Design Billings Up as AIA 2013 Begins
DENVER—The design business is back in positive territory after a scare, as thousands of architects and building professionals convened Thursday (June 21) for the 2013 American Institute of Architects National Convention and Design Exhibition.
AIA’s Architecture Billings Index, a key indicator of design and construction activity, reached 52.9 in May, up dramatically from a mark of 48.6 in April. The April dip was the first reversal into negative territory in 10 months, AIA noted.
The new project inquiry index was 59.1, up slightly from the reading of 58.5 the previous month.
Index scores above 50 indicate an aggregate increase in billings, while scores below 50 indicate a decline. The index provides a nine- to 12-month glimpse into the future of construction activity, AIA said.
'Resounding Sense of Uncertainty'
“This rebound is a good sign for the design and construction industry and hopefully means that April’s negative dip was a blip, rather than a sign of challenging times to come,” said Kermit Baker, AIA chief economist.
“But there is a resounding sense of uncertainty in the marketplace—from clients to investors and an overall lack of confidence in the general economy—that is continuing to act as a governor on the business development engine for architecture firms.”
The index’s regional averages were 53.7 for the Northeast, 52.1 for the West, 50.9 for the South, and 47.5 for the Midwest.
Index readings by sector were 52.8 multi-family residential, 52.2 for institutional, 51.0 for mixed practice and 47.5 for commercial/industrial.
Gold Medal Changes
The good news on the design front coincided with a controversial and significant change in the prestigious national AIA Gold Medal rules.
On Tuesday (June 18), AIA's national board of directors voted to allow the national medal—previously restricted to a single recipient—to be awarded to two individuals who practice together, Architectural Record reported.
The Gold Medal change came swiftly upon the heels of a decision by the jury of the Pritzker Architecture Prize to refuse to reconsider its 1991 decision to honor architect Robert Venturi and not his partner and collaborator Denise Scott Brown.
Partners Robert Venturi and Denise Scott Brown were rejected four times for AIA's prestigious Gold Medal because the award could be given only to an individual. A new amendment to the medal rules has changed that restriction.
A global online petition with thousands of signatures had sought to pressure the jury to retroactively name Scott Brown as a co-recipient of Venturi's Pritzker.
AIA's New York chapter led a fast-track charge to change the Gold Medal rules, outlining the proposal publicly only on June 4 at a luncheon honoring Scott Brown, chapter president Jill N. Lerner, FAIA, told Architectural Record.
“As the president of the largest chapter, I felt it was important for us to take the leading role in seeing this get accomplished,” Lerner said. “We got huge amounts of support from many chapters across the country.”
Scott Brown told the Record that she and her husband had applied four times for the Gold Medal but were always rejected because they worked as a couple.
The updated Gold Medal rule will take effect Jan. 1, 2014.
National Convention Opens
AIA's three-day national convention, themed “Building Leaders,” kicked off Thursday at the Colorado Convention Center.
Information on the conference and exhibition is available at AIA Convention.
Thousands of architects will attend more than 200 education seminars over the three-day convention in Denver, CO.
An online “Virtual Convention” experience is available for those who could not make the trek to the Mile High City.
Thousands of architects will attend more than 200 education seminars and over 50 networking and business events throughout the show. Further, AIA says more than 700 exhibitors are set to be on hand to offer one-on-one talks about technology and hands-on product demonstrations to the attendees.
Blake Mycoskie, the founder of TOMS and Chief Shoe Giver, commanded considerable attention at the convention as the opening keynote speaker.
In “Conscious Capitalism and the Future of Business,” Mycoskie offered his vision of humanitarian-based entrepreneurial leadership to the designers.
A corporate shoemaker who encourages the act of giving; an architect who challenges his profession to help those in need; and an elder statesman who has selflessly served others throughout his distinguished career are set to address architect members at the 2013 AIA National Convention.
“His insights… inspire us to be better leaders in our communities and firms,” according to AIA.
Also scheduled as keynote speakers for days two and three of the convention are Cameron Sinclair, co-founder of Architecture for Humanity; and General Colin L. Powell, USA (Ret.), former Secretary of State.
Sinclair will explore the “core passion of our profession—the desire to leave the world better than we found it,” in his address “Design Like You Give a Damn.”
General Powell will offer insights on the risks and rewards of being a leader in his presentation, “Leadership—Taking Charge.”
AIA says the lineup of "a corporate shoemaker who encourages the act of giving; an architect who challenges his profession to help those in need; and an elder statesman who has selflessly served others throughout his distinguished career" will help its members become better leaders who will build a better world—one project at a time.