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Meet the Candidates for AIA 2023 President-Elect

From June 11 to June 15, accredited AIA delegates will vote for the next leaders to hold office at the Institute’s national level. According to AIA, “delegates are selected by their assigned chapters to cast that chapter’s votes” and must be AIA members—Architect, Emeritus, Associate, or International Associate—in good standing. In the event of a tie, a runoff will be held June 15 to June 17. The election precedes this year’s A’21, the Conference on Architecture, which begins June 17.

As in past years, ARCHITECT asked each candidate running for elective office questions about their qualifications, platform, and outlook on the profession. Below, you will meet Emily Grandstaff-Rice, FAIA, and Abby Suckle, FAIA, the two candidates running for the dual role of AIA 2022 first vice president and 2023 president-elect. Responses have lightly edited for clarity. Find videos of the candidates presenting their platforms at the end of this article.

Title: Senior associate, Arrowstreet
Local AIA component: Boston Society of Architects/AIA Massachusetts
Leadership roles: At-large director, AIA (2018-2020); chair, AIA Equity and the Future of Architecture Committee (2017-2020); chair, AIA Equity in Architecture Commission (2016); president, Boston Society of Architects (2014)

Emily Grandstaff-Ricecourtesy The American Institute of Architects Emily Grandstaff-Rice

Why do you want to hold this leadership position at AIA?
AIA is special to me. Throughout my journey from an aspiring architecture student receiving an AIA St. Louis college scholarship to a licensure candidate with BSA study materials to my professional role today, AIA and its member network have played a role in my development, training, and exposure to relevant issues over the last 27 years. Our professional community has challenged me to expand my thinking, serve as an advocate for the built environment, and better communicate the importance of how we, as architects, change the world. Yet, until our profession reflects the society we serve, we will not reach our full potential. My experience in recent AIA leadership roles and my ability to build consensus will move us forward with critical issues, such as urgent climate action and advancing racial, ethnic, and gender equity.

How have your experiences prepared you for this role?
It is critical for any AIA leader to appreciate how chapters engage members and their communities locally. Through serving on the BSA board for seven years and as 2014 BSA president, I understand how to work with colleagues toward strategic goals and honor the many voices within our membership. In 2016, I had the extraordinary opportunity to chair the Equity in Architecture Commission. This has led to the focus of equity, diversity, and inclusion initiatives in AIA over the last five years, publication of the Guides for Equitable Practice, and my election by AIA membership to serve as 2018-2020 at-large director. While on the AIA board, I championed Code of Ethics changes for sustainability and equity, as well as organization practices to greater support diversity and a sense of belonging.

What key issues do you hope to address in this role?
The 2021-2025 AIA Strategic Plan goals of climate action for human and ecological health and advancing equity will be multiyear initiatives. I support focusing and aligning resources to address these issues in a way that is sustainable with impact. I am also passionate about our growing advocacy strength among policy makers; the opportunity to impact future generations at the K-12 and higher-education levels with both formal and informal learning experiences; and using our voice in communicating the importance of what we do and how we shape the built environment. I honor the history of AIA, while recognizing that we as architects and allies can continue to grow our impact.

What are the greatest challenges facing architects today? How can AIA respond to them?
If you had asked this question in any other year, I would have a different answer. It is important for us to acknowledge that 2020 was a year of tremendous loss—people we love, the ability to work side-by-side, and the familiarity of routine. Too many architects are either no longer with us, have lost their livelihood, or are operating with ongoing stress and fatigue. And there is a whole new generation of graduates looking to find a way into the workforce. The next two years will be a time to rebuild and reimagine our changing professional environment. AIA can best support this effort through its advocacy in COVID-19 reopening strategies; sustainability action guides; impacting policy that results in greater built work for members; and public engagement for building equitable communities with architects as design leaders.

Title: Design principal, Abby Suckle Architect PC
Local AIA component: AIA New York
Leadership roles: President, CultureNow (2002-2021); vice president, Lower Manhattan Historical Association (2020-2021); New York City’s representative, AIA New York State board (2013-2015); director of programs and strategy, AIANY board (2012-2014); vice president for outreach AIANY (2010-2012); secretary, AIANY (2007-2009); policy committee, AIANY (2007-2012); Architecture Dialogues committee co-chair, AIANY (2012-2021)

Abby SuckleSamuel Lahoz / courtesy The American Institute of Architects Abby Suckle

Why do you want to hold this leadership position at AIA?
We have a strategic plan that basically says we as architects will have changed the world by 2030. A year of COVID and a national pivot to reimagining infrastructure might be the moment that is ripe for a paradigm shift. I want to start a national conversation about who we are as architects, how we can effect change and get us a seat at the table.

How have your experiences prepared you for this role?
As an architect, I have worked on some of the most transformative buildings of our time. As an educator, I have run internships in three chapters across the country. And as a member, I have served our chapter (and State) for the past 20 years in leadership roles from committee chair to vice president. Many of the initiatives I started, including Not Business As Usual, ARE Bootcamp, architecture boat tours, Cocktails and Conversations, and CultureNow’s digital Museumwithoutwalls, are scalable.

It’s been a tremendous journey, but more than that, it’s been an amazing learning experience that gives me the depth of knowledge to understand who our colleagues are, what is important to them, the challenges they are facing, and the capacity to synthesize that into something that transcends the moment.

What key issues do you hope to address in this role?
We must educate the public about the value of design and the service we provide. They need to know why we build what we do where we do, so that they can be better participants in the design process and so that we can be compensated appropriately for our work.

AIA Is primarily a member services organization. We must provide our fellow architects with tools at all stages in their careers. We continually produce vast quantities of content; it should become a comprehensive digital library containing everything from chapter programs to position papers, projects and studies, and AIA KnowledgeNet, to help them become the best architects they can be.

What are the greatest challenges facing architects today? How can AIA respond to them?
Our biggest challenge is climate change. We are trained as designers to solve very complicated problems. There are 90,000 architects who belong to AIA and we are embedded throughout our country. We are probably the most brilliant, creative, and experienced group of people on the planet at reshaping the built environment. We need to leverage our numbers, our talents, and our resources so that we can frame resilient design in a way that is comprehensive and doable, in the small and large scale, and in both the near and the distant future. AIA should be the vehicle for that.

Meet the AIA 2021 Candidates

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