In early November, more than 150 representatives of architecture and design organizations came to Chicago to hold the inaugural meeting of the Association of Architecture Organizations (AAO).
Formation of the group culminated five years of discussions among members of a committee of design leaders led by Lynn Osmond of the Chicago Architecture Foundation. Representatives of five of the 11 AIA chapters currently operating centers of architecture in major cities met formally for the first time ever.
Why does our profession need yet another group? The AAO was founded with the recognition that organizations and associations engage not only with professionals, but the public as well. They have become incredibly important as our profession endeavors to make society understand the many ways it is improved and empowered by good design.
Centers of architecture, design museums, schools, and other entities that work to improve the built environment have flourished in recent years. And our ability to reach out has never been better, particularly in increasing the profession’s capacity to respond meaningfully to events like the Great Recession, 9/11, and Hurricane Katrina. These have had an impact on many lives; at the same time, they are unprecedented opportunities to create livable and sustainable communities.
But the challenges that confront the people who lead these groups have never been greater, particularly when financial support is not at levels that allow us to provide the programs and services that people, including unemployed and underemployed architects, have come to expect. The AAO will help all of us to share best practices and ideas about how to respond to events that affect our communities, as well as how to put on exhibitions and tours, communicate about our activities, and raise money. The power of architecture starts at the grass roots and grows upward and outward.
Rick Bell, FAIA, is the executive director of the AIANY Center for Architecture. To learn more about the AAO, visit its Web site.