repositioning depends on you. A year of research has clearly shown that AIA must set priorities. With our nets cast too wide, it is hard to have significant impact in any area.

Click here to view the shortened video presentation made at 2013 Grassroots.

AIA East Bay Repositioning Involvement

Thursday, May 23, 2013 AIA East Bay hosted a Town Hall meeting for AIA members and guests (One Bay AIA Town Hall). More than 60 people participated, discussing their reactions to the 10 priorities outlined by National AIA for Repositioning.

Friday, May 24, 2013 AIA East Bay staff compiled the comments and distributed them to participants, with an accompanying survey.

Friday, May 31, 2013 The chapter is publishing the comments and survey widely via ArchNews, and invites you to complete the survey and/or share your comments below.

Saturday, June 21, 2o13 The chapter presented a Resolution from the floor of the AIA Convention to allow for the Repositioning Initiative to have more member involvement. Look for details on this action in the July issue of ArchNews.

One Bay AIA Town Hall Comments


  • It appears that a lot of these suggested priorities are pointed at local components—isn’t the greatest area of disconnect at the National level? Why are we even talking about local components?
  • We need to fix the organization before we address things such as communication. There is a lack of clarity of purpose in these 10 priorities.
  • There is a lot of duplication between tiers—why is there a National or State design awards, etc? The local chapter is the AIA’s “bread and butter”; state should support the local chapters; National should support the state chapters.
  • The local programs should come first.
  • Lack of tier coordination: Why are there even tiers? At least “soften” the lines of separation between the tiers.
  • None of this is new—we’re talking about things we’ve talked about before. It’s hard not to be cynical.  The AIA just has to CHANGE.
  • National and state levels are opaque. We need more Architects, less non-profit professionals.
  • This is aimed at our relationship with National; we need to fix the organization before we “fix” the profession.
  • I left the AIA because I couldn’t rationalize the expense of dues with what the AIA does, and what I get as a member, which made me sad.
  • CRAN (Custom Residential Architecture Network) is a successful component of AIA and should be a model for repositioning.
  • We need to be looking at an alternative organizational structures—not just architectural, it seems this one isn’t working. [post-hall comments: look at structure and dues together. Why not a sliding scale? Why not allow members to join only one level of the AIA the way Allied members can?]
  • A cultural change needs to be faced—we need to LEAD.
  • USGBC is an example of unfearful innovation—and an example of a giant missed opportunity.
  • Fear of change makes it hard to seize opportunities of “what’s next.”
  • Look to successful components for models.
  • (non-attendee) I’ve been retired for more than 2 years. After 36 years of membership in one form or another, I wish I could call myself an emeritus member of AIA, but I’m only 64 now. So I guess I’ll call myself “AIA supporter” from now on.
  • (non-attendee) For me, especially over the last few years, the proportion of expense for my AIA dues to my overall income is a huge factor. As a small practice, I appreciate being able to stay connected with the profession, but due to the distance to the chapter office and the expense, it makes it tough to be as involved as much as I would like. I am hoping this will change in the coming years if/when the economy picks up.


  • Expressed repeatedly: we need marketing/PR/outreach/public education. [Added to posters as an 11th priority]
  • Dissenting opinion: architects need to market themselves.
  • These 10 priorities mean nothing to me. What we need is outreach and education.
  • Architecture is considered the “worst” profession to go into, architects are seen as a needless expense.
  • Concern expressed that architecture as a profession is dying.
  • Defense that the profession isn’t dying, but that we don’t convey the value of architects.
  • We don’t do a good job of PR.
  • The Allison Janney PR campaign was good, but when AIA stopped the campaign, all the momentum that had been building up evaporated.
  • The prior ad campaign didn’t change anything for a large group of the membership.
  • The NPR sponsorship spots should be localized.
  • We need to work on the local “face” of who architects are and what they do. We need to tell our story about us better.
  • Repositioning should be about our position with the public.
  • [Post-hall question: why doesn’t AIA have a great program for architects to go to schools to show what architects do?]
  • Does National AIA have a program that encourages members develop a public interface on a personal level?
  • National AIA should be developing respect and support for residential architects.
  • What is the AIA public Identity?
  • We need to sell the value of architecture/architects to the public.
  • If the organization successfully communicated with the public, we’d see the value.
  • State and national are too bureaucratic & dull. What will help architects be more relevant is to stop tiptoeing.  Fear is squashing our profession.  It’s not that architects say their biggest value is great design and that the public says it’s knowledge of codes—you need to write to the public’s story: WE MAKE CODES BEAUTIFUL.
  • We need to train architects to speak about what/how/why we do what we do.
  • Idea: Why isn’t there anything at building and planning departments educating the public about the importance of hiring a licensed architect? An AIA architect? Why aren’t we educating B&P staff about why it’s the law that an architect is required for most building types?
  • AIA should be protecting the brand “Architect.”
  • Every Building Has an Architect: the media should be highlighting the architect [post-hall suggestion: a Nationally-developed training program given every year at the local level to teach architects and firms how to be media savvy. Or at the very least a multi-media on-demand class.]
  • (non-attendee) The AIA falls down at publicizing what architects do locally—in terms of getting the job.
  • (non-attendee) I think the AIA can lead the dialogue (as it has in the past) to reexamine the value of architects’ services and fees. We are asked to do so much more with code changes, technology disruption, liability concerns, client expectations rising, and on and on, yet with fees stagnating or going down because of market pressures. One has got to be extraordinarily passionate and/or crazy to persevere in these tough times–I’m beginning to think I’m in the latter category!
  • (non-attendee) It’s the economy: If the dues reduction doesn’t come together, it is the economy that has forced my hand in leaving.  Lately, due to work reduction, my dues have been exceeding half a paycheck.  My boss is no longer able to cover this benefit.  I’ve already lost my condo, and had to declare bankruptcy 3 years ago.  As I’m climbing back out of the hole, the dough just isn’t there to spare. While I consider the AIA a vital resource, the dues, on top of licensing, is just too much.
  • (non-attendee) My thing that I keep hearing in my head was how the public’s perception of the AIA and architecture needs what we had when Alison Janney was our spokesperson and told stories of Architects using their craft to save money, create new approaches, etc.  I know this is a small part of the whole but it keeps coming up in what I read in the Cohen report. All the money, we all pay, etc, etc, gets the profession nothing, really as much as those drive time pieces to educate the consumers of design services. I want more, not less. Yes, I still enjoy the “master builder” role and I see very few opportunities for that to be respected and used any more in a world of Design Build and outsourcing.

Member Involvement/Emerging Professionals:

  • Where are the students (there was only one student out of 60+ attendees)?  Why haven’t we connected with more students? That is indicative of a real issue. We’ve got local community colleges closing architecture problems, what are we doing about it?
  • Reach out to East Bay colleges and encourage students to continue involvement in AIA and the value of membership and fellowship.  [Idea: Host an AIAS & AIA local “build day.”]
  • Incentivize emerging professionals who seek licensure
  • Coming into the AIA as a new member is confusing and lonely. There should be an orientation or open house to explain the AIA.  If you don’t already know people, too often you’re on the sidelines.  [post-hall ideas:  have ice-breakers at monthly programs; offer workshops on building networking skills]
  • We need better interface of groups and committees to share and exchange knowledge. How do we break down the walls?
  • We need to pay emerging professionals better, and change the way we practice in terms of emerging professionals.


  • The Repositioning video was awful—it broke all communication rules. There’s nothing worse than a Powerpoint slide deck that’s all words.
  • Architects respond to great design, and yet the AIA doesn’t get that. It’s hard to remain engaged.
  • Everyone loves architects—how many times do you hear, “I wanted to be an architect!” but the AIA has learned how to suffocate the joy and coolness that is conveyed by the word architect.
  • The website is awful—visually and in terms of ease of use. I always end up angry when I try to use it.
  • We don’t see National and state AIA effectively DOING. Don’t tell us what each tier is responsible for—SHOW IT.
  • [post-hall comment] Locally—make the website more inviting; more videos or soundwaves to “introduce” who were are as AIA to make them known/welcoming to those who come across our website.
  • “Inefficacy of communications”:  [Post-hall comment/idea]: This isn’t an issue we should even be discussing in terms of repositioning; it’s a staffing problem. Doesn’t National have a big communications staff? If they are ineffective get them out of there and hire people who know how to get the message out properly. That website is horrendous and the entire department should be replaced.
  • (non-attendee) With the electronic age taking over our lives, making it “better”, I find my attention is torn between home, work, profession, keeping up with friends, trends, social media, etc.  I suspect I’ve lost over 2 hours in my day is a result of this “better” life, and my new electronic “tethers”.  At the same time, I’m finding a lot of the offerings from the AIA via the web to be less than stellar and again, too expensive.  I get better content via Architectural Record and Pinterest.   I’d love something in the way of “TED Talks” from the AIA on a regular basis.  Inspiring, cutting edge, great presentations without power point, sucky music, or stiff presenters.  THAT I’d be willing to pay for, but then again TED is pretty much free.  In short, the AIA is losing the battle to capture my attention, and my ever-shrinking time.
  • (non-attendee) Ditch the suits: Yeah, it’s a matter of image.  But I’d rather hang with the cool dudes with spiky hair cut, and the gals with the boots, than with folks in boring business suits.  Quite often when I see letters from AIA National, everyone is in corporate drag. It would be nice if the AIA could be as cool as Architects are supposed to be.