American Institute of Architects

American Institute of Architects
American Institute of Architects

The Octagon House
Abbreviation AIA
Formation 1857
Type NGO
Purpose/focus Architectural profession
Headquarters Washington, D.C.
Region served United States
Membership 83,500+

The American Institute of Architects (AIA) is a professional organization for architects in the United States. Headquartered in Washington, D.C., the AIA offers education, government advocacy, community redevelopment, and public outreach to support the architecture profession and improve its public image. The AIA also works with other members of the design and construction team to help coordinate the building industry.



The American Institute of Architects was founded in New York City in 1857 by a group of 13 architects to "promote the scientific and practical perfection of its members" and "elevate the standing of the profession."[1] This initial group included Charles Babcock, Henry W. Cleaveland, Henry Dudley, Leopold Eidlitz, Edward Gardiner, Richard Morris Hunt, Fred A. Petersen, Jacob Wrey Mould, John Welch, Richard M. Upjohn and Joseph C. Wells, with Richard Upjohn serving as the first president. They met on February 23, 1857 and decided to invite 16 other prominent architects to join them, including Alexander Jackson Davis, Thomas U. Walter, and Calvert Vaux. Prior to their establishment of the AIA, anyone could claim to be an architect, as there were no schools of architecture or architectural licensing laws in the United States.[1]

They drafted a constitution and bylaws by March 10, 1857, under the name New York Society of Architects. Thomas U. Walter, of Philadelphia, later suggested the name be changed to American Institute of Architects. The members signed the new constitution on April 15, 1857, having filed a certificate of incorporation two days earlier.[1] The constitution was amended the following year with the mission "to promote the artistic, scientific, and practical profession of its members; to facilitate their intercourse and good fellowship; to elevate the standing of the profession; and to combine the efforts of those engaged in the practice of Architecture, for the general advancement of the Art."[1] Architects in other cities were asking to join in the 1860s, by the 1880s chapters had been formed in Albany, Baltimore, Boston, Chicago, Cincinnati, Indianapolis, Philadelphia, Rhode Island, San Francisco, St. Louis, and Washington, D.C. As of 2008, AIA has more than 300 chapters.[1]

The AIA is headquartered at the American Center for Architecture at 1735 New York Avenue, NW in Washington, D.C. A design competition was held in the mid-1960s to select an architect for a new AIA headquarters in Washington. Mitchell/Giurgola won the design competition but failed to get approval of the design concept from the United States Commission of Fine Arts. The firm resigned the commission and helped select The Architects Collaborative (TAC) to redesign the building. The design, led by TAC principals Norman Fletcher and Howard Elkus, was ultimately approved in 1970 and completed in 1973.[2] In honor of the 150th anniversary of the organization, the building was formally renamed in 2007 the "American Center for Architecture"[3] and is also home to the American Institute of Architecture Students, the Association of Collegiate Schools of Architecture and the National Architectural Accrediting Board.



More than 83,500 licensed architects and associated professionals are members. AIA members adhere to a code of ethics and professional conduct intended to assure clients, the public, and colleagues of an architect's dedication to the highest standards in professional practice.[4]

There are five levels of membership in the AIA:[5]

  • Architect members are licensed to practice architecture in the United States.
  • Associate members are not licensed to practice architecture but they are working under the supervision of an architect in a professional or technical capacity, have earned professional degrees in architecture, are faculty members in a university program in architecture, or are interns earning credit toward licensure.
  • International associate members hold an architecture license or the equivalent from a licensing authority outside the United States.
  • Emeritus members have been AIA members for 15 successive years and are at least 65 years of age or are incapacitated and unable to work in the architecture profession.
  • Allied members are individuals whose professions are related to the building and design community, such as engineers, landscape architects, or planners; or senior executive staff from building and design-related companies, including publishers, product manufacturers, and research firms. Allied membership is a partnership with the AIA and the American Architectural Foundation.

There is no National AIA membership category for students, but they can become members of the American Institute of Architecture Students and many local and state chapters of the AIA have student membership categories.

The AIA’s most prestigious honor is the designation of a member as a Fellow of the American Institute of Architects. This membership is awarded to members who have made contributions of national significance to the profession. Slightly more than 2,600, or 2% of all members, have been elevated to the AIA College of Fellows. Foreign architects of prominence may be elected to the College as Honorary Fellows of the AIA.[6]


The AIA is governed by a Board of Directors and has a staff of over 200 full-time employees.[7] Although the AIA functions as a national organization, at its heart are some 300 local and state components providing members with the local focus that reflects their professional lives. The components are spread throughout the United States, United Kingdom, Europe, Japan, and Hong Kong.[8]


By speaking with a united voice, AIA architects influence government practices that affect the practice of the profession and the quality of American life. The AIA monitors legislative and regulatory actions and uses the collective power of its membership to participate in decisionmaking by federal, state, and local policy makers. To serve the public, the AIA's community-based programs work with federal legislators and local governments to elevate the design of public spaces, protect the nation's infrastructure, and develop well-designed affordable housing for all Americans.


The AIA serves its members with professional development opportunities, contract documents that are the model for the design and construction industry, professional and design information services, personal benefits, and client-oriented resources.

In contributing to their profession and communities, AIA members also participate in professional interest areas from design to regional and urban development and professional academies that are both the source and focus of new ideas and responses. To aid younger professionals, an Intern Development Program, Architect Registration Exam preparation courses, and employment referral services are frequently offered by local components.[9]

Public education

The AIA attempts to meet the needs and interests of the nation's architects and the public by raising public awareness of the value of architecture and the importance of good design. To mark the AIA’s 150th anniversary and to showcase how AIA members have helped shape the built environment, the AIA and Harris Interactive released findings from a public poll that asked Americans to name their favorite 150 works of architecture.[10]

Two of the AIA’s public outreach efforts, the Blueprint for America nationwide community service initiative marking its 150th anniversary and the Sustainability 2030 Toolkit, a resource created to encourage mayors and community leaders to advocate environmentally friendly building design both earned an Award of Excellence in the 2007 Associations Advance America Awards, a national competition sponsored by the American Society of Association Executives and the Center for Association Leadership.

Honors and awards

The AIA has long recognized individuals and organizations for their outstanding achievements in support of the architecture profession and the AIA.[11]

Honors Program:

Institute Honors: (for new and restoration projects anywhere in the world)

  • Institute Honor Awards for Architecture
  • Institute Honor Awards for Interior Architecture
  • Institute Honor Awards for Regional and Urban Design
  • Twenty-five Year Award

    This award, recognizing architectural design of enduring significance, is conferred on a project that has stood the test of time for 25 to 35 years. The project must have been designed by an architect licensed in the United States at the time of the project's completion.[12]

  • Institute Honors for Professional Achievement:
    • Associates Award
    • Collaborative Achievement Award
    • Edward C. Kemper Award
    • Thomas Jefferson Awards for Public Architecture
    • Whitney M. Young, Jr. Award
    • Young Architects Award

AIA Committee on the Environment

  • AIA/COTE Top Ten Green Projects

Cosponsored programs:

  • AIA/ALA Library Building Awards
  • AIA Housing Awards
  • AIA/HUD Secretary's Housing and Community Design Awards

Membership Honors:

  • Honorary Membership (Hon. AIA)
  • Fellow of the American Institute of Architects (FAIA)
  • Honorary Fellowship (Hon. FAIA)


  • The institute publishes Architect as the official magazine of the AIA.

See also


  1. ^ a b c d e "History of The American Institute of Architects". American Institute of Architects. Retrieved 2008-03-04. 
  2. ^
  3. ^ The American Institute of Architects
  4. ^ "Become a Member!". American Institute of Architects. Retrieved 2008-03-04. 
  5. ^ "Rules Of AIA Designations". American Institute of Architects. Retrieved 2008-03-04. 
  6. ^ "AIA College of Fellows". American Institute of Architects. Retrieved 2008-03-04. 
  7. ^ "AIA Board of Directors". American Institute of Architects. Retrieved 2008-03-04. 
  8. ^ "Local Components of the AIA". American Institute of Architects. Retrieved 2008-03-04. 
  9. ^ "AIA Knowledge Communities". American Institute of Architects. Retrieved 2008-03-04. 
  10. ^ "America's Favorite Architecture". American Institute of Architects. Retrieved 2008-03-04. 
  11. ^ "Awards Handbook". American Institute of Architects. Retrieved 2008-03-04. 
  12. ^ "Twenty-five Year Award". American Institute of Architects. Retrieved 2008-03-04. 

External links

Coordinates: 38°53′46″N 77°02′30″W / 38.89611°N 77.04167°W / 38.89611; -77.04167

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