October 14, 2009
by Rick Bell FAIA Executive Director AIA New York

(L-R): Wyly Theater by REX/OMA; Winspear Opera House by Foster + Partners; Nasher Sculpture Center by Renzo Piano Building Workshop.

Rick Bell

The year-old Dallas Center for Architecture, located on the edge of the Dallas Arts District, hosted the 2009 convocation of the leaders of the largest AIA components, the so-called “Big Sibs.” The remarkable ground-level Center, directly across the soon-to-be-decked Woodall Rodgers Freeway from the Dallas Art Museum by Edward Larrabee Barnes, FAIA, has superb meeting and exhibition space. The two-day large-chapter meeting, led by AIA Dallas President Todd Howard, AIA, and Executive Director Paula Clements, Hon. TSA, held 10.01-02.09, allowed the exchange of best practices and ideas for how the AIA can best serve its members during the current recession. Present were presidents, presidents-elect, and executive directors from 14 cities: Atlanta, Boston, Chicago, Dallas, Denver, Houston, Los Angeles, Minneapolis, New York, Orange County (CA), Philadelphia, San Francisco, Seattle, and Washington, DC. While in Dallas, the AIA leaders were able to see the construction sites for the Winspear Opera House by Foster + Partners and AT&T Performing Arts Center Dee and Charles Wyly Theater by REX/OMA, along with the Dallas Art Museum and the Nasher Sculpture Center by Renzo Piano Building Workshop. Many also visited the still-sparkling Morton H. Myerson Symphony Center by Pei Cobb Freed & Partners, and saw Eric Breitbart’s film “Visual Acoustics: The Modernism of Julius Shulman” at The Magnolia.

Common themes emerging from the Big Sibs discussion included the importance of:
· Emerging architects / young architects
· Continuing education and volunteer opportunities during the economic downturn
· Membership retention and development; keeping in touch with members and others whose primary e-mail has changed because of layoffs
· Budgetary projections given non-dues revenue diminishment
· Collaboration with other professional and civic groups
· Strategic planning, both local and national
· Enhancing communications and advocacy
· Centers for Architecture (6 chapters have them, three are planning a center)

For AIANY, Chapter President Sherida Paulsen, FAIA, described five initiatives growing out of our six-year-old Center for Architecture, including the Not Business as Usual response to the economy; the One AIA/One NYC effort to have the five AIA chapters in our city work more closely together; exhibitions as outreach and education, including the just-opened “ContextContrast” show on new buildings in historic districts; our municipal advocacy efforts with the Department of Buildings and other city agencies, including the urbanSHED competition; and the Open to the Public effort, using exhibitions such as “New York Now” to leverage the visibility of the Center. Also representing our Chapter was president-elect Tony Schirripa, AIA, and 2011 president-to-be Margaret Castillo, AIA.

Perhaps the most compelling part of the open discussion was a presentation by Ann Schopf, AIA, President of AIA Seattle, about the need to unite behind 2030 carbon reduction goals. In particular, the educational programs being offered by AIA Seattle, which address the measurement of carbon reduction for new and existing buildings, was seen as a model. All component leaders registered support for making this program available nationwide, with financial support from the large chapters, and possibly AIA National.

George Miller, FAIA, president-elect of AIA National was present, as was Christine McEntee, executive vice president. Miller led a discussion of the AIA’s strategic planning effort and also announced a new program for next year, possibly to be called “Architecture Now” (other ideas welcome) patterned after the AIANY’s “New York Now” exhibition, currently on view at the West 4th Street subway station. All AIA members could submit the best of their work in a non-juried nationwide exhibition that would emphasize and dramatize the importance of architecture and urban design in the creation of livable and sustainable communities. The proposal was seen as consistent with the proposed and much-discussed AIA vision statement, Design Matters!


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