October 31, 2016 / President's Letters

November 2016 President's Letter: BAF & AIABaltimore – The Power Couple

peabody heights

Peabody Heights Brewery during Doors Open Baltimore

The Baltimore Chapter of AIA was founded in 1871 by eighteen men concerned about unfair competition practices that hurt the profession of architecture. We have since grown to 1,300 members engaged in over 20 committees that focus on their particular passions that serve our profession.
BAF (the Baltimore Architecture Foundation) was launched in 1987 as a non-profit, educational, public-oriented outreach organization. It focuses its attention and energies on helping to promote an understanding of and an appreciation for Baltimore’s built environment.  BAF is also actively engaged in researching the early architectural firms and practitioners of architecture in Baltimore.
All relationships have their challenges. For nearly 20 years, AIABaltimore and BAF believed that single life was the better choice. But beginning in 2013, the two groups, each focused on different aspects of Baltimore Architecture, thought it a good idea to begin dating towards considering a more serious relationship. Over the past 3 years this has matured into a stronger “marriage” where each partner retains its essential identity while benefiting from the complementary talents/strengths of the other:  

  • Outreach: Doors Open Baltimore- this event in its 3rd  year has been tremendously successful in engaging an ever greater number of Baltimoreans to learn more about our city’s rich heritage of architectural gems, both historic and recently designed or repurposed. We had over 6,000 visits at 61 sites across the city.
  • Kids: Years ago BAF began a Kids in Design Program to bring an awareness of the Built Environment into Baltimore schools. Now the FAR (Future Architects Resources) committee continues this type of outreach with numerous STEM programs and Adopt-A-School where architectural firms partner with a local school to teach young people how good design can improve their neighborhood.
  • Scholarships: Between AIA and BAF there is now a treasure chest of these (worth ~$13,000 per year) to reward worthy students in ways that enrich their educational experience in pursuit of their futures in our profession.
  • Lectures: A variety of these are now offered to raise the quality of discourse about architecture throughout the year.
  • Awards: Again both groups have a cornucopia of categories that draw attention to excellence with respect to firms and individuals whose accomplishments are worthy of recognition
  • Exhibits: The Early Women in Architecture exhibit has been a strong vehicle in increasing awareness about these architectural pioneers throughout our state and beyond. This ground breaking research is also very likely to evolve into a future BAF book.
  • Staff: AIA Baltimore and BAF now share the same executive director and staff which has been instrumental towards achieving a now better focused intensity relative to all events.

One might see this new AIA/BAF partnership as a yin-yang relationship. AIA’s members benefit from BAF’s efforts to increase architectural literacy and appreciation by the general public of architecture and the important role architects play in fashioning the built environment. BAF benefits through the expertise and talents of AIA members (past and current) who have been responsible for creating the rich tapestry of Baltimore Architecture it is BAF’s mission to celebrate and preserve. Although both organizations have done this separately in the past, it is clear that together much more is being accomplished. This is truly a good example of 1+1 equaling a great deal more than 2.
So what is next in store for this architectural marriage? Having shattered the Big Sibs AIA membership number barrier, the potential of expanding BAF’s membership is now a very compelling potential goal. There are so many Baltimoreans among us who are interested in the arts. And it is quite common to hear from many others who “always wanted to be an architect.” It would be invigorating to bring their curiosity and fresh energy into the sphere of our conjoined organization as volunteers and BAF program/committee leaders. BAF is clearly the best vehicle for more directly involving the general public as active members. In this context, our plan for greater involvement in BAF may be the “secret weapon” to make this new surge in BAF engaged, volunteering members happen.
I would like to thank both Tracey Clark and Meg Fairfax Fielding for their very dedicated leadership of BAF over the past several years. Judging from past experience, BAF will benefit mightily from continued exceptional leadership and the more recent initiatives to inspire wide participation in new directions. Strap on your seat belts and get prepared for an exciting ride!
I look forward to hearing about your own perceptions/suggestions relative to the BAF/AIA Baltimore partnership. And I strongly welcome your direct involvement in making this already great marriage even better. Thanks in advance for all you will do to help with this important work in the year ahead.
I am honored by all so many dedicated members do for both BAF and our great AIABaltimore Chapter.
anthony sig
Anthony Consoli, AIA
President, AIABaltimore 2016
Campus Architect, University of Maryland Baltimore