In 2017, the American Institute of Architects celebrated its 160th birthday. The industry and the institution that represents it have come a long ways over that time span. But the basic principles on which the founders based the organization have proven to be timeless. In the United States, the public’s confidence in the built environment is, perhaps, as high as its ever been. The fact that so few catastrophes relating to the quality of buildings and their design happen in a country so vast is testament to the extreme efficacy with which the American Institute of Architects has executed its mission.
The AIA today
Today, the American Institute of Architects is the de facto model for all such organizations across the globe. It serves as a standard bearer and as a model of ethical uprightness, showing the world what is possible with high standards and ethics. The institution has maintained the rigor and professionalism of the American architectural industry at a level that has been unsurpassed throughout the history of its existence.
All of this has resulted in America becoming the soil upon which the most important architectural schools of the last 150 years have planted their seed and grown to fruition. Even schools that did not originate in the United States, such as Neoclassicism, Beaux Arts and Art Deco, have found their wings in cities across the United States, particularly in the high grandeur of the skyscrapers in cities like Detroit, New York and Chicago. Other schools of architecture, such as the Victorian and Italianate styles that were so popular with wealthy home owners throughout the second half of the 19th century, can almost be fully credited as uniquely American creations, at least in their specific implementations. All of this was made possible by having a strong professional organization that instilled confidence in the public and ensured that the country’s top talent was both recognized and promoted.
The American Institute of Architects is, today, run by renowned architect, scholar and biographer Robert Ivy. During his tenure, the organization has continued to expand, today counting over 90,000 members in its ranks. The institution bequeaths fellowships and awards, with the position of Fellow and the AIA Gold Medal respectively being its highest honors. All of the most brilliant luminaries of American architecture have been high ranking members in the institution, including such names as Frank Lloyed Wright, Daniel Burnham and William LeBaron Jenney