Sharing our Gifts

by Alicia Belton, FAIA, NOMA, AIA Minnesota President

As architects, we have heard that design is our superpower. The opportunity and passion to create spaces and places is what inspired many of us to pursue a career in architecture. For me, one of the most rewarding things is to witness the joy on the faces of individuals as they walk through what was once a vision and is now a built reality. It is the gift of design and with every gift given and received there is a purpose.

So how we do purposefully use this design superpower for the greater good?

I would suspect that many of us find our identity in being a design professional. I would add that it is not just limited to who we are, but what we can do and how we can serve others. One of my love languages is acts of service so I believe that we have many opportunities to serve society in the places where we live, work and play. How valuable is our ability to think critically, draw creatively, plan logically, and detail systematically? There are local and global boards and organizations that need these unique design capabilities to help guide their yet-to-be-realized dreams.

As we volunteer our gifts in service to others, we are also called to protect the health, safety, and welfare of the public. It’s a tremendous responsibility to ensure safe passage in the event of emergency, accessibility throughout a building, environmentally friendly products, and energy efficient building systems.  Of course, these are just a few of many decisions made. When we design for the good of all, attention to health, safety, and welfare can also inspire both restorative and resilient buildings.

Ethically speaking, our Code of Ethics and Professional Conduct states that “Members should embrace the spirit and letter of the law governing their professional affairs and should promote and serve the public interest in their personal and professional activities.” Yes, we do this each day professionally in our 9-5, but what about beyond the workplace? Could your neighborhood school or favorite charity use your time for a short-term project? How about applying for a leadership position with AIA Minnesota?  That’s a real tangible one! These are great ways to leverage your design talent to serve society.

In full transparency, my other love language is receiving gifts, which requires a bit of unpacking in case you aren’t familiar with the “The 5 Love Languages”. This simply means that it’s the thought, care or effort that goes into choosing or executing the gift.  The right present makes someone feel seen, understood, or appreciated.

What better way to demonstrate how architecture can make an impact on the built environment than to share our design-related gifts? It is our love language to the world. Design professionals have many gifts: thinking, drawing, planning, teaching, writing, managing, specifying, listening, speaking, and ideating, to name a few. When we all work together and steward these design gifts, we can transform our society and make a more equitable and sustainable world. We can all find a higher purpose for our design superpower.

What gift will you share?

View the September 2022 edition of Matrix.