|01/2006||1887-1896: A Decade of Outreach, Inclusiveness, and Internationalism
by Tony Wrenn, Hon. AIA
Although architects from all parts of the country joined the Institute and there were chapters from New England to the West Coast by 1887, not all architects were comfortable with the New York City-based organization. Midwesterners especially were under-represented in membership and leadership positions within the AIA. Not well known to the Easterners, they were likely to be admitted by AIA trustees as Associate members, though after they had proven themselves, they might be advanced to Fellow.
In 1884, the Midwesterners, at a called meeting in Chicago attended by some 100 architects from 14 Midwestern states, had formed a Western Association of Architects (WAA). Members were elected by the membership, and there was but one category, Fellow. The WAA governing body was a businesslike board of directors, but the WAA was as unrepresentative of architects nationwide as was the AIA. The building boom then under way in Chicago, and the concentration of architects in that city, made it a strong rival to New York, and Chicagoans dominated the WAA as New Yorkers did the AIA. Many architects were members of both the AIA and the WAA and attended both conventions, so each organization was aware of the aims and activities of the other.
Even with talk of a merger and appointment of the suggested committee, AIA Trustees still seemed unable to accept the WAA as its equal. When, in January 1888, the secretary of the WAA twice wrote the AIA inviting correspondence & enclosing a list of officers..., the AIA secretary replied with an invitation to the Association to apply for admission as a chapter of the AIA. Still, in 1888, members of both organizations voted to consolidate.
She reapplied, sending specifications for P. Hoffmans Millinery House, along with blueprints of it and of Buffalo Police Station No. 2, Buffalo School No. 4, and four residences, and a set of tracings and one pen and ink drawing of a fifth residence. Trustee Minutes for April 4, 1888, note the application, from Mrs. Louise Bethune, of Buffalo, N.Y. dated March 12th 1888, a practitioner for 12 years, proposed by Mr. G. W. Rapp & the Secy [Bloor]. Also communications recommending her for membership from Mr. Sidney Smith of Omaha, Neb, Prest W.A.A. of March 15th 1888 & from Mr. G. W. Rapp, of Cincinnati, of March 23rd 1888, recommending her for Fellowship. Also specifications & blue prints of executed work from drawings of her personal execution. The minutes note that after some discussion Mrs. Bethune was elected an Associate.
Titles indicating gender had never before been necessary in the minutes for all previous applicants and endorsers had been men. Though the AIA discussion is not reported, Inland Architect and Builder (IAB) did report, in 1885, on her election to the WAA. Names of prospective members had been read to Convention attendees, and, on motion, all prospective gentlemen were voted in. That motion clearly did not admit Bethune, also an applicant, and the general question of women as members and of Bethune as the first woman member was later discussed. It is said that in the discussion a WAA member noted that the question is not whether the architect is a lady, but whether the lady is an architect. IAB reported that one member said If the lady is practicing architecture and is in good standing, there is no reason why she should not be one of us, and she was admitted to the WAA. In spite of the fact that gender barriers to membership were dropped in 1888, even today women in the profession are under-represented among AIA members.
An 1892 report to the Board noted: 4 new chapters have been organized; seven new charters have been granted; eleven fellows have been admitted to membership; one fellow has resigned; five fellows have died; showing a net increase of six fellows and making the member of the Institute at the present data as follows: Number of Chapters, 26; Number of Fellows, 475; Number of Honorary Members [non architects] 81; Number of Corresponding members [foreign architects], 67. In its fourth decade, AIA membership climbed above 400. Still, Dankmar Adler mused, When cross-examined we are compelled to admit that the membership of the Institute as probably less than 1/6, perhaps less than 1/8, perhaps less than even 1/10 of the members of our profession in the country.
The fairest of
Indeed, the Worlds Columbian Exposition changed the manner in which the public viewed architecture, landscape architecture, city planning, and related arts, ushering in the City Beautiful movement, which would sweep America and be noted abroad. Dankmar Adler, who had witnessed work at the fair from its beginning, told the October 1892 AIA Convention in Chicago that, Probably there is not one among you who saw these grounds but eighteen months ago who would have thought at that time that it would be practicable to accomplish one-half of what has been done ... I did not believe it possible, that this work could be accomplished on the scale of magnitude and quality upon which it has been done, and in the time.
Adler continued, I think it is something upon which we all should look with pride, to know that we have among us artists who have designed these great buildings ... For this prominent example will be followed again and again, and the authorities who have in their charge public works will have to fall back upon it as a precedent, and can no longer place the architect upon the plane of a mere employee not worthy of recognition for the work he has done because he is paid for it. The fact is that upon this occasion, architects, sculptors, painters, engineers, all who have assisted in the great work, receive public recognition, and receive a recognition before all the world such as has never before in America been awarded them for work performed, in a manner that is bound to be followed by the managers of other public enterprises.
Indeed, the great White City of monumental buildings, all painted white, viewed amid masses of landscape green and the blue of created lagoons with Lake Michigan itself beyond, lived up to expectations. It opened on May 1, 1893, answering Eiffels tower at the 1889 Exposition Universelle in Paris, with engineer George Ferris massive wheel. On October 9, 1893, 751,026 persons attended, more people than had attended any single day of any peaceable event in history, according to Erik Larson, in The Devil in the White City. Larson continues: The fair taught men and women steeped only in the necessary to see that cities did not have to be dark, soiled, and unsafe bastions of the strictly pragmatic. They could be beautiful.
The Chicago fair was such an international success that MacVickar Anderson, president of the Royal Institute of British Architects (RIBA), would, as reported in American Architect and Building News in 1893, label it the most wondrous development that international exhibitions have ever reached, or perhaps, are ever likely to attain.
It is indeed, the highest which we are graciously permitted to offer to the most illustrious architects of the world, and we indulge the hope that our American brethren will recognize in this royal gift which we are privileged to present to their most eminent representative, the embodiment of the hearty good will, the sincere respect, and the ardent admiration with which they are regarded by the architects of the Old World.
Hunt responded I accept it, and am proud of it, proud of it for my country, for, in accepting it, I accept it not altogether as a personal distinction or a personal honor, but as an honor conferred upon the whole profession in the United States, in which light it is so regarded on the other side.
Meanwhile, at the end of July 1893, at its 27th Convention in Chicago at the Worlds Columbian Exposition, the AIA hosted a Worlds Congress of Architects. Formally opened on July 31, it ran for five days. At the first session, Daniel Burnham spoke on the history and organization of the fair, stressing architecture and construction, and F. L. Olmsted presented a paper on the general scheme and plan of the fair. These were followed by papers on transportation, electricity, and power at the exposition. Architects from Japan, France, and England and other Americans made formal presentations and discussed papers presented. The AIA printed the proceedings of the Worlds Congress as a supplement to the AIA Convention proceedings, thus projecting the AIA onto the international scene and buttressing the international renown already earned by architects of the Worlds Columbian Exposition and RIBAs award of the Gold Medal to Hunt, the first such international recognition of an American architect.
home in the nations capital?
The fourth decade would end with the move being considered. The fifth decade would begin with its being decided, a decision which insured an extended Golden Age for the Institute, for architects, and for Washington, D.C. Begun with the formation of the Washington Chapter in 1887 and, brightened by the international success of the Worlds Columbian Exposition in Chicago in 1892-93, the AIAs Golden Age would run for some 30 years.
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