If one could glean a central theme from activities at the 2012 AIA National Convention, it would have little to do with “Design Connects.” Instead, the words “community” and “service” seemed ubiquitous throughout sessions. I might summarize these convention motifs by melding the two words into the elegant phrase popularized by Samuel Mockbee: citizen architect.
As a new member, it was heartening that convention activities evinced the vitality of the citizen architect. Over the course of multiple keynote addresses, 2012 AIA President Jeffery Potter, FAIA, counseled designers to embrace service and collaboration, both at the community and national levels. During the “Architects of Healing” presentation, it was clear that all of the designers participating in the construction of the three September 11 memorials garnered immense personal benefit from dedicating themselves to a common cause. The winners of the 2012 AIA Committee on the Environment (COTE) Awards mixed the concept of citizen architect with that of progressive environmentalist.
Not all designers accept the conjoined concepts of ‘community’ and ‘service.’ As HUD Secretary Shaun Donovan took the stage on Friday morning, not every seat was filled. Donovan, a self-described ‘lapsed architect’ who has embraced the calling of service in its highest form, delivered inspiring remarks that many did not hear. New members, and those considering joining the AIA or participating in their local Chapters, would do well to model themselves after the Secretary’s lofty example.