An Extraordinary Time to be an Architect

Written By: Nicole McBride

Date: January 25, 2022

An Extraordinary Time to be an Architect cover image

As Dan Hart, FAIA, PE, begins his term as the 98th President of The American Institute of Architects, he reflected on the "superpower" and mission of architects. Architects have unique perspectives and responsibilities in design and experiences invested in communities that contribute to creating a sustainable impact in the world. 

‘What an extraordinary time it is to be an architect," Dan said. "It’s one of those times in history where we face extraordinary challenges as a society, and I maintain that architects have a particular superpower which we call ‘design’ which gives us the ability to think about the most challenging, the wildest problems that we face, in new ways.”

Response to the coronavirus pandemic was one opportunity for impact. Although it created many challenges, it also created chances to utilize knowledge of architectural design and to serve communities in innovative ways.

At the beginning of the pandemic, Dan was serving on the AIA Board. As an organization, AIA assessed developing situations, compiled information, and shared that information to help prepare communities for the pandemic. The developed standards were also translated in multiple languages to reach communities across the world. 

“This was architects taking action on something that we were all facing together,” Dan said. “There was something about that moment that I think is going to go down in history as one of AIA’s finest moments because we responded. We saw how much agency we had as a profession. We saw that we could make a difference.”

AIA is undergoing another transition in leadership. Robert Ivy retired after his 11 years of tenure as CEO, and Lakisha Woods was welcomed as the new CEO, a historic moment in the organization’s existence.

“As we aspire in our strategic plan to do the things that are necessary to promote a healthy planet and healthy people on the planet and to deal with people in ways that are equitable and inclusive and help everybody to feel a sense of belonging,” Dan said, “we have the ability to connect architects all over the country and all over the world to huge global challenges and to their everyday work.

“Every line that we draw and every conversation we have with a client can either move toward those goals or away from those goals. We can draw lines that include people and make people feel a part of what we’re trying to accomplish together or we can divide people. We can draw lines that make that building touch lightly on the earth or be consumptive and destructive to the environment.”

AIA is undergoing the design for the renovation of their headquarters building. The 1970s brutalist concrete building is in close proximity to the Octagon and the White House, so there is an obligation to the community in Washington D.C. as well as positively impacting the environment.

The sense of agency as an architect inspired Dan to serve at the highest level of AIA as the organization’s president beginning in 2022.

“We all have agency as architects to make a big difference, and it happens in incremental ways day after day, choice after choice, conversation after conversation. How do we help remind each other of that extreme sense of responsibility and this agency that we have to actually make a difference on things that affect the whole world? It’s an exciting time to be a part of the American Institute of Architects, and it’s an extraordinary time to be an architect.”

Read the Transcript of Dan Hart's AIA President Inaugural Address