Since its founding in New York City in 1857 as a guild for architects, the American Institute of Architects’ (AIA)mission statement reads, “promote the scientific and practical perfection of its members and elevate the standing of the profession.” The reason that architecture needed to have its standing elevated was that at the time of the AIA’s establishment there was no formal training or licensing of architects. Anyone who was so inclined could hang-out a shingle declaring himself to be an architect.
Eighteen architects comprised the organization’s founding committee. Initially called the New York Society of Architects the group’s by-laws and a constitution were composed on March 10, 1857, and ratified five days later. In 1858 the expanded purpose of the organization was added to its constitution.
It read, “to promote the artistic, scientific, and practical profession of its members; to facilitate their intercourse and good fellowship…and to combine the efforts of those engaged in the practice of Architecture, for the general advancement of the Art.” Delegate Thomas U. Walter proposed changing the group’s name from the New York Society of Architects to the American Institute of Architects.
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During the decade following its forming the AIA began recruiting for the establishment of chapters in other cities. In 20 years the AIA had grown to include 11 chapters. Five of the chapters were set-up in cities along the Eastern Seaboard, four in cities across the Midwest, with a single chapter in Washington DC.
In the 1960’s 1735 New York Avenue, NW in Washington, D.C. was chosen as the site of the American Institute of Architects headquarters building. The headquarters would also be the site of the American Institute of Architecture Students, the Association of Collegiate Schools of Architecture and the National Architectural Accrediting Board.
The initial plans for the AIA headquarters were drafted by Mitchell Giurgola. Giurgola’s submission failed to pass muster with United States Commission of Fine Arts. In response, the Cambridge Massachusetts firm The Architects Collaborative was chosen to draft the second design that was approved in 1970 with construction being completed three years later.
In recognition of the American Institute of Architects’ sesquicentennial, their headquarters was rechristened the American Center for Architecture. Today, the AIA’s roster consists of 90,000 licensed architectural professionals and associated professionals. The AIA holds it members to rigid standards. The professional and ethical qualifications a member must meet works to the benefit of clients.
For more information, just visit http://www.aiainternational.org/