The Challenge to Innovate

The profession of architecture has changed, and certainly much of it for the better.  With each passing decade, building science, computer technology and research have all contributed to make our practices stronger.  Of course, as the profession moves forward, so too does the influence on the profession by outside sources.  Methods of delivery, new business models, and regulatory reform all present both opportunities and challenges to what we do and how we do it. 

While we can point to CAD and BIM and Design-Build as significant changes to the profession, there are many ways in which our practices operate the same as we have for decades.  What opportunities will allow us to better weather an economic downturn or credit crunch?  Riding a wave of economic optimism, we sometimes forget what tomorrow might bring.  It’s incumbent upon us to prepare our practices, and the AIA, to look ahead to the future.    

The AIA and our firms are, to use a more colloquial term, joined at the hip.  And our membership is the link that holds us together.  Without successful firms, our members suffer.  Several years ago, “prosperity” became a focus of the AIA, and I believe that this should remain a primary interest of this organization.  Through examples and research, the AIA can be a resource for members to succeed. But this is only the beginning.  With each project, initiative or program, we need to understand why we do things.  We need to examine every part of what we do as a profession to not only strengthen our leadership role in the industry, but to also allow us to grow, prosper and…most importantly, remain relevant.

The AIA must be innovative.  This is not about changing the direction of the organization – our strategic plan defines that.  This is about eliminating those efforts that provide little to no value to the organization while expanding and emphasizing those that make a difference.  Like firms, the AIA needs to continuously focus on improvement. Without challenging ourselves each day, we reduce our impact. 

The AIA is not a building in Washington, DC, but rather it is all of us.  Through our combined efforts, our shared successes and common desires, we can work together to continue to make architecture a profession that positively influences and impacts our communities.  Innovation is the key, and participation is what will drive our success.

Bruce Sekanick