March 4, 2020Reading Time: 13 minutes
Grassroots is an exclusive annual conference for leaders of the AIA. This year’s agenda emphasized component and community leadership with workshops designed to help component officers become more effective chapter and civic leaders. Keynote speakers shared how both good design and leadership are fueling the success of communities and offering solutions to the most pressing needs facing cities.
AIA New Jersey is all about Citizen Architects, so this agenda was a perfect fit for our attendees.
Annually, the venue alternates between Washington D.C. with visits to Capital Hill and other cities around the country. This year’s event was held in New Orleans, co-hosted by AIA National and the local and state chapters. The schedule was set to fall just before Mardi Gras hit, as the social component of Grassroots is equally powerful, as those in between times allow for the attendees to discuss what they are hearing and learning, bond and plan with their own components and with colleague chapters.
Seventeen members of AIA New Jersey attended in person this year, some representing the state and some representing their local section. Architects League of Northern New Jersey member William Martin, AIA, co-chair of the AIA NJ Public Awareness Committee, added a brilliant Social Media campaign to our participation, attending as #FlatArchitect, and drawing a lot of attention to AIA NJ. Participants are expected to attend sessions that will educate, inform and improve their performance as leaders for our components, and bring best practices back to New Jersey.
This year’s attendees included:
Christina Amey, AIA AIA South Jersey
Cecilia Cano, Associate AIA AIA Architects League
Anna Chang, Associate AIA AIA Architects League
Christy DiBartolo, AIA AIA Newark and Suburban
Francisco Grimaldi, AIA AIA Newark and Suburban
Michael Hanrahan, AIA AIA Central New Jersey
Lauren Harris, Associate AIA AIA West Jersey
Troy Harris, AIA AIA West Jersey
Christopher Henrickson, AIA AIA Architects League
Marissa Iamello, AIA AIA Jersey Shore
Steven Lazarus, AIA AIA Architects League
Vincent Minkler, AIA AIA Jersey Shore
Jessica O’Donnell, AIA AIA West Jersey
Brian Penschow, AIA AIA Jersey Shore
Joseph Simonetta, Hon AIA AIA New Jersey
Andrew Thompson, AIA AIA Newark and Suburban
Joshua Zinder, AIA AIA Central New Jersey
Some of our attendees, many attending Grassroots for the first time, have shared their experiences…
Francisco A. Grimaldi, AIA, AIA Newark and Suburban Secretary
Grassroots was an incredible experience! It was very powerful, getting to spend a lot of time with the entire AIA NJ contingent.
One the session that I sat in, “Engaging with Mayors”, was particularly inspiring and informative. The session was led by Matt Lister (Partner at Gehl and Managing Director of NYC office) and Tim Kearney AIA (PA State Senator from 26th District). While Matt focused on how the public realm can be re-imagined to be more people centered, Senator Kearney spoke about how an architect (or the AIA as a group) can take a more active part in policy-making to make government work better for people.
There were also a couple of other mayors in the audience. One of them was involved in the roundtable held during the morning session, Kathleen Ehley of Wauwatosa, WI. During the open discussion after the presentation, she shared what the local AIA component/chapter did for her city that I think could be implemented here in New Jersey. She mentioned that instead of waiting until a position opened up on the council, or on the planning or zoning boards, the group had already curated a list of individuals who, as architects, could be resources for the city for either city government positions or as policy or design advisers. I think we could start doing that at the state level and through the local components. It can be a more direct way of reaching out to the public.
Christy DiBartolo AIA, LEED AP, AIA Newark and Suburban Board Member
The idea of spearheading efforts to combat climate change seemed to pop up quite a bit. One of the break-out sessions I attended, which was the Environmental Stewardship: Sharing Your Story – Economy session with Ilya Azaroff, AIA. One of his case studies was interesting in that, due to the hurricanes of years past, the island of Dominica (in the Caribbean) was destroyed, and how he worked with the locals to use materials and redesign their structures to their own vernaculars. This contrasted with how the government and ICC would come in and dictate certain materials and methods that either did not sync with their cultures or did not perform as well during these disasters.
So how can we apply this to NJ? Our natural disasters that will increase due to client change are intense storms and hurricanes, possible earthquakes. What else? And then how should we respond to these disasters as to respect our culture, materials, vernaculars, local techniques etc. that may be outside of the ICC recommended practices.
Much of the performance of his buildings were then measured (how much energy savings and therefore cost, for example). These actual numbers can then help aid in selling these practices to our clients who are otherwise driven by upfront cost.
What also struck me about this session was that after these projects, Ilya explained that he openly shares his designs with others; that spreading a better, more respectful way of building is more important to him than the money he makes.
Grassroots was a great experience all around, once again.
Marissa Iamello, AIA, AIA Jersey Shore President
As has recently been the conversation, the message in the keynotes was to encourage architects to get involved in city council so that you can become a resource to your community.
The breakout session on Climate action I attended was with Jeffrey Huber and addressed affordable housing using passive design to address climate change. Using 4 prototypes the firm he worked for was able to create a 20-house neighborhood in which all units were 40% more energy efficient than neighboring houses. The firm uses plugins for Rhino like Grasshopper, Ladybug and Butterfly which are all free to download to model energy efficiency.
Leading Through Influence was a fun workshop on teamwork and improv and learning to create environments where you feel psychologically safe.
I also attended a workshop on gender and race bias. It was extremely informative and probably like the Bias Interrupters workshop. there is free video training available at:
Andrew E. Thompson AIA NOMA LEED AP BD+C, AIA Newark and Suburban President
This was my 5th time visiting New Orleans and it has always been for business/conferences. Through NOMA I have attended two Board meetings and attended two National conferences in New Orleans.
The Bias Interrupters workshop was very valuable and addressed issues in the workplace as we implement equity, diversity and inclusion amongst our firms. Some very good case studies and examples were presented. I was told that the presentation would be available on the AIA website and I would like to discuss with our board and focus on pieces relevant to our membership and how they practice.
The Local Advocacy and Legislative days at City Hall was an important seminar. It scaled down how architects can engage with our local legislation and our elected officials. Rather than focusing on a visit to the state capital in Trenton, focus on a day on the section’s towns and municipalities. For AIA Newark and Suburban, cities such as Newark, Bloomfield, town such as Maplewood and South Orange would be delighted to have architects visit for a day to discuss local legislation and how architects can assist. There was a councilman who was an architect and he stated that architects should get more involved in civic duty. I see the need for every planning or zoning board should have an architect on that board.
It was nice to have Grassroots the week before Mardi Gras, our members got a chance to experience the community on their special celebration.
Cecilia Cano, Associate AIA, AIA Architects League of Northern New Jersey
The session that impacted me the most and I believe we can apply to our work here in NJ (and everywhere) was “Embracing our Differences”, which was presented by former AIA President Bill Bates. In his panel, he had Karen Brattmayer, FAIA, who has been in a wheelchair all her life; Chris Downey, AIA, who lost his eye sight; and Greg Burke, FAIA, who was born with a physical birth defect. In this session all the panelists spoke about their “disability” and how several people in their lives always had something to say to put them down. That only meant, that they needed to continue and be the best they can be as their disability did not define them. Chris did say “instead of defining the person, is better to embrace them first” which is very true. It doesn’t matter if a person has a disability or birth defect, we are all capable of doing amazing things in this life.
The main takeaway for me regarding this session is that here in NJ, we should embrace our differences by educating our clients, colleagues and employees regarding all the opportunities to make buildings universally useful. Often our clients only want to do the bare minimum when it comes to ADA. We should communicate with them and advise that the spaces we design should be accessible to all, regardless of any disability one may or may not have.
We as architects, design for the public, for everyone to be comfortable to move around within a space. Our buildings, new or existing, should be designed to accommodate and make everyone as comfortable as they can be, therefore, we should maximize spaces for all.
Troy Harris, AIA, NCARB, LEED AP, AIA West Jersey President
Stacey, The one big takeaway that I had throughout the general sessions this year, and was a key topic last year as well, was how we need to become more involved speaking with mayors, council people and other municipal staff as that is where we can help to provide solutions to civic problems and promote good design decisions from the start. This could be accomplished thru helping to advise on good zoning and planning decisions or providing initial insight on a municipal project. I think that AIA NJ has made a good step in that direction with their Mayors Symposium, but I think that only taps into a select group of mayor’s and officials from larger municipalities. I think the sections can do better jobs to communicate with the smaller municipalities that are not likely to attend a Mayor’s Symposium with a more localized event or conversations as these municipalities are likely to need our knowledge even more as they may be experiencing or entertaining a type of project for the first time and do not have previous experience to rely on.
Christopher A. Henrickson, AIA, NCARB, LEED Green Associate, AIA Architects League President Elect
At Grassroots 2020, I learned a lot about strategic planning, working together at board meetings and communicating but the biggest take away was related to the themes of sustainability, inclusivity and equity. Any way they can be promoted within the profession, and to the public at large is a top priority.
Additionally, I think it might be worthwhile for AIA New Jersey to have a “legislative day” including a reception or event which local mayors, politicians, etc. are invited to. AIA members could meet with legislators and explain key positions we have taken about sustainability, equity, etc. and make a case for appropriate legislation or policies. This could be done at a state level, or at a local section level, or both. The Mayors Symposium is a great start.
Anna Chang, Associate AIA, AIA Architects League EPiC Section Director
Workshop # 1 Bias Interrupters
Bus/Working tour #3 Small Center for Collaborative Design
Sharing Climate Story: Energy
Opening: Mayors Panel – Urban resilience & equity
(Wade Nomura of Carpinteria, CA / Quinton Lucas of Kanas, MO / Kathleen Ehley of Wauwatosa, WI)
Session #A5 Speak like a pro
Session #B6 Taking root: Sustainability & Resilience resources for components
Session #C2 So the winner is…?
3 Case studies regards to local chapters working with organization, government, and school.
My personal opinion that these are great examples for AIA and EPiC to bring young people back to the organization.
Closing: Former Mayor (Michael Earl Cornett sr. / Oklahoma City)
By Stacey Ruhle Kliesch, AIA, AIA NJ Advocacy Consultant | Posted in AIA-NJ News, Uncategorized | Tagged: #AIA, #AIAALNNJ, #AIAArchitectsLeagueofNorthernNJ, #AIACentralJersey, #AIACentralNewJersey, #AIAGrassroots, #AIAJerseyShore, #AIANational, #AIANewarkandSuburban, #AIANewJersey, #AIANJ, #AIASouthJersey, #AIAWestJersey, #AndrewThompsonAIA, #BrianPenschowAIA, #CeciliaCanoAssociateAIA, #ChristinaAmeyAIA, #ChristopherHenricksonAIA, #ChristyDiBartoloAIA, #ChristyDiBartoloAssociateAIA, #FranciscoGrimaldiAIA, #Grassroots20, #Grassroots2020, #JessicaODonnellAIA, #JosephSimonettaHonAIACAE, #JoshuaZinderAIA, #LibertadLaurenHarrisAssociateAIA, #MarissaIamelloAIA, #NewOrleans, #StevenBLazarusAIA, #TroyHarrisAIA, #VincentMinklerAIA, #WilliamMartinAIA, AnnaChangAssociateAIA, grassroots, MichaelHanrahanAIA | Comments (0)
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