AIArchitectInstititute News
12/2006 1987-1996 Technology, Diversity, and Expansion

by Tony P. Wrenn, Hon. AIA
Contributing Editor

Summary: 1987 heralded a decade of public outreach, as the Institute joined with world leaders—Presidents Reagan, Bush, and Clinton and Prince Charles—in acknowledging the public power and promise of architecture. It also marked the centennial celebration of the first woman member of the AIA, Louise Bethune; the first woman president of the AIA, Susan Maxman, FAIA; and the first woman chancellor of the College of Fellows, L. Jane Hastings, FAIA. The decade saw the AIA embracing diversity in a broader sense, also, in the form of a national diversity conference. This also was the time when the AIA was heavily involved in the passage of the Americans with Disabilities Act—and used advance teleconferencing techniques to support its implementation—and became an ardent supporter of the Greening of the White House, antismoking legislation, and health-care reform.


As the decade begins and the Institute increased efforts to involve the public in architecture, a handsome booklet, The American Institute of Architects: The Organization’s Role, History, and Activities, suggested that “more than any other art form, architecture touches our lives. We live, work and play in and around buildings. And all these buildings affect our health, safety, and well-being. Architects shape our environment.” The booklet covers Institute history, 1857-1987, in three paragraphs, stressing that “Today, architecture is a respected profession” of some 44,000 men and women in almost 300 state societies and chapters stretching from Maine to Guam.”

The Octagon, separated from the Institute’s Modern seven-story headquarters by a quiet garden, “restored to the elegance of its original design,” is open to the public without charge, the booklet continues, and enumerates other AIA advantages: “the AIA’s library and, by appointment, its archives, which houses one of America’s most valuable collections of architectural books, manuscripts, photographs, and drawings”; AIA Honor Awards, “the profession’s highest acknowledgment of design excellence,” intended to recognize and encourage good design; Regional/Urban Design Assistance Teams (R/UDAT) and Quality Environmental Study Teams (QUEST) available to local communities to encourage use of existing resources and analyze forces that produce successful urban areas; support of policy issues, “at every level of government, that affect the natural and built environment”; and publication of Architecture magazine, available, with other architectural publications and objects with an architectural theme, from the AIA Bookstore. Public queries were invited.

A decade of public outreach
1987 also began a decade of outreach. The first public unveiling of the design for the Ronald Reagan Presidential Library was made on January 28 at the kickoff of Grassroots ’87, in Washington. Grassroots, a leadership training conference, annually brings staff and officers of AIA chapters and state societies to Washington. In 1987, Hugh A. Stubbins Jr., FAIA, architect of the Reagan Library, was present to introduce the library design. In a taped message from the White House, President Reagan told attendees “I am very happy to join the long line of presidents who have renewed a relationship with the American Institute of Architects. The AIA has been instrumental in ensuring that the nation’s capital remains true to its historic traditions and its special place in the hearts of Americans. From your work on the Master Plans for the Mall and the Capitol to your stewardship of the Octagon, to your fight to restore the West Front of the U.S. Capitol, you have served the public interest with distinction.” Reagan told his listeners “Whenever I return to the White House by helicopter ... I ... feel the power of architecture to inspire and delight.”

New editions of 12 standard construction documents were issued in 1987, representing “the most intense and comprehensive drafting effort in the AIA’s 130-year history.” Although these were of particular interests to architects, their clients, and builders, the public was not ignored. America by Design, a five-part public-television series, looked at houses, workplaces, streets, public places, monuments, and the land itself “as one design, made out of whole cloth, continuous over time and geography.” Hosted by architectural historian Spiro Kostof, America by Design was three years in the making. In segments from 30 states, it investigated how “we mark the land with farms and cities and highways, and what ... these patterns say about us—who we are, where we have come from, and where we are going.”

Envisioning livable cities
In March 1988, the AIA and the Royal Institute of British Architects (RIBA) hosted a “Remaking Cities” conference in Philadelphia. There, AIA President Ted A. Pappas, FAIA, said “The challenge is for architects to get out of their offices and into the community. The challenge for the community is to stop waiting for a white knight or a ‘master builder,’ and take charge of its own future ... Unless the hands of our neighbors are on our pencils, our art will always be on the periphery of community life.” RIBA President Roderick P. Hackney also stressed the need for public/private partnerships. “The challenge is to re-equip and use as a resource the energy and enthusiasm of ordinary people waiting to be given new confidence, new aims, and aspirations to live, work, and invest.”

Prince Charles, heir to the British throne, addressed the closing conference session: “If we help to recreate places where people can walk in comfort and security and can look about and be entertained by buildings that are tuned to the eye, and if we encourage a renaissance of craftsmanship and the art of embellishing buildings for man’s pleasure and for the sheer joy in beauty itself—as opposed to mere functionalism—then we shall have made our cities the centers of civilization once again.”

As a part of a Vision 2000 effort, the AIA commissioned pollster Louis Harris to assess public attitudes. When asked to express confidence in professions, the public ranked architects in second place, behind doctors, and those polled identified “designing cities that are livable,” as the most important contribution architects can make in the next century. “There are high expectations here,” Harris said. “Seize them.” At a Vision 2000 conference, attended by some 300 architects, educators, social scientists, journalists, and other professionals, participants explored technological innovation, changing human values and global economic realities and creating livable cities. Daniel Boorstin, former Librarian of Congress, in his keynote address, identified architects’ prophecies as “embodied in stone.” The architect needed more than floor plans, he suggested, he needed “time plans. As a performer on the stage of time, the architect must predict the future. He must consciously build receptacles for new functions.” Yet Boorstin stressed that new monumental buildings whose beauty and function transcend time still were needed, along with preservation of existing buildings to “provide ties to our past.”

The exceptional ones
1988 marked the centennial of the election of the first woman member of the AIA, Louise Blanchard Bethune, FAIA, of Buffalo. A prominent architect with a successful practice, Bethune was also a campaigner for women’s rights. Her election centennial was celebrated with an exhibition “That Exceptional One: Women in American Architecture, 1888-1988,” which opened to members and guests at the AIA convention in New York in May, and to the general public at AIA headquarters in Washington in September. It later traveled to Boston and, over the next three years, to a number of other U.S. venues, before being retired to the International Archives of Women in Architecture (IAWA) at Virginia Polytechnic Institute, in Blacksburg, Va., along with the notes, graphics, and other materials gathered as the exhibit was being planned. Accompanying the historic exhibit was a contemporary exhibit titled “And Many More: Women in American Architecture, 1978-1988.”

The exhibit title came from an article on architecture students written by AIA Gold Medalist Pietro Belluschi, FAIA, in 1955. He could not, he wrote, in “whole conscience recommend architecture as a profession for girls. I know some women who have done well at it, but the obstacles are so great that it takes an exceptional girl to make a go of it. If she insisted on becoming an architect, I would try to dissuade her. If then, she was still determined, I would give her my blessing ... she could be that exceptional one.”

Membership records in the AIA Archives were combed to identify women architects of the 1888-1988 era, and the list appeared in the exhibition catalog. Contacts made during the creation of a women in architecture collection at the AIA led to publication of Architecture: A Place for Women, edited by Ellen Perry Berkeley and Matilda McQuaid, a series of essays on women in architecture published by the Smithsonian Institution Press in 1989. That work remains a major source of data on women in architecture, while the IAWA and AIA Archives collections remain the two major American sources of information on the subject.

Celebrations and anniversaries
In December 1987, Architecture, published in house under various names since it began publication in 1913, celebrated its 75th year with an issue that looked at the evolution of architectural publishing and of architecture during the 75 years. Two months later, the Institute announced sale of its publishing rights to Billboard Publications. Architecture would continue to be published in Washington, though not in house, and would remain the official magazine of the AIA for the next decade.

The AIA Historic Resources Committee (HRC), under various names, turned 100 in 1990, the oldest continuously operating AIA committee. The HRC celebrated with a three-day conference, “The Role of the Architect in Historic Preservation: Past, Present, and Future.” Some 40 scholars, educators, architects, and preservationists presented papers or participated in panel discussions. Earlier, the AIA Press had published Recording Historic Structures, heavily illustrated with photographs and drawings, which discussed the manner in which historic buildings, sites, and objects should be recorded, a major interest of the HRC.

The awarding of the AIA Gold Medal to Fay Jones, FAIA, in 1990 revived the idea of presentation of the medal by the president of the United States. In an afternoon ceremony on February 22, in the Roosevelt Room at the White House, President George H. W. Bush presented the medal to Jones. The audience included all living recipients of the AIA Gold Medal. Franklin Roosevelt had been the last president to confer the Gold Medal in the White House when he presented it to Ragnar Ostberg, Hon. FAIA, in 1933.

Honors for Jones continued that evening in an award gala at the National Building Museum, which culminated a five-day “Accent on Architecture” celebration. The late Peter Jennings, ABC news anchor, was master of ceremonies for a glittering banquet event that included presentation of other AIA awards before some 1,200 guests, including Supreme Court Justices, politicians, Jones and previous Gold Medalists, and Joan Rivers, Tom Selleck, and Brooke Shields. Britain’s Prince Charles, the keynote speaker, praised Gold Medalist Jones for buildings that “speak of poetry, of architecture in harmony with their natural surroundings. He has helped put our feet back on the ground. Architecture is for human beings.” Yet, he continued, “our built environment seems to reflect the underlying misconception that we are the only generation on this earth, and that we are here to do with it as we wish ... The time has surely arrived when we must learn to work with rather than against nature; when we can once again make places in which to live and work which are more than machines ... but which enrich our perceptions of what our being really is.”

On July 26, 1990, AIA representatives joined others at the White House as President Bush signed the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA). The AIA had been heavily involved in developing the legislation and, noted AIA President Sylvester Damianos, FAIA, “architects will play a vital role in translating the provisions of the ADA into accessible buildings.”

1991–1992: A series of innovations and “firsts”
Charles Moore, FAIA, won the AIA Gold Medal in 1991, the same year his early and innovative work at The Condominium at Sea Ranch, Calif., which had won an AIA Honor Award in 1967, received the AIA twenty-five Year Award. It was the first, and perhaps only time the Gold Medalist has received both honors in the same year.

Innovation was evident in 1992 when the Institute used video communications to “explore the promise and demands” of ADA with architects in more than 200 localities around the country. The 12-hour, three-part educational series, “Opening All Doors: Understanding the ADA” used advanced teleconferencing to allow participants in all 200 localities to hear speakers and call in questions to be answered on-air.

A basic leadership change was evident from 1990 when Susan A. Maxman, FAIA, of Philadelphia, was elected first vice president/president elect. She assumed the office in December 1991, and became AIA president one year later. For the first time in its 134 year history, the AIA had a woman as its president. Maxman, who headed her own 12-person firm in Philadelphia, had a long record of service in both the Pennsylvania Society of Architects, which she had served as president, and the AIA. Making 1992 a year of the woman, L. Jane Hastings, FAIA, of Seattle, became the first woman chancellor of the College of Fellows.

1993: Two Gold Medalists, licensing laws, and library upgrades
On January 28, 1993, President Bill Clinton, in his first White House photo opportunity, presented the AIA Gold Medal to Kevin Roche, FAIA. Roche, a Modernist and humanist, had just two days earlier called upon his peers to “create a habitat that reflects, at last, the aspirations or our democracy.” He suggested that, in looking at the city “we tend to have ... myopic vision—we see the monuments, the tree-lined boulevards, the vibrant avenues; but we do not always see behind those facades the desolation, the hopelessness of so many.” In April, in a ceremony at Monticello, Thomas Jefferson was given a posthumous Gold Medal, the only one of its type ever awarded.

During 1993, the AIA updated information on architecture registration published in 1950 in The Architect at Mid-Century, with a new publication Architectural Licensing Laws: Summary of Provisions. Though in 1950 not all states had registration laws, by 1993 all did.

The last construction change to the exterior of the headquarters building was completed in 1993 when the AIA library advanced into a new 850-square-foot addition beneath the board room overhang, designed by Norman Fletcher, FAIA, of TAC, the architect and firm of the original building. The library occupied the first space on the right as one entered the building. When opened officially on May 3, 1993, it was noted the expanded library would offer “conveniences and quality information services to AIA members as well as students, scholars, the news media, potential architectural clients, and government agency staffers. The library and archives had existed since 1857, as material accumulated to be brought into order by its first professional librarian, hired in 1954, and first archivist, hired in 1980. In 1993, the AIA Library and Archives had a “full-time staff of nine, including five librarians and an archivist.”

Continuing its activist outreach, the AIA supported smoke-free environmental legislation noting, in testimony before Congress: “The fact is that environmental tobacco smoke cannot be totally removed from indoor air except by removing the smoking itself.” Representatives of the AIA met with President Clinton in the Oval Office to discuss health-care reform and worked to develop a feasibility study for President Clinton’s use in his energy and environmental upgrade and retrofit of the White House that would lead to its “greening.”

Mid-1990s: Diversity, and diversity in publications
In 1994, the AIA published the 12th edition of The Architect’s Handbook of Professional Practice, which had been updated periodically since 1917 and hosted a national diversity conference for architects and designers. The three-day conference was attended by 250 people, who caucused according to their status or interest as people of color, women, gay/lesbian/bisexual, youth/student/intern, or disabled and attended workshops ranging from dealing with harassment and discrimination to creating a minority design aesthetic.

Also in 1994, the many professional interest area (PIA) newsletters began publication and AIArchitect was born to replace Memo. Its publication announcement indicated it would, “be filled with ... current, late-breaking news vital to our membership,” and “include member, firm, and component highlights, regional and PIA news, and monthly news on the education, practice, government affairs, and legal fronts.”

At the end of the decade, the contract between Billboard Publications and the AIA for publication of Architecture magazine faced renewal negotiations. The 1995 report from Architecture magazine indicated that in 1994 the magazine was ranked number one in its field, ahead of both Architectural Record and Progressive Architecture and maintained a larger circulation than either. During renewal negotiations, a request for proposals was drafted and at least five responses were received by the deadline date in late 1995. Financial comparison analysis, review of the editorial qualifications of each response, and feedback from Board members were considered before the agreement with Billboard was terminated and a new agreement reached with McGraw-Hill. In January 1997, Architectural Record, became the magazine of the Institute.

Copyright 2005 The American Institute of Architects. All rights reserved. Home Page Home Page

AIA150 Rolling History
 A Beginning, 1857-1866
 The Second Decade, 1867-1876
 1877-1886: Westward and Upward
 1887-1896: A Decade of Outreach, Inclusiveness, and Internationalism
 Women and Women Architects in the 1890s
 1897-1906: The AIA Moves to and Changes Washington
 The Institute's Influence on Legislative Policy
 At 50, the AIA Conceives the Gold Medal, Receives Roosevelt's Gratitude
 Spinning a Golden Webb
 1909-1917: The Institute Comes of Age in the Nation's Capital
 1917-1926: A New Power Structure: World War I, Pageantry, and the Power of the Press
 1927-1936: A Decade of Depression and Perseverance
 The AIA in Its Ninth Decade: 1937-1946
 1947-1956: Wright Recognition, White House Renovation, AIA Closes on 100
 The Tenth Decade: 1957-1966
 1967-1976: New HQ and a New Age Take Center Stage
 A New Home for the AIA in 1973; A Greener Home in 2007
 Diversity and the Profession: Take II
 'The Vietnam Situation Is Hell': The AIA's Internal Struggle over the War in Southeast Asia
 1977-1986: Activism and Capital-A Architecture Are Alive at the AIA
 1987-1996 Technology, Diversity, and Expansion

1. “America by Design,” hosted by architectural historian Spiro Kostof, was a popular five-part public television series.

2. Prince Charles, shown here at the first annual Accent on Architecture gala in 1990, also addressed the 1988 “Making Cities Livable” conference in Philadelphia.

3. “The Exceptional One: Women in Architecture 1888-1988” marked Louise Bethune’s acceptance as the first woman member of the AIA.

4. Architecture magazine celebrated 75 years of publication in 1987.

5. Left to right: Actors Brooke Shields, Tom Selleck, and Joan Rivers added star power to Accent on Architecture.

6. Left to right: AIA Public Affairs Vice President Gregg Ward; Gold Medalist E. Fay Jones, FAIA; AIA President Sylvester Damianos, FAIA; and AIA Executive Vice President James P. Cramer, Hon. AIA, at the first Accent on Architecture gala in 1990.

7. Susan A. Maxman, FAIA, served as the AIA’s first woman president in 1993.

8. The AIA library advanced into a new 850-square-foot addition beneath the board room overhang in 1993.

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