Community Connections

By Mary-Margaret Zindren, AIA Minnesota Executive Director

“We need to stop talking to ourselves.” When members across the state engaged in conversations and surveys to inform the strategic direction of AIA Minnesota and the local chapters, this message came through loud and clear.

This wasn’t about muttering while walking through the office. Nor was it a desire to shut down mentoring or collaboration among architects (quite the opposite). Instead, it was the idea that architects – and AIA chapters in Minnesota – need to be engaging more frequently, broadly, and effectively with those outside the profession, including clients, potential clients, key leaders of policy and public opinion, and the next generation of architects. It is an idea directly reflected in our strategic priority to “make architecture accessible, understandable and highly valued.”

These next two months ahead are indicative of our efforts to make good on this strategic priority. Here’s a snapshot of the important work we’re doing to better connect architects to the broader community and where we’re investing time and effort on your behalf:

Two different types of engagements are happening with the candidates for mayor of Minnesota’s two largest cities. The AIA St. Paul chapter will be hosting a series of casual conversations with individual candidates for Mayor of St. Paul, starting August 2 with Melvin Carter. And on September 21, AIA Minneapolis will hold a Mayoral Candidates Forum during its regular member luncheon time.

A new Community Builder Award has been launched by the AIA Northern Minnesota chapter (submissions due September 29), whereby members of the local chapter can nominate local leaders and organizations to be recognized for their contributions to the improvement of the built environment, broadly defined to include the wide array of interests important to the architecture community.

AIA Minnesota’s Architecture in the Schools Committee is back for our second year at STEM Day at the Minnesota State Fair on August 24, working with kids and their grown-ups to build models of iconic state fair buildings.

Architecture MN magazine is also back to the Walker Art Center on September 7, partnering to support a lecture from Petra Blaisse, the renowned Dutch designer working at the intersection of architecture and landscape architecture who designed the Walker’s Wurtele Upper Garden. Look for future programming as well, highlighting the outstanding work of Julie Snow, FAIA, and landscape architect Tom Oslund to transform the Minneapolis Sculpture Garden. (AIA Minnesota leadership has had in-depth conversations with the Walker leadership following the removal of “Scaffold” and we have reaffirmed our support as a programming partner. The efforts underway within the Walker organization to apply what was learned from the “Scaffold” experience are significant and wide-ranging, and give us confidence that our organizations can move forward in alignment.)

And for the first time, we’ll be sponsoring and sending delegates to the Nobel Peace Prize Forum at Augsburg College, September 13-16, where the Peace by Design track will feature convenings of leaders in architecture, city government, community building, and urban planning on the question, “How do we design and govern cities so as to facilitate dialogue, create opportunities, and reduce violence within them?”. We also hope and expect to host the Hex House – a rapidly deployable house developed by Architects for Society, an international nonprofit collaborative – onsite at the Forum, and to showcase it as part of our largest public engagement event: the annual Homes by Architects Tour, September 16-17.

Again, just a snapshot, but one that gives you a glimpse of the bigger public engagement picture being developed at your AIA.

View the full August issue of Matrix.