Call 2007 the year of anniversaries, in multiples of 10. All have significance, none more so than for the 77,000 licensed architects, emerging professionals, and allied partners of the American Institute of Architects, who are celebrating a Sesquicentennial. On February 23, 1857, the architect Richard Upjohn convened a small group of friends (let’s call them out for glory, including a few names you might remember, to wit: son Richard, son-in-law Charles Babcock, H.W. Cleaveland, Henry Dudley, Leopold Eidlitz, Edward Gardiner, Richard Morris Hunt [whom you should certainly know], J. Wrey Mould, Fred A. Peterson, J.M. Priest, John Welch, and Joseph C. Wells). They gathered in New York for a specific purpose: to create an organization of fellow architects to “promote the scientific and practical perfection of its members” and “elevate the standing of the profession.”
For 150 years, the AIA has worked to elevate architects into a unique profession devoted to the larger society through the art and science of architecture. Appropriately and simultaneously in 2007, the institute will award its highest honor for individual contributions to the profession, the Gold Medal, for the 100th time. That august award first graced an architect with great fanfare in 1907, when it was awarded to (can you guess?) Sir Aston Webb, English architect and president of the Royal Academy. Charles Follen McKim and a familiar roster of great names immediately followed suit.