President Obama, AIA?

June 8, 2011

President Obama, AIA?
By Jerome Leslie Eben, AIA
AIA NJ Regional Director ’11-‘13

As I was sitting down to write this article about the AIA Convention, in recovering New Orleans, I received an E-mail from AIANJ Past President Bruce Turner, AIA, who also serves as our current PA Committee Chair. Along with the message was the attachment of a you tube video of a recent event at the White House.   It was President Obama’s speech on the awarding of the Pritzker Prize in Architecture to Eduardo souto de Moura, the second Portuguese architect to win this great award in architecture.

In his wonderful remarks, the President stated: “There was a time when I thought I could be an architect, where I expected to be more creative than I turned out, so I had to go into politics instead.”  Taking the lead on this line, my thoughts are that the President could have had the letters AIA after his name, had he chosen to study architecture instead of the law and hence the title of this article.

He did tie in government and architecture, mentioning what the AIA has always stated, that the country’s third President, Thomas Jefferson had a passion for architecture long before it was recognized as a profession.  He spoke of Jefferson’s work on Monticello, his beautiful home, and of course the University of Virginia.  The President  went on to mentioned Chicago as not only his home town, but because it has left such a mark on the country with the great architects of Louis Sullivan, Frank Lloyd Wright, Mies van dur Rohe and the birth of the skyscraper.

Most importantly he defined architecture as follows: “It’s about creating buildings and spaces that inspire us, that help us do our jobs, that bring us together, and that become at their best, works of art that we can move through and live in.  And in the end, that’s whey architecture can be considered the most democratic of art forms.”

As our PA Chair, Bruce has sent out through social networking sites the President’s speech and each of you can do the same to your family and friends, and most importantly to your clients.  It does not matter where you are politically.  Think about the impact of the President’s positive words about our profession and how you too can use them in spreading the benefits of what we do for a living, to those you may come in contact with.  Follow Bruce’s lead!

Now for my convention’s remarks: Next year the AIA will hold our annual convention in Washington, DC and based on the President’s fondness for our profession, maybe the convention planners can secure him as the keynote speaker?  Washington’s close proximity to our region should allow many of you to start planning now to join AIANJ’s leadership at this annual gathering of America’s architects. The convention offers you the opportunity to pick up all of your required continuing education credits in the two full days of the event.  In addition, and as your Regional Director, I would welcome you to attend the business meetings, listen to candidates for national office and then caucus with your leadership to discuss where we should direct our votes.

The President in closing stated that architecture should speak of its time and place, but yearn for timelessness.  In closing I would like to invite you to support your profession by planning to attend your convention next time and in a place that is close to our home and easy enough for all of us to get there.


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