Change Takes Action

by Karen Lu, AIA, NOMA, AIA Minnesota President

“In case you were wondering, we are the ones we’ve been waiting for.”                
     — Dr. Mindy Fullilove, Hon. AIA


We are nearing the end of 2020. The challenges that face us now are greater than ever and our work is ongoing. The path may not always be apparent, but as a professional community, our direction is clear:

  • The Future of Practice: AIA Minnesota Culture Change Initiative work has defined a desired culture for the profession that is Authentic, Equitable, and Collaborative.
  • The Future of Design: AIA National has expanded design excellence to provide a holistic approach to design that encompasses equitable communities, ecology, and economy.


The future of practice and the future of design are intertwined. AIA Minnesota is working at both ends of the spectrum – from advocacy at the state legislature to a broader understanding of Design Excellence, and from the Culture Change Initiative to the 21st Century Development framework. The outcome of our collective efforts will be projects that are sustainable, equitable, and beautiful; a built environment that respects and honors the multiple ecosystems and communities to which it belongs.


To that end, the AIA Minnesota Conference on Architecture this year was hopeful and inspiring. The three areas of focus – Design for Positive Climate Impact & Environmental Justice, Resilience & Collective Recovery, and the Future of Design – brought our greater community of visionaries and entrepreneurs, generalists and specialists, experienced and new professionals, lifelong learners and skeptics, all together to connect, learn and share. Many of us met for the social hour at the end of each conference day to connect with old friends, see familiar faces, and make new acquaintances.


From Ed Mazria, FAIA, we learned that it is still possible to make a significant impact on the trajectory of climate change. From Dr. Mindy Thompson Fullilove, Hon. AIA, we learned that the process of healing post-trauma requires all of us to play a role in the recovery. And from James Garrett Jr., AIA, NOMA and Dr. Rory Hyde, we learned about the expansive possibilities of our profession and our projects – both what has been built and what is being imagined. We know that addressing climate change and racial injustice are our ethical responsibilities, and that our civic responsibilities demand public engagement and community-centered processes.


We have the momentum to make progress, but we must stay engaged to effect real change. What are we doing to make our vision of the future a reality? How can we maximize our impact? How will we measure progress and hold ourselves accountable? These are questions to be continually asking and answering – as individuals, as firms, as schools of architecture, and as state and local chapters of AIA.


As my time as your AIA Minnesota President draws to a close, I am proud of the momentum we’ve gained and the progress we’ve made, together. I am inspired by the vision and the integrity of this architecture community. More than anything, I’m grateful – grateful to have had the opportunity to serve and to have had the chance to work with so many amazing people. Thank you for entrusting me with this honor and responsibility in this truly unforgettable, transformative year.


View the November 2020 edition of Matrix.