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Grassroots 2018 – San Diego

Fiona Mckay

Photo credit: James M Wright, FAIA

Photo credit: James M Wright, FAIA

The AIA Grassroots Leadership and Legislative Conference offers opportunities for leaders from every AIA chapter – local, state and regional, domestic and international – to gather and learn from each other's diverse experiences. This year’s conference was held in sunny San Diego, California over three busy days in mid-March. The theme of the conference was ‘Leading through Influence,’ a topic explored through the celebration of the work of many chapters and architects striving to get a seat at the table to maximise their impact on the built environment. Our chapter, the AIA UK, joined the other international chapters at the annual International Region Meeting, a particularly memorable moment as we were able to celebrate both the launch of the new Canadian chapter, and the presence of all 7no. international chapters represented at the table. We discussed further strengthening bonds between our chapter and our sister chapter in Europe, as well as shared lessons learned particular to how chapters operate in an international context.

As the AIA UK representative at the conference, I was able to attend sessions that focused on strategic development, emerging professionals and diversity and inclusion, each offering insights key to the growth of our chapter. The keynote speeches were broad ranging, from Jonathan Rose’s talk on design-led development, to William C. Taylor’s provocations to experiment and innovate, to Marcia J. Cantarella, Ph.D.’s reminder that the keynote speech her father, civil rights leader Whitney M. Young Jr, gave in 1968, ‘rights as true now as it did then.’ More than the keynote lectures, what I found so inspiring about the conference was the enthusiasm that everyone I met had not only about their role in the AIA and the AIA’s role in architecture, but for the practice of architecture itself and our roles as individuals in that practice. For this reason alone, I would encourage those of you that can, to endeavour to attend next year’s Grassroots Conference – I walked away with double the energy and motivation to improve our chapter and the profession.

Written by: Amrita Raja, AIA

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