By John Ryan, AIA, Immediate Past President
One year reaches its closing, and a new one begins. It’s a rite of passage, yet ever new. A friend noted recently that this March will mark four years since the beginning of the Covid lockdown. It stopped me dead in my tracks, “could this really be true? Four years!”
Part of the disbelief in that reaction may be the acknowledgement that 2023 was really our first full year of a return to “normalcy” for the entirety of the calendar year. This is true for our society, our profession and for our Pittsburgh chapter of the AIA. A key indicator for this has been the attendance at our signature events, trending back toward historic norms and nearing the attendance levels in 2019.
Build Pittsburgh, our annual day of education last April featured:
- 300+ attendees
- 34 exhibitors
- 19 courses, 3 Lunch & Learn sessions and 1 inspiring keynote address
The keynote by Illya Azaroff, founding Principal of +Lab Architect, focused on our responsibilities as architects for resilient design and featured one of the more memorable lines of 2023:
“Sustainability can be more than just making buildings less bad.”
Design Pittsburgh, our annual design showcase featured:
- Nearly 400 attendees
- 64 submissions, 13 awards, juried by AIA Buffalo
Our 2nd Annual Pittsburgh Architecture Week featured 12 programs across 8 days and continues to provide excellent media coverage and exposure for the work of our professional community. Featured events included:
- Pecha Kucha Night
- Architects panel on the Future of Downtown
- NOMA panel on inclusive revitalization
- Open Studio Crawl in Bloomfield-Garfield
We move on from the “Covid era” having managed the turbulence of this period with grace, collaboration and fiscal prudence. Our organization is financially strong as we have worked in recent years to establish a reserve fund equal to our operating budget for a 6+ month timeframe, in keeping with industry best practices. We also invested a significant portion of this fund in a high yield money market account, taking advantage of current market interest rates.
Membership in our profession and organization continues to grow, with 9 newly registered architects, and 49 new members of our chapter in 2023.
Equally important, membership in our profession and organization continues to grow, with 9 newly registered architects, and 49 new members of our chapter in 2023. Past President Maureen Guttman was elevated to the College of Fellows, expanding our FAIA cohort in the Pittsburgh region to 23. And multiple members of our chapter were recognized with state level award recognition by AIA PA.
In 2023 we continued to advocate for issues that members have said were important to them, including influencing changes at the City’s Department of Permits, Licensing and Inspections. We continued to build relationships with City officials last year, and in December welcomed Kevin Kunak of City Planning to our Board as a Public Director. In the year ahead we look forward to building more relationships with Allegheny County officials, including the new County Executive and her staff.
We recognize the future of architecture is changing, as well it should, since design practice should never become stagnant. Our future strength will be marked by our collaboration with our partner architectural organizations. NOMA, the Minority Architects of Pittsburgh Scholarship (MAPS) program, NOMAS and AIAS all have shared interests in the inclusivity and diversity of our profession, for to meet the design challenges of tomorrow, we need all voices of design present at the table.
Buildings will become ever more complex with more opportunities for systems integration, and new ways to document their construction. Collaboration with our consulting and engineering partners, including our AIA Allied members, is critical to the success of our building designs. Our clients continue to provide vision and resources for the growth of our regional community.
Our contractor partners, through their craftsmanship and attention to detail, are responsible for the beauty of our finished designs and the rich architectural history of Pittsburgh and southwestern Pennsylvania. I often think of a construction site as a marketplace. It is one of my favorite places to be for the thrum of activity, and the palpable sense of energy. It has its own economy and identity. It is a place where relationships are forged, and where knowledge is passed down through the generations.
Design and construction are inherently an act of optimism, of belief in the future.
Design and construction are inherently an act of optimism, of belief in the future. It is the work of many hands, and the work of our lives. We know that we can’t achieve our visions solely on our own, and we are grateful to our sponsors and industry partners for your collaboration and faith in our shared relationships and investment in this industry.
AIA Pittsburgh continues to build fellowship across our community, to advocate for great design, and engage with our civic community for mutual success in project development and equitable growth. AIA Pittsburgh amplifies the work of our profession and provides a community of support to continually strive for design and architecture that reflect our human spirit and love for this city and region. We can do even more when more members get involved. Help us realize that vision in this, our 125th Anniversary year, and together let’s see what the future will bring.