As We Start
The View from 2022 AIALA President Mitra Memari, AIA

Each AIALA president brings a unique perspective: mine starts thousands of miles, and many cultures away.

I am a child of a revolution. When I was 8 years old the governing regime in Iran changed in what was called the people’s movement by the people, for the people. So, perhaps, not so far from the ideals of the United States. The Shah’s monarchy, after ruling for decades, was removed with the hope of democracy and freedom.

At this early age, I became aware of the injustices and discrimination people faced due to their social and political views and took to the streets to shout out slogans of hope for the future of my country and people. In a sea of people, but protected by family, I raised my fist in the air with conviction with slogans such as “Independence, Freedom.”
Unfortunately, history had a different path for us: after the reality of the revolution settled, when people in power were dictating instead of creating democracy and the war with Iraq started, my family decided–for safety considerations–to immigrate to the United States. But my experiences emboldened me for a future of life challenges.

As an immigrant–even though I looked different, spoke with an accent, was the only woman and often was the youngest in the room–my experiences at 8 years old instilled in me a passion for ADVOCACY, RESILIENCY, and INCLUSIVITY and propelled my successful career in architecture.

Today, as a Partner at ZGF Architects, I strive to create a culture of belonging and personal value for everyone as we create meaningful human experiences with creative solutions for the built environment.

Although my story is unique, I represent many architects who didn’t think they originally had a place in this profession. I would like them to know that they do belong, and AIALA is here to help them on their journey. We all have unique stories. What brings us together is the empathy that we share through lived experiences.

Being part of AIALA has given me greater resources to be able to use my knowledge and experience to pay it forward. I feel a personal responsibility to be of service to others in our profession and community. The programs and events that AIALA puts together create the engagement and knowledge sharing opportunities to support our community.

As demonstrated through my early experiences, the presence of ADVOCACY in our communities is critical. AIALA is a conduit for you to become involved in the challenges our city faces by connecting with city officials and holding them accountable and responsible for the civic health of our neighborhoods. Never underestimate the value of your voice.

As design and technical professionals and thought leaders, we have the expertise to create solutions with the City of Los Angeles. The region will continue to confront issues such as climate change, a shortage of affordable housing, and racial injustice, all of which are impacted by the work we engage with daily. One particular opportunity for AIALA members is this year’s mayoral race. AIALA will host conversations with the potential candidates to provide understanding of their initiatives and how, as members of the architecture profession, we can bring our expertise to the solutions.

In RESILIENCY we see the human ability to accept adversity as part of life, and to step through and beyond it with courage and determination and trust. For the past 22 months we have all lived in an uncharted world of isolation, working from home, concerned about the wellbeing of ourselves and our loved ones. AIALA has been a constant and unwavering support to its members at large by continuing to provide programs through the dedication of committees and staff, as well as meaningful town halls as a forum for all of us to be heard. As we slowly walk into yet another new normal of hybrid work, AIALA will continue to make knowledge-exchange accessible to everyone.

RESILIENCY also extends to notions of practice. Creating agile, nimble, successful firms. A core focus of the AIALA Board of Directors, committees and staff is programming and expertise that are foundations for flourishing careers and offices. While these learning opportunities or conversations with experienced firm leaders and business-related experts are sometimes not quite as visible as other events, they are ongoing and extensive.

I recognize our interdependence and, through our resiliency, want to foster personal empowerment. You can join the discussion in March at the Encompass Conference where we focus on actualizing diversity and inclusiveness to advance the profession, generate opportunity, and better serve the demographics of the region.

I believe in creating a profession through EQUITY by acknowledging and accepting the existing inequities and different paths we have all taken, and by making room at the table for everyone. More importantly, we need to provide an environment where people who have differing backgrounds have an opportunity to have a voice and be heard. We want to continue to make everyone feel welcome at AIA Los Angeles and I want to hear from ALL our members on how we can, together, address the challenges and opportunities that your unique point of view perceives in the profession and in our city. This year there are uniquely talented women representing different minorities on the AIALA Executive Committee. We say what we mean by being representative of the city we live in.

Finally, one year is too short to accomplish a full agenda change and to generate impact on the scale of AIALA. I will be working directly with the 2023 AIALA President-elect, Leslie Sydnor, AIA, NOMA, who brings her own accomplishments to ensure that our mutually established goals carry over.

I invite you to get involved and to stay connected to our membership that is growing beyond 4,500 members. I encourage you to reach out to our current Board of Directors, if you are interested in getting involved but are not sure how or where to engage. We have 18 committees, each with a different focus that can be a place for you to contribute and learn.

With challenges come great opportunities, and we are stronger, more vibrant together!


Mitra Memari, AIA
2022 AIALA President