From the Desk of Greg Verabian, AIA
2020 AIA|LA President Shares His Outlook for the Year

For many of us, the new year is about the future, whether it relates to goals for work or more personal aspirations. New Year’s is optimism. An outlook that fits the role of the architect and the creativity that we deliver to clients.

For me, this year, the holiday time off (which seems months away at this point, rather than three weeks ago) also connected more than ten years of my past life with one year of future. My tenure as the 2020 AIA|LA President was about to begin; I had become involved in the organization more than a decade earlier as a volunteer on the Design Awards Committee, then served as a board member, treasurer, and vice-president.

When I originally joined the board, the intent of the organization was similar what it stands for now: to serve members, to advance the profession, to advocate on behalf of the field, and to contribute to the region. But the composition of the AIA|LA Board of Directors, itself, has changed, expanding in terms of racial and gender diversity, firm types—more small and medium-size practices—and even in terms of the roles our board members play within the profession.

New technologies have the potential to reduce the size of the workforce and the types of services and perhaps products we will provide, but the intuitive creativity architects possess is not replicable. Our intellectual property!

What is intuitive creativity? Depth of experience coupled with an individual architect’s aesthetic, vision, and problem-solving capabilities. These innate talents cannot be replicated in the value they hold for clients and society. That’s why I am optimistic about the future of the field and why I consistently encourage the next generation to enter it. It’s also why I, like so many of you, practice architecture: to improve the places that people live in, work in, or look at—it is an optimistic pursuit.

Our membership numbers are increasing. This is an outgrowth of the economy, yes, but also, I believe, reflective of board members who represent different relationships to the built environment. This variety demonstrates our value.

For me, as your president, this diversity is critical, as it offers a more direct opportunity to address a wider variety of member interests, needs, and challenges. I do not seek to execute a personal agenda as President this year, but rather to advance the institutional health of the organization. What are my tactics?

One is to increase financial security in order to allow the Chapter to:

+ continue programming that takes deep dives into areas that members have targeted as priorities, such as climate change and homelessness
+ secure national figures for conferences and juries
+ and produce panels, workshops and other opportunities that support practices and members.

The Chapter is on a strong trajectory in terms of financial stability, program expansion, and membership numbers, but 2020 holds a unique opportunity to increase the latter.

The AIA Conference on Architecture, A’20, in Los Angeles, from May 14 – 16, is a platform to expand our membership base. One of my goals is to foster volunteer involvement because it exposes potential members to the resources, activities, and benefits the AIA|LA offers.

As a side note, I encourage all current members to take advantage of our position as A’20 Host Chapter.

Without paying for plane fare or hotel, Los Angeles members can enjoy conference programming: stellar keynotes, learning opportunities (and learning units!) and a chance to catch up with colleagues and friends from around the country. Lowering the price further, registration is free to those who volunteer as docents for tours or to assist with special events. (Leading tours also provides opportunities to present Los Angeles architecture to members and visitors from across the country.)

A final word on A’20: the Chapter has developed an extensive series of tours and special events. While we may believe we know these local designs well, don’t take them for granted. Invite colleagues or friends to view work that your firm has been involved in, and accompany them to share greater insight or see the city in new ways. Enjoy the evening programming we are planning, which often provides access (and an experience) which is not typically available.

At the AIA|LA, as at your own office, planning for the future has given way to actualizing it—the first major conference of the year, the AIA|LA Committee on the Environment’s 2°C, A Symposium on Climate Change, takes place Friday, February 7. I hope to see you there. At my own firm, HKS, reducing carbon emission is a core value. We are signatories to National’s 2030 Commitment; and we support other firms’ involvement by contributing to AIA|LA hosted panels and discussions.

Members have attested to the relevance of AIA|LA conferences through high attendance numbers and the contribution of actionable strategies during lunch time roundtables. The AIA|LA already has a highly active advocacy profile, but in 2020, we can more actively transform the member conversations from conferences into action.

A key tool we have at our disposal is Legislative Day. What goals can be turned into specific asks at Legislative Day? In particular, actionable items developed at Design for Dignity, the AIA|LA conference on homelessness and housing, should be the basis for advocacy-related asks. Our meetings with elected officials should be organized around these specific actions: ‘this is what the profession believes,’ ‘this is where our expertise can help you,’ but more importantly, an ASK: ‘this is where we need your help.’

Legislative Day is in October, but the future is already here. I look forward to enacting it with you in 2020.

Greg Verabian, AIA
2020 AIA|LA President