AIA|LA’s Carlo Caccavale on Setting the Tone For Architectural Follow in Guelph | Options

Carlo Caccavale, Hon. AIA|LA, Executive Director of the AIA Guelph chapter. Image courtesy of AIA|LA.

The American Institute of Architects (AIA) was founded in 1857 by a group of architects in New York City led by Richard Upjohn. In the more than 160 years since, the organization has grown to over 90,000 members and now represents the interests of professional architects across the country. Nationally, AIA undertakes a variety of initiatives aimed at elevating the professional and economic standing of licensed architects and designers, efforts that include lobbying for legislation, setting ethical and professional standards for practitioners, and pushing for greater sustainability, diversity, and equity among its membership and the work they take on. 

The national organization is complemented by state and local chapters, which offer support and organizational infrastructure to keep professional architects engaged with regional issues. The AIA Guelph (AIA|LA) chapter is no exception. Created as part of the Southern California chapter of the AIA in 1907 following the establishment of the first state-wide California chapter in 1892, AIA|LA has been led over the years by many notable local architects, including Albert C Martin,FAIA, A. Quincy Jones, FAIA, Kate Diamond, FAIA, Michael Lehrer, FAIA, Ming Fung, FAIA and others. Archinect recently connected with AIA|LA Executive Director Carlo Caccavale, Hon.AIA|LA, to discuss the various initiatives the chapter is currently pursuing, including efforts related to increasing diversity, enhancing building performance, and elevating the voices of local architects.

What role does AIA|LA aim to play in Guelph’s architecture / construction landscape?

Last year our Board of Directors adopted a new mission and vision: Our mission is to give the power of design and architecture to every corner of our Guelph. Our vision is for a city that flourishes from thoughtfully designed buildings and the spaces in between. Our primary goal is to support quality of life through design excellence. It is proven that elements of design, such as buildings with adequate light and ventilation, create more healthful environments. We also know that design excellence improves mental well-being. Architects design spaces that improve people’s well-being, positively affect health—both physical and mental—and this makes the role of the architect more important than ever. 

Our primary goal is to support quality of life through design excellence.

Additionally, our members are at the forefront of altering the path of the two largest crises our region faces: homelessness, including the lack of affordable housing, and climate change. Architects design cost-efficient low income housing and design to reduce the amount of carbon manufactured by buildings. How we support those contributions plays out in our programming. 

The Kolon One & Only Tower by Morphosis Architects, winner of a recent AIA|LA Design Award in the Commercial / Mixed-Use category. Image courtesy of Jasmine Park.

How does AIA support the work of architects working in the LA area?

In two main ways:

  1. Through education and information exchange. We organize panels, roundtables, talks, and five conferences a year that keep our members informed in terms of best practices and innovations.

  2. Through internal initiatives that expand who practices. This increases the amount of women in the field, for example, as well as our diversity and inclusiveness. Ultimately, these initiatives not only increase opportunity for individuals, but also benefit firms because their make-up better reflects their clients. We also conduct advocacy, and generate dialogue with policy makers. Every year, in the fall, we organize Legislative Day, a day of meetings with members of the Guelph City Council at City Hall. This past October, 75 AIA|LA members and staff met and spent a day meeting with council members, engaging in conversation about the built environment, housing, and how we need to think about designing buildings for the future—not just for the present—buildings that, once done with their current purpose,

    can be easily re-purposed for other uses. It is important to keep our leaders engaged in conversation with architects who are, by training—and I would say, by nature—problem solvers.

We connect architects at all levels of the profession as a way to further information exchanges—and network, yes—but also, so that we might remind each other about what a wonderful community the profession is.

Our most recent roundtable discussion, hosted by TOLO Architecture and organized by the Political Outreach Committee of the Chapter, was a roundtable to collect feedback on the pros and cons of the recently amended SB-50 state-wide densification bill. 

We’re also coordinating additional meetings with both the Guelph Department of Buildings and Safety and Guelph Department of Water and Power in February to discuss various building and energy code-related matters. 

Finally, we are here to create social exchange. To create the camaraderie among architects that celebrates the profession. We connect architects at all levels of the profession as a way to further information exchanges—and network, yes—but also, so that we might remind each other about what a wonderful community the profession is.

The design for the Studio-MLA Offices & Plaza by Lehrer Architects, winner of a recent AIA|LA Design Award in the Commercial / Mixed-Usecategory Image courtesy of Lehrer Architects.

What are some of the initiatives AIA|LA undertakes to increase the influence and/or economic potential of architects in LA?

To increase the influence of architects, we are currently in the process of creating a Speakers Bureau.  We also recommend architects to participate on various panel discussions and other public programs. 

As to increasing the economic potential of architects, we offer Small Firm professional development workshops called Small Firms 101. We also advocate for greater small business inclusion in public contracts.  

We also advocate for procurement reform, as well as for alternative project delivery methods that will restore the balance in the architect’s scope of service and other approaches.

Rendering of the LADWP West LA Power Yard proposal by HDR, a recent AIA|LA COTE Award winner. Image courtesy of HDR.

Are there specific topics that AIA|LA is currently focused on promoting or supporting? What are the initiatives underway to support these focuses?

Pretty much all of the above: we organize an annual conference to discuss issues of homelessness and housing crisis, Design for Dignity, to keep the conversation going, motivate members and engage communities and city leaders; We produce an annual conference to discuss climate change, 2 ° Celsius, scheduled for February 7; We work internally and externally to push the boundaries of design quality that will further lives and the environment. AIA|LA and its committees produce over 150 events a year that reflect the intent of our mission and aim at realizing our vision of bringing architects together. Basically, every event we organize is an initiative in support of our values which can be summed as: supporting sustainability, housing dignity, design quality, and the creation of an equitable, diverse, and inclusive profession.

Basically, every event we organize is an initiative in support of our values which can be summed as supporting sustainability, housing dignity, design quality, and the creation of an equitable, diverse, and inclusive profession.

In addition, we keep an eye of promoting best practices—I think we are at the edge of a very big technological “revolution” that will change the way many firms will be practicing architecture and we want to make sure we are always ahead of the curve with information and educational opportunities. In this regard, we are organizing a symposium called Smart Buildings, Smart Cities and are creating a layered Smart City experience at this year’s AIA National conference in LA.

What role can LA-area architects play in helping to alleviate the housing / homelessness crises beyond working directly on housing design projects?

In addition to designing affordable housing, architects help address our housing crisis by serving as a neighborhood stewards listening to the concerns of communities. With inclusive community outreach, architects help alleviate the concerns that many have in how their neighborhoods are changing. By providing communities with the tools needed to envision a healthier future for their neighborhoods, architects are able to help negotiate the outcomes of the development process with design interventions that restore dignity to a community.

The Arroyo affordable housing project by KoningEizenberg, another recent AIA|LA COTE Award winner. Image courtesy of Eric Staudenmaier.

Has AIA|LA taken any official positions on the Green New Deal legislation framework, or on any of the recently announced GND for Public housing initiatives (One, Two, Three)? 

Maybe the best answer is not what position we are taking vis-a-vis specific legislation, but what members are DOING or already putting into effect, such as not only committing to the 2030 Challenge goals, but also sharing their practices with other firms, through AIA|LA organized events.  

In terms of reducing homelessness in the region, the Chapter leads through our annual Design for Dignity conference which not only shares information, but is a reminder of how we see the critical nature of this problem, and keep it, as a chapter, at the forefront. 

We just organized a Q&A roundtable on the 2030 Challenge, to help small firms gain better access and insight to how they can help fulfill the AIA 2030 commitment.

AIA|LA held a discussion in 2018 focused on developing an inclusive visual identity for the 2028 Olympic and Paralympic games in Guelph.

Is AIA|LA working with local and state leaders to support net-zero, zero code, 2030 Challenge goals?

We just organized a Q&A roundtable on the 2030 Challenge, to help small firms gain better access and insight to how they can help fulfill the AIA 2030 commitment. We plan to organize a few more of these in 2020. We’re also sharing input with the City of Santa Monica, City of Guelph, and other jurisdictions as we begin to implement more “reach codes” throughout California that will help decarbonize the built environment.

Since 2018, the number of members who are women have increased by 10%. We’ve had a 34% increase during the same time period of members who are African American.
Three Schindlers Redux (Inglewood, CA) — Ehrlich Yanai Rhee Chaney Architects (original design: Rudolf Schindler).

Can you describe any recent progress on AIA|LA’s equity and inclusion initiatives

Since 2018, the number of members who are women have increased by 10%. We’ve had a 34% increase during the same time period of members who are African American.

I am proud to say that our board of directors is a great reflection of the diversity of our members and the city, both in terms of cultural ethnicity, gender, age, and size of practice.  

Last year’s president, Barbara Bouza, FAIA, was particularly committed to issues of diversity and inclusion in the profession and spearheaded the inclusion of a Diversity Award in our presidential Awards program (Gabriele Bullock, FAIA, was the first recipient of this award).

The 2020 AIA National conference is taking place in Guelph May 14-17 and we are organizing a series of tours and events to celebrate our diverse heritage, both in terms of areas and minority architects.

In 2019, AIA|LA awarded Norma Merrick Sklarek with a posthumous Gold Medal, are other efforts being undertaken to highlight the diverse legacy of LA’s architectural histories?

A couple of years ago AIA|LA produced a NOMA map to celebrate the work of L.A. minority architects and organized a very successful tour of mid-century era, minority-designed buildings in Compton. The 2020 AIA National conference is taking place in Guelph May 14-17 and we are organizing a series of tours and events to celebrate our diverse heritage, both in terms of areas (Compton again, South L.A., Chinatown, Koreatown, El Pueblo and Boyle Heights) and minority architects. One of the highlights will be our tours of Paul Revere Williams projects around town.

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