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It was only four weeks into the semester for the fourth year design studio when one of my students pivoted and redirected one on my frequent lines of inquiry. “So, how would you convince a client that this is good for them?” It was tempting to respond by sharing some technique of persuasion that I have successfully or unsuccessfully tried, however, experience has really taught me that the design process is less about convincing someone that you have the right vision for them and more about a shared journey of discovery. As an architect, I derive a certain level of satisfaction in knowing that I have helped a client explore previously unexplored possibilities and reveal outcomes that align their values and resources.
In the first century B.C.E. the Roman architect Vitruvius identified the essentials of a well-designed building as “firmness, commodity, and delight.” Still today, as shapers of the built environment, architects are confronted with knowing that the expressions we create must meet the tests of: functionality, performance, and compliance with a myriad of confusing and ever-changing regulations. To reach our potential as professionals, we are compelled to concern ourselves with both the practical and the aspirational. Now more than ever, we also have to concern ourselves more broadly with the relational. In nearly every industry, the democratization of information has led to the mass proliferation of web-enabled experts and hyper-connected consumers. In colloquial terms, “More people are gonna have their say” and this has significant economic and environmental consequences. Technology has flung open the studio doors, drawn back the curtains and dealt a death blow to the myth of the solitary genius. Does it expose a process that embraces complexity and produces results that stand up to scrutiny? Without the ability to provide meaningful, verifiable, and resonant answers to the “how and why” questions, the vital nature of our role as architects is misunderstood. As a result, our ability to exert influence on outcomes may be limited and our motives may even be called into question. Our challenge is to shape space and process so that both can inspire. And who wants to merely convince, when they can inspire!
Last year, AIA Florida’s efforts to increase public awareness through the 100 Years/100 Places ranking inspired over 2.4 million online votes. Building owners, the media, professionals, students, and the general public all got to participate. Whether positive or negative, the interest generated provided a gateway for an expanded conversation on the value of our profession and the relevance of the work that we do. Not everyone gets to hire an architect, but everyone is impacted by architecture.
As we embark on the second century of our existence as an organization, AIA Florida has recommitted to bringing together architects, emerging professionals, educators and the public in a conversation that emphasizes the role of architecture in the lives of our fellow citizens. We have expanded efforts to empower members by launching a statewide Citizen Architect initiative and a task force considering the status of women in architecture. In addition, we are working to increase member awareness by leading dialogues on education, engagement, environment and health.
Our goal is to help equip AIA Florida members to live up to our inspiring vision statement which challenges us to be “a united association of architects leading the shaping of Florida’s future.”
If you have a passion for architecture, there is a place for you to connect with AIA, not in a solely transactional relationship, but in a way that will provide you with the satisfaction and the inspiration that comes from the realization of greater possibilities.
Dan Kirby, AIA, AICP, LEED AP
AIA Florida 2013 President