Think twice before you speak. How often have those words resounded in your head before you launch into a presentation, lecture, conversation, or rebuttal? Words, tone, and inflection are our tools for influencing others with our passion and knowledge of architecture. What we say is an opportunity to educate opinions as to the importance of the built environment on a community’s vitality and well being.
At the AIA National Conveniton in Washington D.C., 500 Texas Society of Architect members partook in the largest and most attended AIA convention in recent years; led by our Texan AIA President to engage in sessions and the expo floor and view the streets, monuments, museums, and endless attractions of our nation’s capitol. We delighted in four days of perfect weather to imbibe on architectural influence bliss. With each speaker, seeds were planted or rejuvenated to ignite the reason why we entered the profession; with each tour, we beheld architecture with purpose. Keynote speaker David McCullough charmed the audience with stories of nineteenth century Americans journeying to Paris, entranced by the architecture and culture that would influence their lives similarly to how our visit to D.C. has influenced ours.
Writing about the countless highlights would overwhelm the allocated space (and I already question how this medium can be heard among the electronic cacophony). Nevertheless, the first day in D.C. was captivated by the Moynihan Symposium, a true history lesson of influence, listening to the panel moderated by Paul Goldberger, Hon. AIA, former architecture critic of the New Yorker. Goldberger stated, “Not since Thomas Jefferson has there been a public official who so understood architecture as well as Daniel Patrick Moynihan,” the former Senator from the State of New York.
In 1962, while writing a report to President Kennedy on the subject of federal office space, the 35-year-old Senator penned what has become known as the ‘Guiding Principles for Federal Architecture,' a forward-thinking pronouncement on how the government should further the interests and aspirations of the American people in its public buildings.
Abbreviated below they read:
1. The policy shall be to provide requisite and adequate facilities in an architectural style and form which is distinguished and which will reflect the dignity, enterprise, vigor, and stability of the American National Government.
2. The development of an official style must be avoided. Design must flow from the architectural profession to the Government and not vice versa.
3. The choice and development of the building site should be considered the first step of the design process.
GSA grasped the need for adopting these principles in their Design Excellence Program. But how did Senator Moynihan come to understand the need for quality design? Where is our civic leadership today to sponsor such an approach and understanding of architectural purpose?
As Texas Architect members, we must collaborate to mentor and influence the decision makers of our industries, state, and cities to connect with architecture. In Austin at the Society's October convention, we will reinvent ‘convention’ and influence you.
Craig S. Reynolds, FAIA
Texas Society of Architects