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AIA Grassroots Conference, Detroit

Fiona Mckay

The 2016 AIA Grassroots Leadership Conference was held in Detroit, bringing the annual meeting “closer to the action” and highlighting the important work going on in cities across the United States, and especially in Detroit. The conference took place at the famous Renaissance Center, home of General Motors, over the last week of February.

Grassroots is an opportunity for the executive members from chapters around the world to discuss issues, improve leadership skills and enhance their individual chapter’s development through workshops, presentations and education. Typical there is also a legislative component including meeting with Representatives to Congress in DC, but this year they switched things around. Politicians were invited to talk to us about the important role architects play in the development of cities. Architects are critical thinkers and problem solvers, and the issues facing cities today need the creative approach of architects. The role of architects in city planning was explored through a panel discussion between William Bell, mayor of Birmingham and Bob Buckhorn, mayor of Tampa, and the current Planning Director for Detroit, Maurice Cox, FAIA along with several other well-known architects including Mickey Jacob, FAIA.

The conference reached a climax during the final keynote address by the former Governor of Michigan, Jennifer Granholm. She inspired and enlightened attendees to need of every city to hear the voice of architects. As a profession, we do an injustice when we avoid speaking up on matters of city development, growth and planning. As architects, we must look beyond the daily grind of our jobs and see a vision for the future.

Candidates for AIA National positions were given a chance to address the conference in a series of panel discussions. There are a number of members running for Secretary and First Vice President. For more information on the candidates, please contact the AIA UK executive. The election will take place at the 2016 National Convention in Philadelphia. The 43rd annual Grassroots Conference will return to Washington D.C. in 2017.

Author: Frederick Grier AIA

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