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Good Design | Applying the AIA Leadership Institute's Training in 2017

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Article by Damon Wilson, AIA

According to the AIA, “leadership training inspires designers to progressively advance into more complex leadership roles within our firms and communities.” After attending the AIA’s Leadership Institute in November, I began to reflect on the key messages and themes of the conference, as well as how to apply them at Bailey Edward. Internally, we talked about how the firm itself can grow and respond to trends in the AEC industry and exemplify the leadership discussed at the event.

The original five objectives of the AIA were cited with new descriptors:

  1. Aesthetics
  2. Sharing
  3. Service
  4. Engagement
  5. Activism

The evolution of the five original objectives represents a change in the architecture industry, as well as the AIA’s ability to recognize this change and lead by example. The shift is moving towards design with a purpose; to recognize the role architecture has for society. This principle aligns well with Bailey Edward’s vision to design for the social good. We have always promoted responsive architecture and engineering; accommodating for the client, the user, the site, the existing conditions, etc. Now, we more aggressively seek out projects and clients with a social responsibility; transforming the built environment for the social good. We address 21st century concerns, like climate change, obesity and wellness for example, with our clients to move towards a better society. Personally, an architect with an interest in learning environments, it has been uplifting to work with my K-12 and higher education clients to incorporate active-learning, flexibility, health, and sustainable design into our work.

Within the context of social responsibility, a leader embodies the following characteristics:

  • Empathy | To understand the needs of all involved parties, including clients, users as well as teaming partners.
  • Disruptive and Proactive | To be solely disruptive does not account for action and progress. A leader must take time to shape the future. As a LEED AP, I was pleased when Bailey Edward joined Architects Advocate for Climate Change, voicing our concerns as architects on the built environment and actively questioning policy in Washington, DC.
  • Vocal & Receptive | The future architectural leaders will not sit quietly, but will voice their opinions. Legacy leaders, or senior staff, must be open to these ideas and understand what is different in the world today and what the future may hold.
  • Impart | Leaders have the confidence to pay it forward; to keep momentum flowing and sharing their knowledge with others.

I’m lucky enough to work for a company that embodies leadership and pushes its employees to grow the architect’s role in shaping the design and construction industry. This year, one of the best examples would be a collaborative company-wide meeting the firm held to discuss a design competition addressing New York’s Affordable Housing Crisis. Our staff addressed the challenges; questioned opinions and solutions; introduced themes of neighborhood, community and home; delved into economic implications; incorporated sustainability, health and societal principles; and offered their own expertise to the team to provide different perspectives. This meeting was a great example of leadership in practice. I know our company and employees will continue on this path and I encourage other firms to share these leadership practices within their firms as well.