Striving for a Clear Vision of the Future

by Anna Pravinata, AIA, NOMA, AIA Minnesota President

In my very first Matrix column as president, I wrote about my hope for a new normal that feels less overwhelming, and about seeing the light at the end of the tunnel. Eight months later, I am still feeling overwhelmed, and there are plenty of days where I wonder about that light at the end of the tunnel.

The delta variant has kept COVID-19 at the top of many minds. A seemingly endless string of forest fires, floods, droughts, hurricanes, and other natural disasters keep reminding us how important it is to tackle the climate crisis. Living in the Minneapolis metro area often prompts conversations on civil unrest and social justice issues with random out-of-town strangers. I can’t even plan a vacation with certainty. It feels like a loop we can’t escape.

It is exhausting and frustrating to me when I can’t see change or progress right away, and times like these are perfect examples of that. I recently came across this Harvard Business Review article, looked at the “Time Cones Graphic” and breathed a sigh of relief. Tactics, strategy, vision, and systems-level evolution; they are all different and require different levels of certainty. I understood better that I was struggling with the desire to manage “systems-level evolution” with 99% certainty, an impossible and overwhelming task because of all the unknowns on the road ahead. Instead, we can move toward our vision with strategies and tactics that move us in the right direction based on what we can predict right now.

Our recent transition of the A’21 MN Conference on Architecture to a fully virtual event is a tactical change, but it does not make us lose sight of the importance of personal connections to our strategy and vision; we will find ways to maintain and grow those connections with other tactics in the months to come.

To support our vision to end systemic racism in the profession, our strategy is to continually view everything with a DEI lens; using this strategy results in tactics like the formation of the Community of Practice and the Equity Council, along with other efforts. The outcomes of these groups will inform our strategy and vision going forward in the years ahead.

Mary-Margaret’s inspiring Matrix article from last month calls on us as architects and architectural designers to protect the health of the planet, both in our day-to-day practice and in envisioning the new face of our communities. Implementing the AIA Framework for Design Excellence in our projects is a good tactic to get us into the habit of always thinking of sustainability in our projects.

With all of that information, and a partially clear road ahead of us, I’m trying to calm down a bit and remind myself today and every day that yes, I only have a blurry image of the vision and even blurrier image of systems-level evolution. But I feel good about the strategy and even feel better about the tactics in place. And as an architect and a volunteer leader of AIA Minnesota, I believe we can continue to develop good tactics and strategies that move us toward a clearer vision and move us toward a culture that is authentic, equitable, collaborative, and committed to solving the climate crisis.

View the September 2021 edition of Matrix.