What We Learned at Grassroots 2022

Takeaways from the AIA Pittsburgh Board President & YAF Chair

Each year AIA holds Grassroots, a leadership conference for chapters and components designed to support and strengthen AIA’s leaders at all levels. This year’s event covered topics such as climate action, human and ecological health, racial, ethnic, and gender equity, and generational divides. Two leaders from the AIA Pittsburgh community – Board President Bea Spolidoro, AIA and Young Architects Forum Chair Greg Coni, AIA attended the 2022 AIA Grassroots conference and brought back some of their key takeaways to share with AIA Pittsburgh membership. Read on to find out what they learned! Bea’s takeaways on leadership, economics, generational gaps, zero net energy buildings, and prioritizing mental health: Become the leader you’d want to follow by leading with compassion, listening to your teammates, trying...

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Architects Speak Out for Good Design: Fern Hollow Bridge

By Brigid Moser Posted on March 4, 2022

In the aftermath of the startling collapse of the Fern Hollow Bridge in January of this year, local architects are speaking out about the importance of good design. The sight of the bridge crumbled into the ravine below was a shock to Pittsburgh and beyond, but architects quickly took the opportunity to advocate for a well-designed bridge as a critical part of rebuild considerations. Over the past month, Pittsburgh buzzed with speculation on what this event revealed about the state of infrastructure in our city. The loss of this major roadway opened up a Pandora’s box of concerns. As traffic is rerouted to neighboring areas, the influx of vehicles presents residents with new safety issues and disruptions to their daily routines....

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Book Review: Place-Specific Design: Architecture for Visible Sustainability

By F. Jeffrey Murray, FAIA

Valeriano Zarro, AIA tells us Place-Specific Design: Architecture for Visible Sustainability is a ‘guidebook’ for architects and architectural students who are interested in sustaining the cultural and ecological specificity of place. Extensively illustrated examples comprise more than half of this relatively short and manageable book, with a preface by Finnish architect Juhani Pallasmaa. Zarro – a former Pittsburgh architect who ran a popular cafe on the South Side in the 1990s – offers several fresh insights on an increasingly common theme within our profession, namely making architecture that integrates ideas about 1] localized place-specific character, 2] multi-dimensional user wellbeing ,and 3] sustainability in terms of both nature and culture. The book includes 3 distinct parts: the aforementioned architectural examples, Zarro’s...

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Grassroots 2020: The Big Takeaways

Grassroots 2020: The Big Takeaways

By Michelle Fanzo Posted on February 28, 2020

Every year AIA holds a national gathering for Chapter and Component leaders – the Grassroots Leadership Conference. This year, four AIA Pittsburgh members and one staff attended the event, held February 18-20 in New Orleans. This year’s agenda emphasized an increased commitment to sustainability, equity and civic leadership. Asserting a leadership role President-Elect, Peter Exley, FAIA acknowledged the implications of being in New Orleans, a city that became synonymous with a new normal of more extreme and more frequent storms driven by climate changes. “This is our leadership moment, and it comes with the most important deadline of our careers.” Exley highlighted four ways architects can lead: Mitigating GHG sources and owning the footprint buildings have in cities/ regions Adapting...

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She Drew While Designing and Designed While Drawing

Review of Lina Bo Bardi Draws at the Heinz Architectural Center

By Robyn Engel AIA Posted on February 20, 2020

Lina Bo Bardi, L’ombra della sera, 1965 Lina Bo Bardi was a vivid, new name to me prior to exploring the phenomenal exhibit brought to the Carnegie Museum of Art by the Heinz Architectural Center. Learning about her and her impressive oeuvre, however, imparted upon me a sense of awe and gratitude. The sheer span and depth of her portfolio is stunning, all saturated with color and conceptually vibrant. She was a true Renaissance designer and her work feels effortless and radiant, regardless of subject: from stage sets to chairs, to buildings. The collection, beautifully curated by Zeuler R. Lima, unfolds with such tenderness and attention to detail, that each showcased piece feels valued – by curator, and by creator. Influenced by...

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Palaces for the People

How Social Infrastructure Can Help Fight Inequality, Polarization, and the Decline of Civic Life

By Emily Pierson-Brown, AIA Posted on September 12, 2019

Palaces for the People cover.  Image courtesy Penguin Random House. On the same day I received Palaces for the People to review, I wandered through the Carnegie Library Downtown & Business on my lunch hour. A whiteboard faced the front door advertising the month’s events. Book clubs, reading lists, support groups. Men and women in suits mingled with the less well-heeled to browse the new book tables and utilize the free WiFi. In Palaces for the People, Eric Klinenberg (who also authored a previous work of social history chronicling the Chicago heat wave of 1995 that inspired this book) advocates for stronger “social infrastructure,” of which the library is a prime example. The author defines social infrastructure as “the physical...

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The Many Meanings of Architecture

By F. Jeffrey Murray, FAIA Posted on July 11, 2019

Mount Angel Abbey Library in Saint Benedict, Oregon.  Alvar Aalto, 1970 There have been many definitions of ‘architecture’; mostly written by and for architects. What matters to me is what non-architects think of architecture. Over my nearly five decades in architecture (education plus practice), I’ve recognized five fundamental definitions or meanings of architecture held by non-architects. Architecture as consumer product; about style, fashion, and entertainment (embraced by most media, and most media influenced public, and I suspect most of the public are deeply media influenced). Architecture as real estate; an investment product (embraced by real estate brokers, developers, investors, business media and most building owners). Architecture as useful tool; minimal functional shelter (embraced by many builders, engineers, and facility managers)....

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Book Review

“I Like an Arch”

Review of You Say to Brick: The Life of Louis Kahn

By Robert Bailey, AIA Posted on May 7, 2019

Image courtesy Macmillan Several biographies of Louis Kahn have been written in the 21st century, but Wendy Lesser’s may be the most compelling. Lesser, a writer, critic and editor in the arts, founded the literary magazine The Threepenny Review, and has published both fiction and nonfiction. Lesser authored Music for Silenced Voices: Shostakovich and His Fifteen Quartets, a narrative in which the quartets guide the reader through the composer’s life The Life of Louis Kahn is her first book with an architectural subject. Kahn’s story is interspersed with chapters describing what it’s like to visit five of his greatest buildings: Salk Institute for Biological Studies, Kimbell Art Museum, Phillips Exeter Library, National Assembly Building of Bangladesh, and Indian Institute of...

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Grassroots Alignment

It Is Through Engagement That We Demonstrate the Value of Architects and Architecture.

By Michael Gwin, AIA and Michelle Fanzo Posted on March 23, 2018

Dear AIA Members and Friends, While participating this month in the annual AIA Grassroots 2018 Conference – where chapters across the country gather with AIA National – we saw strong alignment between the conversations here in Pittsburgh and conversations across the profession. The way we all live and work is transforming at a rapid pace. In response, architects throughout the US are creatively addressing issues of climate resiliency, affordable housing, equity, diversity, evolving technology, and generational shifts within the profession. Now more than ever an architect’s skills, systems-thinking and visionary planning can make a positive impact on society and the world. One speaker at the conference called architects’ super-power “the ability to vision what isn’t there yet”. Another said architects...

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Photo Tour of the Pennsylvania State Capitol Building

Views of the Pennsylvania State Capitol Building During Architects Action Day

By Raymond Bowman, Assoc. AIA Posted on June 7, 2017

Reposted in its entirety from Ray Bowman’s blog RMB-Design: Architecture Made Accessible. As I mentioned last year, I’m doing more and more with the American Institute of Architects (the AIA), both locally, regionally and nationally. It’s part of the reason that I don’t blog about things until months after I do them anymore. One important role of the AIA is to advocate for all architects and support legislation that is supportive for the profession. That’s why the organization moved its headquarters to Washington, D.C. from New York City 50 years ago, to have a louder voice in influencing national legislation. But all politics is local, which is why regional and local chapters of the AIA organize their own lobbying days. Pennsylvania’s...

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