The History of the American Institute of Architects

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Today marks exactly 64 years since the American Institute of Architects (AIA) had its very first meeting. The organization was founded in 1957 by a group of New York City architects with a 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.”

The AIA established the first architecture schools, standards, and licensing laws in the country, helping to solidify and legitimize architecture as a profession. After its founding, the organization actively recruited members from around the country, creating chapters in Chicago, Boston, and Philadelphia. The AIA hosted its first convention in 1967, which became a decades-long tradition that still occurs today. The event draws thousands of architects and designers from around the world who showcase their work, share ideas, and network with one another. 

american institute of architects aia first convention

The AIA moved its national headquarters from New York City to the Octagon House in Washington, D.C., in 1898. The Octagon House was designed by Dr. William Thornton, the same architect who designed the U.S. Capitol. 75 years after moving into the Octagon House, the AIA commissioned The Architects Collaborative, helmed by Howard Elkus and Norman Fletcher, to redesign the building, which was formally renamed as the American Center for Architecture in 2007. 

Today, the AIA hosts more than 90,000 licensed architects and related professionals through over 200 chapters worldwide. The organization continues to monitor regulatory and legislative actions that influence the profession. It also works with local, state, and federal governments to optimize the designs of public spaces, protect the country’s infrastructure, and develop affordable housing solutions. 

The AIA also recognizes some of the world’s most important architects through awards. The institute’s highest honor, the AIA Gold Medal recognizes architects with, “A significant body of work of lasting influence on the theory and practice of architecture.” Recipients of the award include icons like Richard Neutra, Le Corbusier, and Frank Lloyd Wright. 

Check out the AIA’s website to learn more about its background, awards, and longstanding influence on architecture as a whole. 

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