Public Impact!

By Nathan Johnson, AIA, NOMA, AIA Minnesota President

I met our photographer at the recently-completed Rondo Commemorative Plaza project in August to scout out potential shots for Architecture MN. Within 15 minutes, a group of about 30 students from Benjamin E. Mays School descended on the site. I marveled at how they engaged, playing windchimes, running up and down the sculpted hill, and sitting atop the hill on the granite curb, very much as we envisioned it when we developed the design. I like to refer to these moments as happy surprises, finding the public completely immersed in something I helped create. 


Every project I have worked on is a herculean effort of a great team: client, architect, consultants, contractors and others. Something that has been at the forefront of my consciousness most of the year is thinking about the public impact of architecture. 
What we do is very important. We can see people actively using the spaces we create. The sustainable impact of the buildings we design is well documented. But what about the cultural impact of the places we create? I have more questions than answers, but if we look at the defining character of most cities and communities, one of the highlights is their architecture. So, even without empirical data, we can say yes, what we produce does impact culture and by extension has substantial public impact. 


This is my last article for Matrix as 2018 AIA Minnesota president. I say this with a lot of optimism and pride. One of the consistent themes I have heard through the year is impact. Through our strategic implementation plan the board has been hyper-focused on implementing our strategic priorities


1. Build and Mentor the Profession of Architecture
2. Make Architecture Accessible, Understandable and Highly Valued.


We believe the strategic priorities can be very impactful. There have been program shifts, new endeavors started, and existing programs strengthened in our first year of implementing the Strategic Plan. 2019 promises to be an even more robust year, with substantial public programming being introduced. Lake Superior Design Retreat has a public event planned in Duluth in the first quarter of the year, AIA Minneapolis is actively planning Open Doors Minneapolis for May, and AIA Minnesota has completed its first program with MNHS at the Mill City Farmers Market this fall, with more programs being planned for 2019. 

Our biggest event, A’18 MN, the Minnesota Conference on Architecture, is in a few days. I look forward to having a dialogue with you about the Strategic Plan, current AIA Minnesota initiatives and how we can have ever greater Public Impact!

View the full November issue of Matrix.