more than 600 citizen-architects are lobbying on Capitol Hill in Washington, D.C., to advocate for public policies that promote school safety and improved energy saving in buildings across the United States.
As part of Grassroots 2019, an annual conference for AIA chapter leaders, these architects will meet with 135 members of Congress and 197 Congressional staff spanning 358 House districts in all 50 states. This event comes after the AIA has become more vocal in recent years about amping up architects’ role in policymaking. Under 2018 AIA President Carl Elefante’s leadership, the organization pushed for members to take a seat at the table by getting involved with local efforts to create safer, healthier, and more equitable cities.
Through both the individual efforts of its members as “architect-activists” and the overarching authority of the AIA itself, the group has put more stake into the public realm than ever before. From most recently coming out in support of Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez’s Green New Deal, to proposing legislative ideas that ensure safe school design to senior cabinet members at the White House, the AIA has not been shy about making sure elected leaders hear from architectural experts regarding some of the country’s biggest problems. In November, the organization outlined six key issues it would address with the new Congress in 2019, two of which are being tackled on the Hill today.
Of course, not all of the AIA’s outspoken moments have satisfied all of its members. At times, people have taken to social media and other venues to oppose the national group, or to castigate the group for staying silent on design-oriented national issues.
In recent months, however, the organization has seemed to be more committed to political advocacy. Today’s collective meetings bring AIA representatives from across the country—real, diverse practioners—to D.C. to share their experience both living and working in the built environment. Not only that, but hundreds of local architects are also meeting with state officials to discuss these issues while others are using the AIA’s virtual portal to express their voices.
By SYDNEY FRANKLIN • March 6, 2019