As our culture becomes increasingly more interdependent, we recognize the benefits that interdisciplinary thinking brings to understanding and contributing to our society. As architects, we are naturally at an intersection of several disciplines including art, engineering, psychology and business. But to maintain our professional relevancy and grow our foothold in the built environment, we must build our partnership network. Over the last several years, AIA Baltimore has been focusing on building partnerships to broaden our reach and share synergy with likeminded organizations.
We have shared our Chapter House with Baltimore Heritage for decades, resulting in a strong partnership for advocacy and programming. Then, in 2014, we formally reunited with the Baltimore Architecture Foundation (BAF) with shared staff and offices. This year, we expanded our office to include another strong partner, the Urban Land Institute District Council of Baltimore (ULI). As we plan for the future Center for Architecture, we are building relationships that will result in more allied organizations co-locating and collaborating with us. While the Chapter House has been a practical home for our offices since 1988, it is time to move forward and join twenty of the larger AIA chapters in realizing a new parti for community outreach. The Center for Architecture will support us in growing engagement with our members, allied organizations and the public.
In joining forces with our partners, we are able to bring a more varied and deeper approach to community engagement. Our community’s challenges are intrinsically complicated and difficult to address; it is an obvious example of where interdisciplinary professionalism is required. As a profession, we are limited by the demographics of our profession. This applies today, just as it did fifty years ago when Whitney M. Young, Jr. delivered his powerful speech at the AIA National Convention, resulting in the founding of the Neighborhood Design Center (NDC) and similar community design organization.
With the 2018 Excellence in Design Awards, we are launching the inaugural Social Equity Design Award with NDC in recognition of the 50th Anniversary of Whitney M. Young, Jr.’s speech and NDC’s founding. This award will be judged on the following criteria: inclusivity; co-design; leadership; public space; economic opportunity; sustainability; community identity and history. The criteria appropriately reflect the design paradigm of this award, which is to recognize an equitable design process that results in a project with measurable social impact. It considers the engagement of the project stakeholders and how they influenced the design process. The Social Equity Design Award recognizes a project’s impact on the neighborhood’s access to public space and economic opportunity, while recognizing the community’s history and identity. Finally, the sustainability criteria go beyond design and construction to take into account the sustainability and resiliency of the surrounding community. By its criteria and the partnership between AIA Baltimore and NDC, the Social Equity Design Award embodies and recognizes projects that harness the talents of many to bring the best to communities that are often served with the least.
I am honored to be the President of this Chapter as we continue to evolve our culture to reflect our community and its needs.
Ann Powell, AIA, LEED AP BD+C