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August 15, 2012
by Rick Bell FAIA Executive Director AIA New York

Seattle Space Needle from Chilhuly Glass Museum and Garden

Rick Bell, FAIA

Arthur Cohen and Michael Bierut leading the CACE discussion on the AIA Repositioning. The project slide reads, “Our Premise: The nature and practice of architecture is evolving and the AIA must evolve with it in order to secure its leadership position.”

Rick Bell, FAIA

Jeff Potter, FAIA, at lectern, leads an ovation for Karen Lewand, in turquoise in foreground, back to camera.

Rick Bell, FAIA

One of the big secrets of Seattle is that it doesn’t rain there in August. That isn’t the reason that both the AIA’s Knowledge Leadership Assembly (KLA) and Council of Architectural Component Executives (CACE) met concurrently in the Starbuck City last week, but it certainly made it more pleasant. Three days of meetings took place at two well-designed hotels – the Fairmount for the committee leaders and the Pan Pacific for the association staff. The groups were able to come together for evening receptions at the Olympic Sculpture Park by Marion Weiss, FAIA, and Michael Manfredi, AIA, and at the Wooden Boat Center on Lake Union, a short trip by kayak to the boathouses starring in Nora Ephron’s Sleepless in Seattle – in which Tom Hanks plays the insomniac widower architect who leaves Chicago for the city of Jimi Hendrix.

AIA Executive Vice President Robert Ivy, FAIA, said at the kickoff : “Our members go out and change the world every day. Change is in the air. The mood is expectant.” Central to both meetings was the presentation of the working hypotheses of the AIA’s Repositioning effort, introduced by AIA President Jeff Potter, FAIA, who noted that “across our profession the sun is starting to come up,” and referenced a bumper sticker seen in Texas that read: “Give us just one more boom, and we won’t screw it up.”

The AIA’s blue-sky re-envisioning team is being led by New York-based consultants LaPlaca Cohen and Pentagram; Arthur Cohen and Michael Bierut kept a usually contentious cohort of almost 200 AIA staffers enthralled with logic and wit, outlining the nine central premises of the new institute in the making. Some of the broad ideas delineated resonate with the activities and strategic plan of AIANY, including: Going Beyond Bricks & Mortar to engage with policy; Focus on Connectivity to activate a community of peers; and Being Good for Business by bolstering efficiency and economic returns. The inclusive and transparent process can be reviewed on the Repositioning the AIA website.

Our region was represented at KLA by Mary Burke, FAIA, Chair of the Interiors Knowledge Community Advisory Group, and by David Del Vecchio, AIA, former Regional Representative from New Jersey. New York’s CACE attendees were Ed Farrell for AIANYS and CACE Executive Committee member Valerie Brown, Hon. AIANYS, from the Westchester Hudson Valley Chapter. Notable sponsors present included Laura Marlow from Reed Construction Data, Ann Casso from the AIA Trust, Ned Cramer from Hanley Wood, and Tom Schell from Naylor, which publishes Oculus along with a host of other AIA and association publications.

In a rare undisputed election, the CACE members present elected new executive committee officers. The current CACE ExCom is led by AIA Florida Executive Director Vicki Long, Hon. AIAFL, as 2012 President and by President-elect Carolyn Boyce of AIA Pennsylvania. New officers for next year will be 2013 President-elect Tina Litteral, Hon. AIA, from AIA Arizona, along with Heather Vance of AIA Utah, Kate Shelton of AIA Charlotte, and Melissa Hunt, of AIA Eastern Oklahoma.

CACE Honors were conferred at a closing dinner at the Bell Harbor International Conference Center (next door to the Edgewater where John Lennon is said to have put out a fishing line from his hotel window). Also announced was that AIA South Dakota is the recipient of the Hanley Wood grant for $10,000 this year. And Karen Leward received a standing ovation and appropriate accolades upon the announcement that she is retiring after many years of wonderful service as Component Executive of AIA Baltimore.

The heart of the CACE meeting, though, was the presentation of best practices by AIA Components, large and small. Among the notable presentations were those on membership development by AIA Seattle’s Lisa Richmond, Margot J. van Swearingen, Assoc. AIA, Sian Roberts, AIA, and Natalie Quick, and on Emerging Professionals and ARE prep by AIA San Francisco’s Michelle Railsback, AIA South Carolina’s Adrienne Montare and Kevin Fitzgerald, AIA, the director of the AIA’s Center for Emerging Professionals. A program on how to garner publicity and media for Chapter activities was led by Lindsey Ellerbach of AIA Eastern Oklahoma, Alison Pruitt of AIA Palm Beach, and Dawn Taylor of AIA Kansas City.

The meetings generally took place in conference rooms with windows, but at the outset, AIA Seattle President Rico Luis Quirindongo, AIA, and Chapter Executive Director Lisa Richmond encouraged attendees to take advantage of their limited free time to see the architectural treasures of the city, including the new headquarters building of the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation by NBBJ.

Rico called Seattle “the last frontier,” and noted that the city was “trying to figure out how to go net zero.” Conference attendees were seen at the Chihuly Glass Museum and Garden, OMA‘s Seattle Library, and the Seattle Art Museum by Venturi, Scott Brown and Associates (now VSBA), and its addition by Allied Works Architecture. AIA Mississippi Executive Director Joe Blake was spotted at the Seattle Space Needle, celebrating the 50th anniversary of its construction as the centerpiece of the 1962 Seattle World’s Fair. And at least one CACE staff person admitted to attending the Nicki Minaj concert so as to see the interior of the landmarked Paramount Theater. Reviewed in advance in the Seattle Times, the sold-out Pink Friday concert had all of the bombast and rap eloquence of her recent Super Bowl half-time show. Minaj, a graduate of LaGuardia High School in Manhattan, sported bold-face makeup that used most – if not all – of the primary colors.

When the annual CACE meeting took place in New York in August of 2007, the AIA Sesquicentennial was celebrating America’s favorite architecture, a lot of which was to be found in our town. For those fortunate enough to go to Seattle, this Big-Sib sister city unveiled its exemplary environmental initiatives (including a 2030 Eco District), along with extraordinary waterfront planning and active recreation facilities. The Seattle Chapter was also ahead of us in that it opened the very first AIA-led storefront architecture center, some 31 years ago, led by AIA poet laureate Marga Rose Hancock.

So, if Seattle seems to be a colorful, sunny, and vibrant city that, parenthetically, never sleeps, it may have the advantage of being three hours earlier than New York. There is also something about the coffee.

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