The Case for Union Station Event Recap

On July 14th, the AIA Colorado Regional and Urban Design Knowledge Community hosted a panel event in reaction to the recent negative public discourse surrounding one of Denver’s most trafficked and iconic public spaces, Union Station. The event, called “The Effect of Public Policy Surrounding Design in Contested Public Space: The Case of Denver’s Union Station,” was engaging, insightful, and provided a valuable opportunity for design professionals to hear directly from stakeholders in Downtown Denver’s planning and transit communities.

Union Station is a sprawling entity, comprising the historic Great Hall, home to the Terminal Bar and Crawford Hotel, a train shed which serves as a hub for RTD light rail services, and an underground bus terminal, servicing both local and regional bus lines. The underground terminal in particular has been the subject of criticism in recent months, citing issues of safety and public drug use. RTD had to close the public restrooms in this section due to fears of Fentanyl contamination and has considered proposals to close the bus terminal to the public, only allowing ticket holders access.

The purpose of the panel discussion was to bring together public design and transit experts to help examine this issue through the lens of design. Can we as architects and designers propose a better solution for a more equitable transit-oriented public space?

Our panelists were four prominent Denver professionals with a passion for public transit. Ignacio Correa-Ortiz, chair of the R+UDKC and a senior architect and urban designer for RTD, opened the discussion with an overview of the history of Union Station and a summary of current design solutions proposed for the bus terminal. Debra A. Johnson, CEO of RTD-Denver, which owns Union Station, provided valuable insight into the day-to-day operations of public transit in Denver and RTD’s relationship with the communities it serves. Ken Schroeppel, Director of Urban Design at CU Denver College of Architecture and Planning, provided important context on the history of Urban Planning in Denver and the development of the modern Union Station. Andrew Iltis, Director of the Planning and Community Impact department at the Downtown Denver Partnership, expanded on the relationship between Denver tourism, the Business Improvement District, and Union Station.

The conversation began with a reflection on how the relationship between society and public space has been affected by the pandemic. Many news articles have cited the pandemic as the genesis of concerns over increasing levels of public drug use in the underground bus terminal, leading to fears that that the terminal is not safe for the average commuter. It is true that the during the pandemic, with stay-at-home orders in place, a void was created in our public spaces that was often filled by persons on the fringes of society. As Ignacio pointed out during the discussion, the spaces haven’t changed – the users of the space have. How do we diversify the users of public space while still providing an opportunity for prosperity to everyone?

Andrew was able to provide valuable data on how transit ridership dropped sharply in the wake of the pandemic and that the daily commuter traffic numbers have been picking up but not quite to pre-pandemic levels. However, tourism numbers in downtown are certainly back to pre-pandemic levels or higher as more and more people opt to engage in the various entertainments offered downtown. As Debra pointed out, “There is no such thing as a rush hour any longer.” Since so many people continue to work from home, we may not see the same peak hours that we have in the past, but that does not make the role of public transportation less critical. Transit isn’t dead, it just looks different.

As the discussion turned to solutions for the “problem,” panelists emphasized the balancing act RTD must navigate. Although their primary role is a provider of public transportation, Debra acknowledged that transportation is interwoven in the communities they serve, and they have a responsibility to engage the public when planning for the future. In Andrew’s experience, Denver is one of the most collaborative of cities between the public and private sector. One creative solution proposes the formation of a dedicated organization similar to the Times Square Alliance in NYC, which is a non-profit dedicated to maintaining Times Square as an engaging public space.

Of course, the question of who gets to use our public spaces will not be answered in a single panel discussion. It will require immense collaboration across organizations and disciplines. As designers, we must continue to engage in these discussions to provide our unique insight on how public space can be designed for equitable, enjoyable, and safe experiences for all members of society. Thank you again to all the panelists and AIA Colorado members who participated in our discussion!

One Question Series: Part 2, Breaking Down Barriers

What happens when you ask the same question to five designers with five different backgrounds? You get five very different answers that will put you in someone else’s shoes. From firm principals to emerging professionals, we’re diving in to better understand—and share—others’ personal perspectives. This is the second installment of the new monthly series—“One Question”—produced by our Justice, Equity, Diversity, and Inclusion (J.E.D.I.) Committee. 

In partnership with the Colorado Chapter of the National Organization of Minority Architects, we invite you to see through the lenses of five different practitioners to learn how their unique backgrounds shape experiences in the firm and their approaches to design.


QUESTION NO. 2
How can we as a profession break down barriers for minorities in architecture?


Kari Lawson, Assoc. AIA
AIA Colorado Associate Director
Designer, TreanorHL

“We can always improve our ability to empathize with people from different backgrounds. A passion for architecture can begin at any time with any one person, and it is critical to value that perspective. It is also necessary to recognize that architecture is an important humanistic undertaking that affects the destiny of all.

Architecture often feels elitist whereas the quality of a designer is determined by their schooling and their professional network. Not every person has the resources and guidance to make it all the way to the finish line and often this disadvantage falls onto minorities. Meeting people where they are and fostering encouraging environments is hugely important. This country has a strong foothold in systematic segregation practices which has major impacts on access to education. Developing robust institutional partnerships within minority communities can help bridge this gap. We can improve the accessibility of our profession by tailoring support to include reducing inequalities of participation, bolstering scholarships, and establishing visibility of equal representation. Mentorship can be as simple as a conversation and there is a strong need for access/investment. Volunteering our time and knowledge to these communities can change the demographics of the architecture profession profoundly.

Recruitment incentives and bias practices have also had an overwhelming impact on architecture. The unpaid or non-livable wage internship can be a barrier of access for minority communities without the appropriate support systems. Poor advising has also affected who can and who cannot be a part of this occupation. A diverse profession requires professionals to become more aware of how attitudes and beliefs may stigmatize others and impact recruitment. Being intentional and conscious about the words and phrases used on the daily are also an important factor for fostering a diverse environment.

Another obstacle to overcome is avoiding the glass cliff, but first we must lay the groundwork for success. We are approaching a moment beyond the glass ceiling where more diverse and minority candidates are entering the field. The glass cliff is when these candidates are more likely to be pressed into leadership roles with high risks for failure without a secure support system or foundation. Strategic hiring of minorities during a firm’s crisis can be interpreted as exploitation. High expectations can induce an exaggeration of error which places significantly underrepresented minorities at a larger disadvantage compared to their peers. A lack of achievement may manifest into further bias in the future hiring of minorities and could create —or exacerbate— a toxic culture. It is important to build equitable relationships to promote an inclusive workplace from within so that the strategy for positioning is well thought out and genuine.

I understand that there is no one solution to the complicated problem of integration within our profession. We can approach diversity improvement by examining the tiers of education, recruitment, and professional advancement. Improving representation in the industry will ultimately yield better access to design with a rise in innovative and unique perspectives.”

Victor Gonzalez, Assoc. AIA, NOMA
AIA Colorado J.E.D.I. Committee Member + Editorial Representative
Davis Partnership Architects

“I believe that in order to start breaking down barriers for minorities in architecture we need to focus on education.

The first step in breaking down barriers for minorities in architecture is the acknowledgment and conversation of how systemic racism is present in the built environment and the profession. This step should be taken in the early phases of education and must be acknowledged throughout our architectural post-secondary education. Acknowledging how this issue is apparent in our industry helps provide some clarity on how systemic racism throughout architecture has affected minorities in the past and present. What this approach also accomplishes is a step towards combating the unconscious bias that transpires throughout professional practice towards minorities.

The issue of systemic racism and how it is apparent throughout architecture is not analyzed enough to make any progress towards a more inclusive profession. For that same reason it is the primary cause for why minorities in this profession continue to face the same barriers generation after generation. Having these difficult and uncomfortable conversations should not be looked over but be conducted in order to make any significant progress for minorities.”

Wells Squier, AIA
AIA Colorado President
Principal, Anderson Hallas Architects

“It is my opinion that diversity of experiences and perspectives contributes to better design. As a profession we must encourage and support more diversity to help us all address and respond in meaningful and effective ways to the unique challenges we are facing with regard to climate action and societal inequities that persist. I believe for all of us who care about our profession and its ongoing legacy, the future we will continue to define must consciously think about how to break down barriers wherever and however possible. We need a movement of change, where we all recognize the problem, commit to actions we can control, and affect measurable improvement. I also recognize the challenges and ambiguity of this statement. I believe this will need to happen on many different levels and scales.

We need to continue to recognize and celebrate the achievements of minority architects and expose minority youth to these achievements. We need to tell the stories of minority architects like Paul Revere Williams, Loise Harris Brown, Philip Freelon, and many others who persevered to achieve success in our profession, despite the many obstacles and challenges they faced. We must inspire more youth to follow in these footsteps, while seeking out ways to instill from a young age that the pursuit of architecture is an achievable path for them. For me, along with many others in the Denver architecture community, this has included volunteer work with elementary school aged kids where we introduce them to the profession of architecture and help them realize that this is an achievable aspiration for them.

As I discussed in my response to last month’s question, I was inspired to pursue architecture from a young age due to exposure, and I never wavered in my own focus to achieve that goal. How can we collectively help inspire younger people who otherwise might not have the exposure to our profession from a young age? How do we create these opportunities for inspiration? I believe the answer (or at least a significant part of the answer) to this month’s question must include a broader discussion of how we as professionals can connect with minority youth to inspire, challenge, and support them from an early age. I also believe this is a responsibility of all of us who are passionate about our profession and who have the opportunity to open doors for others within our practices.”

Patricia Joseph, AIA, NOMA
Project Designer at Cuningham
President-Elect of NOMA Colorado
Lecturer, CU Denver College of Architecture & Planning

“As a profession, we break down barriers for minorities in architecture when we all, individually, engage in doing so. We as designers of the built environment need to stand up for what we believe is right, especially in the workplace where it is easy to hide behind company decisions. It takes consistent, persistent change to break down the barriers that have defined our practice and have held back minorities for so long. Yes, many barriers still exist and are being created, from systemic to targeted levels, and the individual can make those types of barriers thrive. We all have a voice, whether it is for this mission or inadvertently for something else, and we should employ it for the sake of others. We need allies who can remain honest to their dedication to change and to practicing the change that will allow minorities to overcome. We cannot waiver when our commitment to making equitable spaces is tested. We cannot waiver when a new policy in our office only works for the majority, when a POC interviewing for a new position does not make “the culture fit,” or when we forget our colleague’s pronouns again. If we all follow through with the subtle, delicate parts of breaking these barriers down, we will change the profession of architecture for everyone.

On a firm level, there are many things we can do. We can commit to creating transparent promotion processes, sponsor minorities financially for career-building opportunities outside of our minority networks, and actually pay our employees for the time needed to participate in initiatives being put in place to change this profession. When it comes time to support your community through outreach, like NOMA’s Project Pipeline, play an active role in organizing, and be there to patch the holes in the pipeline. As a profession, we can be accountable to our organizations when we are following through or not, no matter what level of leadership or years of experience.

We will break down barriers when we stop putting them up. It is easy to be complacent and comfortable continuing the way we practice and accepting the current conditions challenging our minorities within the profession. We should continue to question the structure of this industry and the motivations around our traditional work cultures. The profession should not seek to forget the past; it should remain woke to what it has learned from listening to and believing our BIPOC community. To continue breaking down barriers, we should remember that everyone has a place in architecture. We must never forget architecture is for everyone; we all have a relationship with the built environment, and there are barriers architects should never design to build.”

Sarah Broughton, FAIA
AIA Colorado President-Elect
Principal, Rowland+Broughton

“Barriers for minorities in architecture can be broken down by increasing exposure to what architecture is starting very early. Our firm is involved with the CAL Program (Cleworth Architectural Legacy Project) in Denver that exposes diverse dual language and minority K-8 classrooms to architecture education, inspiring learners to think critically about our built environment. This early hands-on experience fosters possibilities and dreams. The exposure must continue and the curtain be pulled back, casting a wide net into our communities and populations. I remember as a senior in high school, I approached my calculus teacher with a list of professions. He took the time to listen to me and understand my aptitudes and suggested that architecture was a good fit. How can we partner with high schools to make architecture well known and a profession that is viable and meaningful to their students? How do we partner with community programs to embrace diversity and expose the greater population to architecture? One example is the work my firm does with the Aspen Art Museum on a series of workshops on architecture that are open to all community members and give visibility to our profession.

A huge barrier to our profession is the cost of education. We need to continue to hire and write our job descriptions to allow for bachelor’s degrees and on the job training as the prerequisite for advancement. Too often, I speak with emerging professionals who think that the path to licensing and a career in architecture is through more education (and often suffocating debt). We need to be open to various paths, openly discuss them, and provide multiple examples of how to achieve success as an architect.

We as a profession need to continue to be open and collaborative. Architecture is about people and problem solving. By increasing visibility of what we do and how we do it, it will inspire dreams and continue to encourage architects to remain in the profession. We need to give permission to participate and ask questions. We need to refrain from preaching what it was like when we started in the profession (times have changed, that is inevitable). We need to encourage multiple viewpoints and paths to a fulfilling architectural career. We need to be generous with our mentoring and telling our story, because our journeys are diverse and hopefully your journey inspires the next architect to jump in!”


We invite you to read or revisit Question #1 of the series: “Describe how your career has been enhanced by exposure to diverse people, places, or experiences.”

We’d like to extend our sincere gratitude to our One Question participants for their vulnerability and humility. You can expect to hear more from them over the course of the next four months as we continue this monthly series, culminating with a live panel discussion reflecting on this project at the AIA Colorado Practice + Design Conference, November 2-4, 2022, in Keystone.

J.E.D.I. Resource Share: A’22 Conference Recap

This month, the resources team of the Justice, Equity, Diversity, and Inclusion (J.E.D.I.) Committee caught up with our committee co-chair, Ely Merheb, AIA, who shared with us her experience at the recent national AIA Conference on Architecture in Chicago. Read on as Merheb shares her takeaways from the annual signature event and don’t forget to check out two more articles highlighting the newest AIA leaders, Lakisha Woods and Kimberly Dowdell, included after the recap.

Who was the most inspirational keynote speaker from a J.E.D.I. perspective? What J.E.D.I. action takeaways can firms implement?

It is so hard to choose! I think the most inspirational aspect of all keynotes, and of the conference in general, was that J.E.D.I. was central to all. Lakisha Woods, CAE, the newly appointed AIA CEO, really set the tone for the event on day one in her conversation with Julia Gamolina. Her appointment demonstrates that AIA is prioritizing diversity, not only in terms of race and gender, but also in terms of practice because Woods is an expert in business and association management as a Certified Association Executive (CAE). I encourage everyone to read her most recent interview published in Architect and the session recap to learn about her intentions of listening and implementing change through the AIA Strategic Plan, while prioritizing retention and organizational value.

The second keynote, a panel moderated by Lee Bey with Jeanne Gang, FAIA, Vishaan Chakrabarti, FAIA, and Renée Cheng, FAIA, was also incredibly dynamic and challenging. They were not afraid to talk candidly about the challenges faced by the profession while remaining optimistic. They see a future where architects “run into the burning building” – or burning planet – by bringing our thinking and talents into development and politics so that we can amplify our ability to effect positive change. “Thunderous silence”, as Whitney M. Young Jr. said, is not an option.

Former President Barack Obama was the closing keynote and, undoubtedly, it was a once-in-a-lifetime experience. The conversation also centered around J.E.D.I. from his early beginnings as a community organizer to the goals for The Obama Presidential Center in Chicago. AIA President Dan Hart, FAIA, closed the conversation by asking about his lessons in leadership, and Obama had three main points, which he believes are applicable to any type of leader and organization:

  1. Build a culture that empowers the team to do the best we can and be our best version. We must be predisposed to empower and invest in team success. Hold ourselves and the team accountable.
  2. Do not get hung up on hierarchy. Know and send a signal to those who do the work (usually the ones in the back of the room). Everyone counts.
  3. We need diversity of ideas — not just diverse people. One doesn’t guarantee the other. Set up a rigorous process to make good decisions by including different perspectives. It’s not a chore or charity to be more inclusive; it will make us better even though it might make us uncomfortable.

This wasn’t a specific J.E.D.I. conference, but can you describe how these topics were woven throughout the conference and impacted your experience?

Though the conference wasn’t specifically J.E.D.I. themed, to me it felt integral to the entire event — as it should as one of the association’s imperatives. It was at the forefront of all the keynote conversations, all the sessions I attended, and even in the event planning. For example, it was very thoughtful and grounding how all the keynote sessions featured Chicagoans introducing, moderating, or animating the sessions. Some of the standouts for me were a graceful Native American prayer dance, a children’s choir that greeted attendees the second morning, the message from Mayor Lori Lightfoot, and Lee Bey’s contributions. Even the expo felt more communal, as it was purposefully organized to prioritize chance encounters and used Chicago neighborhoods for wayfinding while describing their unique character. I met a lot of wonderful people, both planned and unplanned. It was especially enriching to meet the Next to Lead participants, a pilot leadership program that removes barriers to AIA leadership positions.

In addition to the conference, what other experiences in Chicago were impactful?

Chicago was a great host city and the conference planners did a great job in contextualizing and grounding the event with the richness of the city. I enjoyed a free concert at the Millennium Park Jay Pritzker Pavilion, a boat tour, the Riverwalk and some great restaurants, but my visit to Wrightwood 659 was particularly impactful. It is a new exhibition space to contemplate socially engaged art and architecture in a 1920s building that was transformed by Tadao Ando. All the exhibits were thought provoking but two were particularly poignant and timely.

  • In “Who’s afraid of red, yellow, and green”, Rirkrit Tiravanija blends community and activism by inviting us to share a bowl of curry while observing local artists draw images of civil protests on the walls. From anti-government protests in Bangkok to Chicago’s Black Lives Matters marches, from gun rights to women’s rights, it was a dense yet safe space to contemplate these events.
  • We Shall Defy: Shahidul Alam” also sheds light on activism. It’s focus is on Bangladesh where “Despite the climate of fear, the arrests, disappearances, extra judicial killings, torture and death, people still resist.” The images and text by Alam and his creative partners illustrate the life and consequences of an activist in a different country without the protections of the first amendment. I found the following shlok – or verse in Bangla – an incredible lesson in resilience and allyship: 

“I don’t want to be your icon of poverty or a sponge for your guilt. My identity is for me to build, in my own image. You’re welcome to walk beside me, but don’t stand in front to give me a helping hand. You’re blocking the sun.”

Shahidul Alam

Interesting in further reading? Learn more about AIA CEO Lakisha Woods and AIA National 2023 First VP/2024 President-elect Kimberly Dowell:

Architect Magazine Q+A: A Deep Dive with Lakisha Woods

Kimberly Dowdell on her time as NOMA president and the importance of diversity in architecture

For those who missed the national AIA Conference, save the dates of November 2-4 for the AIA Colorado Practice + Design Conference in Keystone.

One Question Series: Part 1, Diversity Exposure

What happens when you ask the same question to five designers with five different backgrounds? You get five very different answers that will put you in someone else’s shoes. From firm principals to emerging professionals, we’re diving in to better understand—and share—others’ perspectives. It’s a new monthly series—“One Question”—produced by our Justice, Equity, Diversity, and Inclusion (J.E.D.I.) Committee. 

In partnership with the Colorado Chapter of the National Organization of Minority Architects, we invite you to see through the lenses of five different practitioners to learn how their unique backgrounds shape experiences in the firm and their approaches to design.


QUESTION NO. 1
Describe how your career has been enhanced by exposure to diverse people, places, or experiences.


Sarah Broughton, FAIA
AIA Colorado President-Elect
Principal, Rowland+Broughton

“Curiosity is the root of creativity. I have always been curious and ask a lot of questions. This allows me to listen to everyone around me and to seek out opinions. It also adds in lots of observations! College was a huge exposure to the world of design. Upon graduation, I won a design competition and was awarded an internship with EDAW (now AECOM) in their Sydney, Australia, office under the helm of a great female leader, Jacinta McCann. Jacinta took me to meetings and gave me responsibility. She showed me how to be an equal design partner. 

After Australia, I moved to New York City. I landed a job with Kliment Halsband Architects. I immediately started working with Frances Halsband, FAIA, who at the time, had already been New York’s first female AIA President and was continuing to trailblaze women in architecture. Frances taught me how to dig deep and be a comprehensive designer. Through more practice and understanding, my contributions became more valuable. My interest was met with openness and knowledge sharing.

I continue to draw on the lessons these great women leaders gave to me and am thankful for their mentorship and patience to train me. Through living in great, diverse metropolitan cities to being an avid traveler meeting new people and cultures, my career continues to be enhanced. I remain curious, ask a lot of questions, and seek multiple viewpoints and experiences—always with the intention of being more open and contributing.”

Kari Lawson, Assoc. AIA
AIA Colorado Associate Director
Designer, TreanorHL

“Diversity is not a matter of opinion for me—it is my entire life and my cultural outlook. My experience as a Black woman in this industry has exposed me to many different opportunities where I’ve needed to acclimate to foreign environments. I’ve always interpreted these instances as a positive in my growth and molding in my career. My studies at Auburn were the catalyst and most impactful to this exposure.

I recall participating in an interdisciplinary charrette with landscape designer Walter Hood for a Birmingham farmers market. This was the first time I had worked with designers who looked like me. I most remember the passion and explorative creative thought in the question: ‘What if?’ A light came on in my head, and the energy of the work was finally palpable. I had become accustomed to believing in my ideas or myself as the garnish or side dish to the main event. Yet in a single moment, I realized that there is validity in my thought process and how depriving sharing these expressions is only a detriment to the creative problem solving required. This is one example where my only wish was that I was more insightful, more involved, and more confident. I came away from it with the idea to ‘leave it all on the table.’

Currently, I don’t have as many opportunities to get that kind of exposure, but I realize I can be that experience or person for others. It brings me to a position as a contributor, which is incredibly important and necessary. My diverse experiences have empowered me in that while my place at the table revolves, the importance of contributing my thoughts remains just as important.”

Victor Gonzalez, Assoc. AIA, NOMA
AIA Colorado J.E.D.I. Committee Member + Editorial Representative
Davis Partnership Architects

“Experiencing diverse people, places, and experiences have allowed me to not only escape from my comfort zone, but also explore how unique and different perspectives can enhance the world.

In relation to architecture, oftentimes, there is a high level of comfort in staying within what is taught in American, post-secondary architecture education. Unfortunately, this does not allow us to see beyond what other cultures have done with the built environment to enhance the human experience. I think that, as a practice, there still needs to be a level of exposure to this.

Oftentimes being a minority in the profession of architecture has allowed me to tap into my own identity and cultural background. Being Mexican, I often think about how my identity can be reflected throughout my work. The practice of architecture stems from an architectural education that is primarily focused on American and Eurocentric examples, and this foundation fails to bring in other enriching examples that are non-western.

Throughout my college education, I found myself bringing influence into my studio projects from the Aztec and Mayan people. These civilizations brought about significant architectural achievements that were rarely taught about in my college education. Whenever I would explain this inspiration behind my projects my peers would be fascinated and shocked that they had not heard about these architectural feats before and even ask for resources where they could possibly learn more. What I learned from this experience was that although I was many times the only minority in the room, my cultural background, perspectives, and experiences would contribute so much to those around me. To me, this experience demonstrated that diversity is a contribution in itself, and it has the potential to contribute to an environment.

As I have now kicked off my professional career, I hope that I can continue to share my cultural experiences with my colleagues.”

Wells Squier, AIA
AIA Colorado President
Principal, Anderson Hallas Architects

“My father led a retail store planning design firm, where he worked on projects throughout North America. When I was young, I would spend a lot of time in his office, where my interest and passion for architecture started. My father was my greatest inspiration when I was young, and because of his affinity for design, our home was full of many mid-century classic furniture pieces and books related to design and architecture. This exposure allowed me, in some ways, to start the pursuit of education toward the architectural career I was so focused to achieve before I reached the age of 10. However, my father’s inspiration upon me, in retrospect, was devoid of much diversity. I mention this background, because today, we are discussing critically how to enhance diversity and equity in our profession, and it is not lost on me that the road I followed to become an architect was a much easier path to navigate than it has been for so many others. 

International travel and time spent studying abroad during college and in the years since continue to have an immense impact on my career, due to the immersion in different cultures it provided. A broad global perspective is something so important to us as architects. With that said, it really wasn’t until I moved to Chicago for work that I was exposed to widely diverse people who truly enhanced my career so significantly. Almost immediately upon starting my position with SOM I experienced immense humility. The rigor, intensity, and talent of those I found myself working with caused me to realize how limited my experiences and exposure to diversity had been in the developmental years of my career.  I was so fortunate to work with talented men and women of all backgrounds and ethnicities, including Korea, Serbia, China, the Netherlands, the list goes on. These were some of the hardest working people I had ever interacted with professionally, and I learned so very much from them—lessons I reflect on regularly to this day. In some ways, I think I knew my path to the desk in that office was a bit smoother than the path many of my friends and colleagues at that firm had to follow to get to that same place, and this weighed on me, but in a way that made me a better architect and person. Because of this, I was inspired to work harder to earn their appreciation and respect, aside from their friendship I valued so much, while also gaining a greater appreciation for the struggles they had to overcome to achieve their professional goals. These experiences continue to push me harder today and to never take anything for granted. We have an immense responsibility as architects—and the profession demands that we all seek our highest potential—for the betterment of others and the planet.”

Patricia Joseph, AIA, NOMA
Project Designer at Cuningham
President-Elect of NOMA Colorado
Lecturer, CU Denver College of Architecture & Planning

My career has been enhanced most recently by exposure to diverse people within the profession. I know distinctively how my career has flourished during times when I had high exposure to diverse professionals within the architecture community. Those diverse experiences have exposed my career to new opportunities and events I would likely not have considered or taken. Spending time with those who are different than I am is a diverse experience each time, most often happening in diverse places.

When I attended grad school at SCI-Arc for my master’s degree, I had the best time in my life, and I was in love with architecture. My colleagues and I would speak different languages and we shared our cultural dishes, sometimes right in studio. By being different individuals, we all leaned into our uniqueness, allowing us to learn architecture in our own ways without shame or denial. While I excelled, I was surrounded by diversity, I was also being taught by the most diverse group of educators in my life. My professors spoke multiple languages, and they were women, too. Experiencing architecture through this diverse lens elevated my thoughts on education and who can be an educator. I am a lecturer at the College of Architecture and Planning at University of Colorado Denver, because of the example I was shown where the value of one’s ideas and understandings around architectural education were not linked to one’s outward identifiers.

Another season of tremendous growth happened most recently when I obtained licensure while I was co-founding the NOMA Colorado Chapter. At a time where I should have no extra time or energy for other things outside of work, I found myself constantly inspired by the growing number of diverse professionals I was becoming acquainted with. Gathering so many diverse individuals who believed in the mission was motivation to get through the architectural registration exams. I have been thriving in the company of those who have diverse experiences to share and who have been enhanced by those experiences themselves. Now, we are dreaming and planning events around growing the next generation of architects. My career in architecture involves thinking about diverse experiences to jumpstart someone else’s career in architecture with Project Pipeline Summer Camps. I know how much my career has been enhanced by being in diverse places and I want that for the next Black woman architect, too.

Constant exposure to someone, somewhere, or something different lends us to constant reminders to be open minded, to think differently, to design differently—that’s the enhancement. And as architects—that’s the career.


We’d like to extend our sincere gratitude to our One Question participants for their vulnerability and humility. You can expect to hear more from them over the course of the next four months as we continue this monthly series, culminating with a live panel discussion reflecting on this project at the AIA Colorado Practice + Design Conference, November 2-4, 2022, in Keystone.

Statewide Energy Code Update Bill Passed

AIA Colorado was proud to recently support HB22-1362: Building Greenhouse Gas Emissions, an energy code modernization bill that will result in more use statewide of the 2021 and 2024 International Energy Conservation Codes (IECC) as the new baseline for energy performance for every new building in Colorado. Representative Tracey Bernett of Longmont introduced the bill and was a strong partner as one of the many stakeholder groups offering input.

The Colorado constitution largely prevents our legislature from implementing strict statewide building codes, but HB22-1362 makes some important changes to what kinds of energy code local building departments can enforce moving forward. What’s not changing is that no local jurisdiction will be forced to update its codes until ready to do so. But when they do, they will have to meet the following requirements depending on the year of their next update:

  • Before 2023, energy codes must be one of the three most recent versions of the IECC.
  • From 2023 to July 1, 2026, energy codes must be equal to or better than the 2021 IECC and include solar- and electric-ready language to be developed by a state energy code board.
  • After July 1, 2026, energy codes must be equal to or better than a future “model low energy and carbon code” developed by the state. This code will mostly likely be based on the 2024 IECC with its net-zero appendix. However, there are many restrictions in place that prevent the state from going further than the stricter of either the 2021 or 2024 IECC. Affordability and other factors may result in more flexible requirements.
  • Nothing stops a local jurisdiction from writing its own equivalent energy codes or adopting newer energy codes sooner. Even cities that are pushing the envelope on energy efficiency like Denver and Boulder have timelines putting net-zero code adoption in 2030/31.

AIA Colorado worked to ensure that an architect will be one of the 11 state energy code board members selected by the Colorado Energy Office. The Department of Local Affairs will select an additional 10 members. This will create a diverse board including both design and construction professionals and will include members with both commercial and residential experience.

Finally, the state will invest $25 million divided between grants to help install high-efficiency electric heating and appliance upgrades and to help train design/construction professionals, and building department officials/inspectors on how to implement the new energy codes.

AIA Colorado would like to thank members of both our Government Affairs Committee and Committee on the Environment for helping our staff and lobbyist effectively represent the profession at the Capitol as we worked to get HB22-1362 across the finish line. If you have any further questions, contact AIA Colorado Advocacy Engagement Director Nikolaus Remus.

Webinar Recap: Magic in the Middle

AIA Colorado resumed its online webinar series with the recent webinar, “Magic in the Middle: Fostering Mid-Career Talent,” covering: 1) architectural leadership development, 2) emerging talent retention, and 3) tips on how to navigate one’s architectural career. 

The AIA Colorado Business of Architecture Knowledge Community fostered the conversation about engaging the talent in mid-career architects and how firms benefit from transparent firm goal setting and career mapping.

No matter where one is at in their career, this information is invaluable. Every firm is most likely having these conversations—for the past several years. The workforce template became very fluid after COVID, with expanded virtual work-from-home or work digitally from another region in our state, nation, or world.  

All options are on the table. The Great Resignation could be something else—a realignment or recommitment in a firm. Leadership, communication, and opportunities unpack the way ahead, and AIA Colorado is with you every step of the way to ensure you and your firm have the resources to advance your leadership goals.

The webinar featured insights from the following panelists:

  • Joy Spatz, AIA, Director of Interiors, MOA Architecture, Denver
  • Sarah Broughton, FAIA, Principal, Rowland + Broughton Architecture / Urban Design / Interior Design, and AIA Colorado President-Elect
  • Adam Harding, AIA, Partner, Roth Sheppard Architects, 2021 AIA Young Architects Award Recipient
  • Host: Amanda Christianson, AIA, Chair of the AIA Colorado Business of Architecture Knowledge Committee and Director of Architecture with Work Shop – Colorado.
  • Moderator: Francesca Zucchi, AIA, member of the AIA Colorado Business of Architecture Knowledge Committee, 2022 CKLDP Scholar, and architect with Semple Brown Design

Following are takeaways by topic from the Magic in the Middle webinar:

Leadership Development 

Panelists recommended using internal and external assets to provide a diversified approach to leadership development. PSMJ A/E/C Training was highly recommended as an external source, while in-house training should focus on mentorship and the business of architecture (marketing, law, insurance, and communications, etc.). Vary the dynamics with group and 1-to-1 discussions, both informal and formal. Level up your team! These training tactics will change the way a new architect designer approaches architecture.  

Be a Mid-Career Firm Leader

As Broughton said, “Get curious! Ask questions of leaders who make decisions.” Map out a career based on these conversations and remember that there’s no one correct approach. Lean on your firm’s values and legacy, while embracing authenticity. Be yourself! Do not expect to be fast-tracked by leadership or tapped on the shoulder. Show initiative and be patient, yet persistent. Share short- and long-term career goals with leadership. Serve in others’ organizations, as well.” AIA Colorado is a wonderful place to start serving and building a network to assist in career understanding and mapping.

Professional Traits that Stand Out

Sage advice according to Spatz: “Look out for others. Give your time to help one another’s achievements. Celebrate the success of another individuals.” Understand the me vs. we principle. The long road is the collective, i.e., “we!” brings people together. Foster community and culture in your firm. Develop the knowledge of who you are. Understand who others are, as well. This confidence of understanding oneself and others will help down the road.     

Checking on Growth

“Set goals that are measurable on a quarterly and yearly basis,” said Harding. “Check these metrics often, and have smaller goals to reach big, audacious goals.” Share your goal with leaders. Don’t rely on your firm to track your goals. And bring those goals into reviews. Broughton echoed, “We all need each other right now. It is perfect timing for this conversation. The world is moving really fast.” In this environment, consider what two items need to be removed from someone’s plate.

Balance Career and Talent Retention

AIA Colorado CEO Mike Waldinger started this conversation, “The move up or move out mentality begins early in the career of architects.” Said Harding, “Leaders: Have conversations with employees and discuss goals and needs. Be your advocate.” 

Most businesses are changing, but leadership will carry your firm through its ups and downs. Is your baton ready to pass?

As Waldinger closed, “Anyone who has an interest or current role in organizational leadership needs to be an organizational anthropologist. A firm’s identity is made up of two matched pairs of attributes: market presence and production capability. These are the table stakes.” He continued, “What separates the really great firms is pairing with cultural ethos and architect models. Whether you intend to set those architect models or not, they will be there in a firm.”

AIA Colorado shares your purpose and continues to educate and inform its members to build a better community, membership and firm.

Architecture Rules Update

In 2021, AIA Colorado led a bill that successfully amended the practice act to remove a requirement for architects to demonstrate retention of the material presented in continuing education courses. The goal of this change was to end the need to complete DORA structured report forms for each course taken.

Although the bill was signed by Governor Polis in April 2021, new laws typically can’t go into effect immediately. Additionally, our DORA licensing board publishes a set of rules and regulations that Colorado architects are required to follow. These rules also had to be updated to come into compliance with the change in law. Now that the rule-making process is complete, here we summarize the changes and records that architects need to keep.

First and foremost, the state of Colorado expects each licensed architect to read and understand both our practice act and our rules. The current versions are always available to download (alongside the board’s policies) from the DORA AES Board website. The full continuing education text is located in the rules under the “Renewal of Licenses” heading.

There are two exciting changes for courses taken in 2022 and on. Per our original intent, structured report forms are no longer necessary for courses offered by organizations such as the AIA. These forms will still exist for use after other types of CE activities when there is no provider to vouch for the content or attendance. The second change is that “board-approved transcripts” are an acceptable means of documenting you completed a course. You can now rely on your AIA transcript to show both your attendance and course details as an acceptable record. Separate attendance certificates are no longer required for any AIA courses you take.

What hasn’t changed? Architects are still required to complete 12 hours of continuing education in health, safety, and welfare (HSW) topics every calendar year. The AIA’s HSW criteria remain consistent with the state’s. Credits cannot be carried over to past or future years, and records must be kept for six years.

Before you rip all your old structured report forms to shreds, remember that new rules don’t apply retroactively. For your state-required CE courses taken in 2021 and earlier, AIA Colorado recommends keeping certificates, course details (available from your AIA transcript if needed), and completed structured report forms until they are older than six years.

If you have any continuing education questions, reach out to Advocacy Engagement Director Nikolaus Remus.

Disaster Recovery Resources

Our hearts are with our members have been and continue to be affected by the Marshall and Middle Fork fires. Following are resources and ways to contribute as we begin to rebuild.

“There’s a lot of good that we can do as an industry, as a profession, if we’re all willing to do a little bit to give back.”

Christian Dino, AIA

LOCAL RESOURCES/CONTACTS

NATIONAL RESOURCES

RETURNING HOME

From the City of Louisville

  • Please visit Boulder County website for important information about safety, debris cleanup, utilities, and assistance available.
  • Some residents may see colored cards on structures when they return home. The cards are based on the ATC-45 Rapid Evaluation Form. There are three colors possible. Green means it has been INSPECTED, Yellow means RESTRICTED USE, and Red means UNSAFE. The card also provides space for detailed information regarding why or how the building use is restricted or why the building is unsafe (if not obvious). If you have a card on your home and have additional questions, please call the number on the card.
  • With the power outages, food in your refrigerator and freezer may be contaminated or spoiled. Dispose of any food that has been exposed to smoke, soot or heat or has thawed. Dumpsters will be placed in central locations for food disposal. Please do not use personal trash cans.
  • When returning home or traveling through the fire area, residents are asked to slow their speeds and be alert to incident personnel working in the area and hazards such as weakened trees and structures.
  • There is no potable water in the affected area so residents should be prepared to bring bottled water with them for all water needs, including for pets. Never use water you think may be contaminated to wash dishes, brush teeth, prepare food, wash hands, make ice or baby formula.
  • Power, gas, and water may not be restored by the time you are allowed to re-enter. Please do not call 911 or utility companies. They are working as quickly as they can to restore utilities.
  • Vehicles that are parked along roadways can impede operations. Please make sure that emergency traffic has access to get through.
  • As residents return to the fire area, if there are signs that suspicious activity has occurred, please call the Tipline at 303.441.3674. If suspicious activity is occurring, please call 911 or the non-emergency line at 303.441.4444.

DONATE/VOLUNTEER

REBUILDING

DISASTER PREPAREDNESS

Welcome, 2021 Members!

Our 2,400 FAIA, AIA, Assoc. AIA, and new graduate members all comprise the AIA Colorado community, and we’re honored to recognize the following members who joined or transferred in from another state to Colorado in 2021. Please help us welcome the following new members.

2021 AIA and Assoc. AIA Members

Abigya T. Abiyo, Assoc. AIA

Lynn Acton, AIA

Douglas E. Adams, AIA

Mark E. Adcock, AIA

Casey Alexander, Assoc. AIA

Danya Alheriz, Assoc. AIA

Andrew P. Allmon, AIA

Filimon Alvarez, Assoc. AIA

Saeed Amirchaghmaghi, Assoc. AIA

Kenyon Anderson, Assoc. AIA

Antonio J. Andrade, Assoc. AIA

Matthew Andronowitz, Assoc. AIA

Chris Antonopoulos, Assoc. AIA

Pamela April, Assoc. AIA

Elizabeth R. Arnold, AIA

Jacques A. Artel, Assoc. AIA

Susan M. Atkinson, Assoc. AIA

Jaime E. Aubry, Assoc. AIA

Evan Auer, Assoc. AIA

Crystal Babb, Assoc. AIA

Michael Baden, AIA

Abigail Balderrama-Magallanes, Assoc. AIA

Roger Barak, AIA

Gabe Bellowe, AIA

Patrick R. Berrend, AIA

Hailey Beyer, AIA

Mark W. Bila, Assoc. AIA

Jonathan K. Bock, AIA

James F. Bock, Assoc. AIA

Robert Brashears, AIA

Christopher W. Brettell, Assoc. AIA

Kyle L. Brunner, Assoc. AIA

Greg Bruskivage, Assoc. AIA

Adam L. Buehler, AIA

Megan K. Burke, Assoc. AIA

Alyson E. Burkhalter, Assoc. AIA

Mary H. Bussard, AIA

Brandon Byrd, Assoc. AIA

William R. Campbell, AIA

Michelle Anne Canniff, Assoc. AIA

Oscar Carlson, Assoc. AIA

Adam Casias, Assoc. AIA

Jordan Tierney Caylor, Assoc. AIA

Benjamin R. Charpentier, Assoc. AIA

Kayla Chenery, AIA

Ashley Clark Adams, AIA

Kirsten A. Coe, AIA

Janna H. Cole, Assoc. AIA

Ryan Cook, AIA

Catherine A. Crain, AIA

Andrea L. Cunningham, AIA

Marc P. Daubert, Assoc. AIA

Jennifer M. Davis, Assoc. AIA

Lauren A. Davis, AIA

Alan Doggett, Assoc. AIA

Yinhui Dong, Assoc. AIA

Joseph M. Dooling, AIA

Meghan Duarte-Silva, AIA

Krista L. Dumkrieger, AIA

Craig A. Dunn, Assoc. AIA

Benjamin S. Durham, Assoc. AIA

Luke W. Durkin, AIA

Ashley Duvenhage, Assoc. AIA

Jennifer B. Edwards, Assoc. AIA

Samantha N. Eichhorn, Assoc. AIA

Amaleed E. Elmehdiwi, Assoc. AIA

Nicholas J. Esquibel, Assoc. AIA

Lauren C. Falcon, AIA

Charles W. Fielder, AIA

Nicholas H. Fish, Assoc. AIA

Corey J. Fisher, AIA

Michael C. Folwell, AIA

Rena M. Foster, AIA

Kit Frey, Assoc. AIA

Craig M. Friedman, AIA

Anna S. Friedrich, Assoc. AIA

Douglas L. Fullen, AIA

Christopher W. Fuller, AIA

Christian Fussy, AIA

Ben Garcia, Assoc. AIA

Tamrat Z. Getu, Assoc. AIA

Jason C. Geving, AIA

Patrick J. Gleason, AIA

Iulia Gnatyk, Assoc. AIA

Austin S. Gohl, AIA

Victor Gonzalez, Assoc. AIA

Christopher R. Grantham, Assoc. AIA

Aaron Gray, AIA

Garrett E. Greene, Assoc. AIA

Justin Gross, AIA

Rebecca Groves, AIA

Adrienne Gullia, Assoc. AIA

Shilpa Gupta, Assoc. AIA

Roger Hall, AIA

Jack Hamilton, Assoc. AIA

Timothy R. Hansen, Assoc. AIA

Kyle J. Hanson, AIA

Ethan Harper, Assoc. AIA

Imani Haupt, Assoc. AIA

Katherine E. Hawkins, AIA

Travis A. Hendrix, AIA

Ryan Hess, AIA

Seth Hmielowski, AIA

Grant W. Horton, Assoc. AIA

Josephine Hsu, Assoc. AIA

Stefani G. Huey, AIA

Andrew Huggins, Assoc. AIA

Christopher Hurley, AIA

Ariana N. Irizarry, Assoc. AIA

Joseph Irwin, AIA

Jonathan W. Jaeger, AIA

Erik Jansson, AIA

Alex P. Jauch, AIA

Nils Jergensen, Assoc. AIA

Emily L. Johns, AIA

Amanda Johnson, Assoc. AIA

Electra Johnson, Assoc. AIA

Boyd L. Johnson, AIA

Eric C. Jones, AIA

Christopher R. Jones, AIA

Claire Jordan, AIA

Martin Joyce, Assoc. AIA

Chancie Keenan, AIA

Alexander M. Kendle, AIA

Tamzida Khan, Assoc. AIA

Sarah T. KIA, AIA

Jessica L. Killinger, AIA

Jennifer Kimura, AIA

Lisa R. Kistner, AIA

Jenny K. Kivett, AIA

John W. Koblosky, Assoc. AIA

Madelyn R. Kodros, AIA

Eric J. Kuhn, Assoc. AIA

Malgorzata Gosia L. Kung, AIA

Euginie Kwan, Assoc. AIA

Sarah J. Laake, Assoc. AIA

Christian Ladefoged, Assoc. AIA

Kerin N. LaFollette, AIA

Alexandra Lansing, Assoc. AIA

Andrew T. Lemmer, AIA

Shane W. Lenard, Assoc. AIA

Hengchen Liu, AIA

Edgar F. Llamas, Assoc. AIA

Erik K. Lobeck, AIA

Anthony J. Loughran, AIA

Germaine Low, Assoc. AIA

Jennifer Lozano Castillo, Assoc. AIA

Benjamin Ludeman, Assoc. AIA

Jacqueline A. Lund, Assoc. AIA

Hana Maclean, AIA

Kevin Madera, Assoc. AIA

Brian A. Majeski, Assoc. AIA

Sean R. Maloney, AIA

Chas M. Marquez, AIA

Natalie A. Martin, Assoc. AIA

Shawn K. Mather, AIA

Daniel Matoba, AIA

Sean P. McGovern, Assoc. AIA

Joselinne Mendoza-Ortega, Assoc. AIA

Kelsey Mercer, Assoc. AIA

Tyler Mikolajczak, Assoc. AIA

Ethan Miller, Assoc. AIA

Matthew R. Miller, AIA

Michelle L. Miller, AIA

Daniel H. Mills, AIA

Alec H. Mingle, Assoc. AIA

Fatima Montano, Assoc. AIA

Olivia Moore, Assoc. AIA

Sarah Morasso, AIA

Stephen P. Morton, AIA

Kaye S. Mullaney, AIA

Ajibola Murtala, Assoc. AIA

Adam C. Nault, AIA

Shannon Newberry, Assoc. AIA

Kevin J. Noble, Assoc. AIA

Sean P. O’Bryant, AIA

Kieran Patrick O’Halloran, AIA

Graham Oden, Assoc. AIA

Karen Offer, Assoc. AIA

Olamide Olorunkosebi, Assoc. AIA

Mahamoud D. Omar, Assoc. AIA

Hans Osheim, AIA

Brent Otsuka, Assoc. AIA

William Otte, AIA

Andrea Paiz, Assoc. AIA

Joshua D. Palmer, AIA

Dhriti Pangasa, Assoc. AIA

SeungHee Park, AIA

Cameron Parker, Assoc. AIA

Sindhuri Patllola, AIA

Megan Paus, AIA

Derrick Paus, AIA

Lee P. Payne, AIA

Allison Pearlman, AIA

Mayraj Peer, AIA

Elizabeth Perry, Assoc. AIA

Chris S. Peterson, Assoc. AIA

Alexis Petre, AIA

Page Phillips, AIA

Vivek Prasad, Assoc. AIA

Darby K. Prendergast, AIA

Derek S. Price, AIA

Zareen Prithvi, Assoc. AIA

Jacob D. Richie, AIA

Renee Ritchie, Assoc. AIA

Benjamin Robbins, AIA

Brian Rogers, AIA

Genevieve E. Rogers, AIA

Sheena O. Rude, Assoc. AIA

Aaron M. Rule, Assoc. AIA

Brandon Rutledge, AIA

Rohini Saksena, AIA

Salima Salim, Assoc. AIA

Adam C. Savage, Assoc. AIA

Morgan Scott, Assoc. AIA

Samuel L. Severns, AIA

Darek Shapiro, AIA

Tallyn Sherman, Assoc. AIA

Lauren Sherman-Boemker, Assoc. AIA

Edward L. Shure, AIA

Anyeli Silva, Assoc. AIA

John M. Simon, AIA

Anna B. Slowey, AIA

Maureen E. Smith, AIA

Jacob L. Smith, AIA

Kristen Spanbauer, Assoc. AIA

Amanda E. Spice-Knoeller, Assoc. AIA

Evan Spurrell, AIA

Joe N. Stainbrook, AIA

Kristen S. Stanford, AIA

Milo J. Stark, Assoc. AIA

Kelly Steinway, Assoc. AIA

Samantha Strang, AIA

Zachary Strong, Assoc. AIA

Connor M. Sullivan, Assoc. AIA

Blake Sullivan, AIA

Lauren Tatusko, AIA

Eric Thuerk, Assoc. AIA

Alexander Udolkin, AIA

Lucy VanDusen, AIA

David Vasquez, Assoc. AIA

Lance G. Vigil, AIA

Belen Vigil, Assoc. AIA

Maryia Vinogradova, Assoc. AIA

Natalia Vladimirova, AIA

Chelsea L. Wade, AIA

Ariel G. Walden, Assoc. AIA

Abby M. Waldo, AIA

Yeceng Wang, Assoc. AIA

Eric H. Ward, AIA

Grant Warmerdam, Assoc. AIA

Aleks Webster, Assoc. AIA

Ronald Wells, AIA

Chandler M. Willie, Assoc. AIA

John Willits, Assoc. AIA

Ian F. Wilson, Assoc. AIA

Jess C. Wilton, AIA

David M. Wirth, Assoc. AIA

Rachel Wolf, AIA

Jamie Wolff, AIA

Harry Worsham, Assoc. AIA

Christine Wright, Assoc. AIA

Tyler J. Wurr, AIA

Ruichen Xu, Assoc. AIA

Urmica Yelavarthy, Assoc. AIA

John Yoon, AIA

Zarah Zalazar, Assoc. AIA

Tianjian Zhou, Assoc. AIA

Francesca Zucchi, AIA

Transferred In

Scott Abernethy, AIA

Pratiksha J. Achari, Assoc. AIA

Andrea Anderson, AIA

Andrew T. Berry, AIA

Charles C. Boyd, AIA Member Emeritus

Austyn T. Chesser, Assoc. AIA

Corey Collier, AIA

Brenna D. Costello, AIA

Amy E. Esposito, AIA

Alexander J. Goldberg, AIA

Avignon T. Greene, Assoc. AIA

Allison W. Haynes, AIA

Douglas C. Heaton, AIA

Joshua W. Hendershot, AIA

Michael Holliday, Int’l Assoc. AIA

Asa K. Houston, AIA

Andrew L. Lane, AIA

Yvonne Lee, AIA

Carrie B. Leneweaver, AIA

John T. Mills, AIA

Michael L. Rickenbaker, AIA

Steven J. Riojas, AIA

Todd A. Tierney, AIA

Ronald K. Wiendl, AIA

Zachary S. Wilson, AIA

Aimee J. Woodall, AIA

Victoria M. Ziegler, Assoc. AIA

Jati Zunaibi, Assoc. AIA

Webinar Recap: Small Firm Exchange: AIA Resources to Advance Local Firms

Being part of a small architecture firm can be exciting and overwhelming—all at the same time. However, the AIA Small Firm Exchange (SFx) provides support to small firms, allowing a sense of community, leveraging resources, and a creating a more level playing field in architecture.

Our most recent AIA webinar featured Matthew Clapper, AIA, who is the 2021 Small Firm Exchange Chair and Founding Principal of Modern Architecture & Development in Wisconsin. Clapper discussed the SFx overview, repositioning, new workflows, and converting to a state-based structure. Highlights from the webinar follow.

The core functions of the SFx are to: 1) curate and disseminate resources and information from the AIA and other organizations to small firms; 2) inform the AIA of current issues facing small firms and resource/information gaps; and 3) advocate the value of small firms and the national and local SFx groups. Educational resources such as branding guidelines, crisis management tools, and business plan formats provide small firms with a competitive and operational boost.

A major upcoming goal is a sustainable framework of communication. To achieve this goal, both SFx and AIA are creating better integration with a more fluid organizational structure between both organizations. Communications and resource silos in the past have caused duplication of efforts and wasted energy. This organizational change with active liaisons will allow for small firms to gain big benefits.

SFx Workflow Management is undergoing a major renovation, as well. Leveraging social media and work applications, SFx is breaking down informational barriers while encouraging conversations and wide audience reach. Apps such as Flipboard, Instagram, Facebook, and Twitter will create channels of discussion and opportunity. This marketplace of small firm information is open. 

Finally, representation at AIA may look different as regions convert to a state-representation methodology. SFx is considering this change, as well. Currently, one representative may serve three to four years in a region of six to seven states. This current model is not efficient or effective for individualized needs for states. Equity for all is a far reach. 

Potential changes for the new SFx Board include a board of 30, eight permanent states, and 22 additional reps from rotational states. Additionally, board members will make an ongoing effort to identify a representative from every state/territory, totaling 55 representatives. The board will increase its communications from a more diverse standpoint, which will bring about better inclusiveness and equitable opportunities.

AIA Colorado will keep you informed of the latest changes in the SFx as we help small firms achieve their design and business goals.

© AIA Colorado 2022