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AIA Keynote Selection Sparks Concern

Tuesday, February 14, 2017

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The American Institute of Architects has added female architect keynote speakers to its 2017 National Convention lineup following outrage among dozens of architects, firms and design students.

Fifty design professionals sent a letter to the Architect’s Newspaper Thursday (Feb. 9), calling out the organization for the “lack of diversity” in its keynote speaker lineup. The signatories prompted the organization to consider selecting speakers more “reflective of the diversity in architecture.”

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The selection of speakers at the upcoming 2017 AIA National Convention sparked concern among dozens of architects, firms and architecture students.

The 2017 National Conference is scheduled for April 27-29 in Orlando.

The letter indicates that the institute's previously announced keynote lecturers were primarily male—with no female architects represented. The speakers annouced at that time included MASS Design Group co-founder Michael Murphy and 2016 Pritzker Prize winner Alejandro Aravena.

Keynote Additions

In a statement, AIA spokesperson Matt Tinder suggested that the letter and feedback, though appreciated, wasn't based on current information. He noted that keynote events at the conference take weeks to develop and can only be announced to the public after the details have been finalized.

Indeed, the institute added a new keynote on the conference’s third day, titled “Anticipate Change—What’s Next in Architecture,” featuring Nóra Demeter, Int’l. Assoc. AIA, of Demeter Design Studio; Michael Ford, Assoc. AIA, of BRANDNU DESIGN; and Cheryl McAfee, FAIA, of McAfee3.

Tinder also said that the AIA has a history of diverse keynote speakers.

Equity Report

The letter and keynote update come less than two weeks after the AIA’s Equity in Architecture Commission unveiled a report.

The commission said it worked for 14 months to identify the root causes for the lack of diversity and inclusion in the architecture profession and offered recommendations on how the AIA could work to address those issues.

“Our resolve and commitment to work toward a more diverse profession is a key value the Institute will not shy away from,” said 2017 AIA President Thomas Vonier, FAIA. “This report gives the AIA a solid framework to move closer to a more equitable and inclusive profession. In the months ahead, we look forward to implementing some of the recommendations put forth.”

The committee recommends making equity, diversity and inclusion a core value for the AIA board of directors, launching trainings and developing a position paper, as well as a creating a firm self-assessment tool to measure engagement with equity, diversity and inclusion principles.

In November, the organization issued a public apology and committed to boosting diversity within the profession following a controversial statement after the U.S. presidential election.


Tagged categories: American Institute of Architects (AIA); Architects; Architecture; Associations; Business matters; Color + Design; Conferences; Equality

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