Guides for Equitable Practice—AIA Colorado Edition

The Guides for Equitable Practice are a comprehensive set of guides—one component of a broad commitment by the American Institute of Architects (AIA) to overcome inequities and advance the profession, the careers of individual architects, and the quality of the built environment by creating more equitable, diverse, inclusive, and just workplaces and interactions. As indicated in its Executive Summary, “The need for equitable practice in the architecture profession is becoming ever clearer and more urgent. These guides provide support for informed discussions and concrete next steps to help turn intent into action.”

The AIA Colorado Justice, Equity, Diversity, and Inclusion Committee has developed an abridged version of the Guides, tailored to our state’s practices. We invite you to read them.

Recap: State of the Association Address

On July 21, AIA Colorado leadership provided members its annual State of Association Address. Overall, the Board of Directors conveyed that AIA Colorado is strong with an optimistic outlook for the upcoming year.

The presentation was segmented by: 1) Advancing the Profession, 2) Culture of Belonging, 3) Leadership Opportunities, and 4) Organizational Transformation. Presenters were President Rachael Johnson, AIA; Treasurer Sheva Willoughby, AIA; President-Elect Wells Squier, AIA; Past President Adam Harding, AIA; and CEO Mike Waldinger, Hon. AIA. Here we bring you top-level highlights the completed and upcoming initiatives.

Advancing the Profession

Smart Advocacy. The Architects of Colorado Political Committee (ARCpac) adapted to no in-person meetings and was successful in the elimination of Colorado Department of Regulatory Agencies (DORA) forms and advancing HB21-1303 Global Warming Potential for Public Project Materials to signature and law. These two achievements will have a positive, longstanding impact for Colorado and members.

Building Coalitions. Leveraging AIA Colorado’s partnership with A3LC, a joint program with the American Council of Engineering Companies of Colorado (ACEC) and Associated General Contractors (AGC) allowed our team to promote awareness with global warming. Reaching outside our industry allows AIA Colorado to do so much more!

Environmental Stewardship. The Colorado Committee on the Environment (C.O.T.E.) will send out an environmental issues survey to establish a baseline to assist with awareness and action. The survey’s response is intended for your firm’s perspective. Be on the lookout for upcoming information on this survey.

Change Agent. A point of progress for our state is the partnership with the Colorado Chapter for The National Organization of Minority Architects (NOMA). This partnership changes everything. Johnson said, “NOMA Colorado started this past year. Our relationship is off and running. It is very, very important.” Already, AIA Colorado and NOMA Colorado jointly hosted a webinar, “Are Firms Ready for Diversity.”

Culture of Belonging

Member Resiliency. AIA leadership values each and every member. Membership is holding steady thanks to your steadfast resolve. Following the numbers for our state. Overall member total by geography: 2,301, Denver: 1558, North: 376, West: 225, South: 142. Membership by type: AIA: 1752, Emeritus: 382, Associate AIA and International AIA: 167. Of note when renewing or for new applications, the dues installment payment plan can be used to help with individual budgeting priorities.

Professional Development. The Christopher Kelley Leadership Development Program continues to advance emerging architects. The pandemic limited in-person discussions but allowed for national reach with speakers and mentors. As well, the Architectural Education Foundation is continuing and seeking applications for its Licensure Advancement Fund and this year already funded its annual Travel Scholarships. The Career Leadership Task Force is a significant enabler for the future of architecture.

Working For You. This past year has certainly presented its challenges. Challenges bring opportunities to innovate and set conditions for a better and efficient way forward. This fall, AIA Colorado will unveil its new website designed for a better user experience. In an environment mostly void of face-to-face communications, the newsletters, no-charge member virtual events, and social media engagement were ramped up to inform and create connection. Going old school, the safe and effective drive-in theater hosted the 2020 Design + Honor Awards, allowing for recognition of excellence in person. Local Advisory Councils were launched this year to provide connections tailored to regional priorities and conversations.

Purpose and Profit Driven. AIA Colorado is financially sound, even after this past year and half of uncertainty. Great leaders and collaboration allowed for this fortunate scenario to become a reality. To better align with our mission and values, AMG has been selected as the new investment company.

Leadership Opportunities

Regional Changes. The scope of how regions are organized between national and state chapters has changed. A vote at the national level removed the region terminology nationwide in the bylaws and are no longer defined by national. What are the outcomes of this decision? Dues are no longer required for the Western Mountain Region. Every state has a seat at the table for national opportunities. Any member can run for national level positions. Further communication from AIA Colorado will discuss this region change.

Volunteers Make AIA. AIA Colorado deeply appreciates its members. Members can be more engaged with one another by volunteering, and the architectural and leadership skills gained are substantial. Please consider volunteering. This is an invitation and not an obligation. The call for volunteers for 2022 will distribute later this year.

Organizational Transformation

In-person Events. The approach right now for events is a cautious blend of some virtual events and some in-person events, including the Design + Honor Awards. We look forward to safely seeing each other in person. Other events, such as our weekly webinar series, will continue to be hosted virtually. Connecting to each of the regions in Colorado is a priority and makes good sense for member value.

On The Move. The newer normal presented opportunities to re-examine AIA Colorado’s current office location and its lease agreement that will end soon. To better align with our values, vibe and resources, a new office location at The Alliance Center has been suggested. Other tenants at this center share our sustainability and energy-efficient points of view. The synergy of our efforts will yield promising outcomes. Greater collaboration and integration will occur with partner organizations, firms, and the University of Colorado Denver nearby. Upcoming decisions need to be finalized, but AIA Colorado is excited about this transition!

For the full event, please see the recording of the 2021 State of the Association Address.

Webinar Recap: Are Firms Ready for Diversity?

Diversity efforts are pointing to a greater immersion of minority and underrepresented individuals in all facets of our nation and state, and architectural firms are seeing this change. As well, the University of Colorado Denver College of Architecture and Planning is experiencing its highest numbers of minority students yet. The question is: Is your firm ready to embrace this newer normal?

To create a collaborative dialogue and strengthen our efforts, AIA Colorado partnered with the recently established Colorado Chapter of National Organization of Minority Architects (NOMA) for a joint webinar on July 7, “Are Firms Ready for Diversity.” Kicking off the presentation, AIA Colorado CEO Mike Waldinger said, “We desire to foster a culture of belonging.” To this end, NOMA Founding Board Member and UC Denver Visiting Assistant Professor Annicia Streete joined Waldinger as co-host and moderated the webinar of the four panelists:

  • Yiselle Santos Rivera, AIA, NOMA, LEED AP BD+C, WELL AP, Firmwide Director of Justice, Equity, Diversity & Inclusion + Medical Planner + Vice President, HKS, Inc.
  • David Allen, NOMA, Architectural Designer, Rowland+Broughton
  • Sarah Aziz, J.E.D.I. Visiting Professor at CU Denver College of Architecture and Planning
  • Jeremy Fretts, AIA, NCARB, M.A. Ed., Assistant Vice President, Experience+Education National Council of Architectural Registration Boards (NCARB) 

The conversation—the full recording of which is now available on YouTube—provided the following takeaways:

Barriers to Architecture. Sarah Aziz led the dialogue about how a lack of resources could affect internship offerings and the ability to live in large cities where firms are located. Next, the method of architecture licensure may be prohibitive to minority prospects. Waldinger noted that the AIA Colorado Licensure Advancement Fund is available and can assist in off-setting costs. 

Licensing Challenges. Representing NCARB, Jeremy Fretts knows many questions need to be answered regarding the formal architectural licensing procedure. This process is being evaluated to determine if it is equitable and attainable for any and all emerging professionals. Is there exam-question bias or pass-rate correlations that need to be changed? Terminology and experiential paths could affect outcomes on achieving licensure. This vital career path needs to be fair and accessible. 

What Matters Most. David Allen shared his personal architectural journey and how his firm, Rowland+Broughton, provided him a voice that encompasses his whole self. He championed NOMA Colorado and the needs this organization meets for minority architecture careers. “The NOMA Chapter was a home away from home as it is hard to find people who look like me and understand the challenges I was experiencing,” Allen said. He proposed that mentors are vital at any stage in an architect’s career, and his helped him gain better awareness and how to navigate the ups, downs, and barriers. 

Dance to Advance. Yiselle Santos Rivera encouraged those with influence to not just invite others to the party, but also to ask others to dance—in their own unique style. Be intentional in having a voice different from others. Provide an anonymous communication feedback forum that provides open dialogue and tangible results. Said Santos Rivera, “If you are doing something wrong, admit the mistake and develop that conversation. Defensiveness does not help growth. Welcome challenges.”

Reinforcing her comments, Waldinger said, “Good intentions can be wrongly executed. Acknowledge this and move forward.” What will help us get better?  The conversation is no longer what you will not do, but what you will do
Allen’s passion of drawing led to an impromptu invite to a college design day, a mentor, and ultimately an architectural career. AIA Colorado is committed to continuing more of these success stories. Understanding and awareness will benefit everyone involved in our state’s architectural profession. What can you do today?

Are Firms Ready for Diversity? How to Cultivate a Culture of Belonging

Promoting Equality, Growth, and Opportunity: Lessons Learned from the Firm of the Year

It’s been nine months since the call from AIA Colorado came letting us know that our firm, Rowland+Broughton, had been named 2020 Firm of the Year, and I can still recall my immediate, overwhelming thrill. Seventeen years of work and effort and due diligence, of more than 350 successfully completed projects, of growing and supporting a talented, capable team, had all just paid off in one of the most meaningful ways—recognition by our peers.

Looking back during a recent AIA Colorado Town Hall webinar with members at varying levels in our careers discussing 2020 AIA awards we received, I had a chance to reflect on what being named Firm of the Year meant.
Certainly, it gave R+B a leg up, but it also humbled and motivated us as a firm to keep pushing the quality of design. It inspired us to continue to be mentors for others in our profession, and to continuously encourage growth, leadership, and opportunity. As AIA Colorado West Director, knowing the criteria—the heavy requirements for the selection—made it even more impactful.

As a woman-led firm (I’m Co-Founding Principal of R+B with my husband, John Rowland, AIA), R+B is proud to support and encourage equality in the architecture profession. When we opened our doors in 2003, the gender topic never entered into the equation. Rather, diversity of all types was encouraged, from people to projects to clientele. Today, with women making up 50 percent of our 38-member team and six in leadership roles (presently the highest number among 2019-2020 award winners), the sentiment still holds true.

It’s clear that R+B’s overriding DNA of promoting growth, opportunity, equality, gender, and beyond is the foundation of R+B’s success on all fronts. John and I agreed that being well-rounded is a huge benefit to our team and, therefore, our projects.

Early in my career, I worked for and with strong women. I attribute strong mentorship during that time to be a big part of enabling me to become founding partner of a firm. There was no heavy glass ceiling in terms of my trajectory, and I believe that’s true for women in architecture today.

At R+B, we invest in leadership coaching with team members across the board. We also practice formal mentorship between team members at different levels that focuses on creating and meeting goals and milestones. Succession planning helping to position rising team leaders to become partners and owners is an integral part of our team culture, as well. Further investment is made through our education benefit that can be used for licensure and continuing education classes.

Sharing her thoughts on team building and opportunity at R+B, Amanda Christianson, AIA, Principal, in our Denver studio, and 10-year R+B team member, noted that, “R+B is a firm where young people looking to learn and work hard and be challenged can put themselves in scenarios where they can accelerate their learning and thrive.” She went on to say that mentoring benefits both mentors and mentees, as they learn from each other’s experiences and perspectives.

On a personal note, Amanda shared that having direct contact with Principals and seeing how they represent R+B in the field helps team members “learn by association.” Additionally, Christianson was fully supported during her path to licensure by the mentorship available from R+B’s 11 licensed architects, as well as the benefit offered for paid time off to take exams. She is currently Chair of the AIA Colorado 2021 Business of Architecture Knowledge Community.

Eugenie Provost, Architectural Designer in our Denver studio with two-plus years at R+B, is especially candid about how working directly with a strong female leadership team “from the top down” helped with what she considers a relatively quick trajectory along her path toward Project Architect. (She is currently pursuing licensure). Being exposed to situations, such as male-dominated construction sites where she can grow and develop skillsets, has provided valuable learning experiences. Recently, Provost was selected to run R+B’s weekly design-oriented “Inspiration Meetings,” encouraging the team to think in an innovative way and helping her to build public speaking skills.

Our firm has always supported flexible working and a more entrepreneurial approach to accountability, which allows each team member to have a voice in setting deadlines. This has been especially successful for working parents and students. The goal now is to create healthy work-life balance while flexibly working!

Looking forward, as the 2021 Design + Honor Awards call for entries goes live (May 5!), it’s important for aspiring firms to access not only the design work they have accomplished, but also the internal culture they have established and the opportunities they can afford their firms and their teams. As one of my favorite sayings goes, “A rising tide lifts all boats.”

Access Matters: What You Need to Know About ICC Accessibility Updates

Together We Stand: A Letter from the AIA Colorado President

Members of the Architecture Community:

Yet again, we feel the urgent need to come together. In the face of violence and such great loss in our own community—on the heels of the frightening shooting in Boulder, Colorado, on Monday, March 22—we reiterate that AIA Colorado is here for you as a safe space.

This horrific act comes just days after the violent actions against the Asian American and Pacific Islander (AAPI) community in Atlanta. And although we are far from Georgia, it hit rather close to home. In just the last year, we’ve witnessed louder racist voices drowning out those of humanity, diversity, and hope; we’ve seen innocent Black and Brown Americans beaten, bloodied, and murdered by those too ignorant or afraid of the idealistic melting pot America had promised to be for us all; we’ve watched as abuse and attack of human differences was normalized at the highest level of leadership in our country.

On behalf of AIA Colorado, I want to stoke the embers of justice and equity in light of recent extremist, biased, and discriminatory rhetoric we’ve been witness or even victim to this last year. We stand passionately alongside our national AIA partners, our allied professionals, and the National Organization of Minority Architects (NOMA) in their recent statements. We denounce all acts of hate against the AAPI community.

Our hearts sit heavy—for our neighbors in Boulder, for our AAPI community, those whose lives were taken, who mourn loved ones, whose stories did not gain national media attention but who still deserve to be protected and supported and welcomed, and for those who have felt the last year drastically and extremely. And still we fight, at AIA Colorado, for a more just, equitable, diverse, and inclusive world here at home and wherever our work and generally humanity might reach.

While letters such as these are becoming more and more urgent and necessary, they can often feel lonely and hollow. Please know your AIA Colorado community is here for you. Know that we continue to prioritize our contribution to the brightness and positivity in our small part of the world. We stand in solidarity with our minority communities. We pledge to always be a safe place for those who need one, and we condemn any hint of hate, discrimination, and abuse. We urge our members, firms, and community allies to stand up and be vocal and committed in combatting racism.

Our board of directors, committees, staff, and members must be there for one another, and we must also hold ourselves, each other, and our communities accountable. In the words of our National NOMA President Jason Pugh, we must stay B.R.A.V.E.:

  • Banish racism.
  • Reach out to those who are grieving.
  • Advocate for the disinherited.
  • Vote in every American election.
  • Engage each human as you’d have them engage you.

Do this for your fellow AIA Colorado members, your fellow community members, and your fellow humans.
Rachael Johnson, AIA
AIA Colorado President

Equity Resources: Black History Month Edition

The Justice, Equity, Diversity, and Inclusion Committee continues its series on equity in architecture. From podcasts to film to Instagram accounts worth following, we’re rounding up the best in relevant resources to keep working toward a more equitable profession.

While we work to bring you resources and recognize BIPOC each and every month, in this edition, we acknowledge Black History Month and provide even more resources to raise awareness of racial inequalities.


Hollywood’s Architect

The first African American AIA member, architect Paul R. Williams, was one of the most successful architects of his time. But at the height of his career he wasn’t always welcome in the buildings he designed because of his race. Hollywood’s Architect will tell the story of how he used talent, determination and even charm to defy the odds and create a celebrated body of work.


Design Justice

What is the relationship between design, power, and social justice? “Design justice” is an approach to design that is led by marginalized communities and that aims explicitly to challenge, rather than reproduce, structural inequalities. It has emerged from a growing community of designers in various fields who work closely with social movements and community-based organizations around the world. Even better: The link above takes you to purchase via the Black-owned Denver bookseller, Matter.



The @archsowhite Instagram account visualizes racial inequality in Architecture.


Eames Lounge x Mike Ford Mashup

Herman Miller and Hip Hop Architecture Camp Founder Michael Ford are collaborating to provide a platform for honest conversations about racial inequity, social justice, and hope—by way of a remixed iconic design. 

When Charles and Ray Eames conceptualized the Eames Lounge Chair, they defined it as a “special refuge from the strains of modern living.” In continuing this mission, Michael Ford redesigned the iconic chair with handwritten names of victims of racism in the U.S. as a stark reminder that these Black men, women, and children were not afforded the privilege of refuge. 

The chair will travel through February 2021, hosting conversations surrounding racial disparities. Donations support the Hip Hop Architecture Camp, internships, and give you a chance to win the chair.


Podcast: Yo! Is this Racist?

Yo, Is This Racist?, hosted by Andrew Ti, creator of the popular blog of the same name, is now a weekly podcast! Every Wednesday, Ti, co-host Tawny Newsome, and their guests answer questions from fan-submitted voicemails and emails about whether or not something is, in fact, racist.

Looking for more books, podcasts, and articles?
Visit our Equity, Diversity and Inclusiveness page to see the full series. 

Equity Resources: December 16

The Justice, Equity, Diversity, and Inclusion Committee continues its series on equity in architecture. From podcasts to film to Instagram accounts worth following, we’re rounding up the best in relevant resources to keep working toward a more equitable profession.


Creative Courage: Leveraging Imagination, Collaboration, and Innovation to Create Success Beyond Your Wildest Dreams

Written by the former Executive Creative Director of Cirque de Soleil, Creative Courage challenges us to evade comfortable choices in favor of breaking through to the new.


99% Invisible Podcast: Gender-Neutral Restrooms

The debate about trans bathroom access became a big national story a little over five years ago after the passage of ordinances in cities that attempted to restrict access to trans people. Many transgender, non-binary, and intersex people risk stress and sometimes physical danger when entering bathrooms that are segregated by sex. But a group of people have devised a design solution that may make bathrooms better for everyone.



Crafting spaces built on the idea that architecture should adapt to the environment and needs of each organization, Moody Nolan is a firm on Instagram worth following.


2021 Architecture Firm Award: Moody Nolan

“For Moody Nolan, diversity has been at the core of the firm’s philosophy since its founding. Much greater than a recruitment plan, the firm’s complete embrace of talent that hails from diverse cultures, races, and socioeconomic backgrounds allows it to nimbly address complex problems through its staff’s myriad points of view. The nation’s largest African American-owned and operated design firm, it has a long history of serving clients with its trademark navigation of cultural sensitivities and keen understanding of the impact its work has on individuals and communities.”

This recognition is an important step in tackling the systemic lack of diversity in our profession.


Read this Article on How Diverse Employees are Struggling during COVID and How Employers Can Help

The end of the article cites action items for firms to respond to the inequitable struggle of diverse employees.

Looking for more books, podcasts, and articles?
Visit our Equity, Diversity and Inclusiveness page to see the full series. 

Equity Resources: November 11 Edition

The Equity, Diversity, and Inclusiveness Committee continues its series on racial equity in architecture. From podcasts to film to Instagram accounts worth following, we’re rounding up the best in relevant resources to keep working toward a more equitable profession.


Toxic Communities

Renowned environmental sociologist Dorceta Taylor focuses on the locations of hazardous facilities in low-income and minority communities and shows how they have been dumped on, contaminated and exposed. Drawing on an array of historical and contemporary case studies from across the country, Taylor explores controversies over racially-motivated decisions in zoning laws, eminent domain, government regulation (or lack thereof), and urban renewal.


NPR: The Conspiracy Against Hip-Hop

Why are hip-hop and mass incarceration so entangled in the U.S.? This episode examines the history of policing and the music industry’s complicity—with hip-hop OGs Too Short and Killer Mike—breaking down iconic songs to unveil how the justice system disproportionately affects Black America and what hip-hop, as America’s most consumed music genre, has always done to push back.


Beyond the Built

This Instagram account (and program) engages community through architecture to advocate for equitable, reflectively diverse environments. Founder and Executive Director is Pascale Sablan, who spoke recently at the 2020 AIA Colorado Practice + Design Conference.


McKinsey’s Annual Women in the Workplace Survey

Before this year, Women in the Workplace research had consistently found that women and men leave their companies at comparable rates. However, due to the challenges created by the COVID-19 crisis, as many as two million women are considering leaving the workforce. The COVID-19 crisis could set women back half a decade!


Compendium of Architecture Pathways

AIA Colorado is working to build the largest compendium of opportunities for students and future architects of any age in Colorado. Share this link with your network and/or submit architecture internships, programs, courses, and more as we develop an interactive map of resources to design a more equitable profession.

Looking for more books, podcasts, and articles?
Visit our Equity, Diversity and Inclusiveness page to see the full series. 

© AIA Colorado 2022