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AIA Cleveland launches Center for Architecture & Design

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It is with great enthusiasm that the Cleveland Chapter of the American Institute of Architects announces the official opening of the Center for Architecture and Design.  The Center’s location, in the heart of Playhouse Square, will be a community resource for Cleveland design professionals as well as the public.  The emphasis of the Center is not only to provide administrative and meeting space for AIA Cleveland as it continues to serve its members, but also to raise awareness on the value of architecture and design in our city and region.

This opening marks the culmination of almost two year’s worth of work.  The planning process began in the summer of 2013 with a seven-member Task Force taking a broad look at the Chapter’s long-range plans relative to its mission.  That mission is to promote the value of architecture and design, foster collegiality, advocate for local members, educate, and support architects as leaders in the community.  From there, the Task Force analyzed its home office of the past ten years on Huron Rd and whether it met the Chapter’s present and long-term needs.  The Task Force concluded that a more resourceful facility was desired that allowed for greater flexibility and more visibility to the public.  With this goal and the mission of the Chapter in mind, the Task Force, assisted by the pro bono services of relator Kevin Riley of Weber Wood Medinger, began to seek options available for a new facility.

During the course of the search, the Task Force seriously considered eight different spaces, all centralized in the downtown area.  While analyzing these options, it became clear that engaging our membership and the public from a storefront in the heart of Playhouse Square would be ideal in sending a message to our membership and the general public.  That message is that we are an active organization that is inclusive, an important part of the community, and growing the next generation of leadership in Cleveland.

AIA Cleveland eventually found its ideal location at 2059 East 14th Street, directly adjacent to the entrance of the Hanna Theater.  A 35’ wide storefront provides a window in on AIA Cleveland and the world of design for the community.  At 1,100 square feet, it is 500 square feet smaller than the Chapter’s previous office space, but is more efficient in its layout which allows more space for events with less administrative and storage space.  The more efficient size in turn creates an annual savings of approximately $5,000 for the Chapter.   The space was fortunately an empty shell, which allowed AIA Cleveland to design it to best suit its needs.  The design of the space was a collaboration between three firms who each generously volunteered their services: Richard Fleischman + Partners Architects as the Design Architect, Vocon as the Architect of Record, and Westlake Reed Leskosky performing all of the engineering.  The construction cost of the build-out was rolled into the six-year lease.  AIA Cleveland has an option to renew the lease for an additional five years beyond that.

The layout of the new space is flexible and will be able to accommodate lectures, meetings, receptions, continuing education seminars and exhibits for up to 50 guests.  While AIA Cleveland holds many events larger than this, that size was ideal for the majority of events that take place throughout the year.  For larger events, AIA Cleveland partners with the Kent State University CUDC, utilizing their gallery space just a half-block away.

With this launch of a new space for AIA Cleveland, there is a renewed opportunity to become more outward focused, a hub for architecture and design in Cleveland which bridges the gap between architecture and the public.  With that goal in mind, the decision was made to brand the space as the ‘AIA Cleveland Center for Architecture and Design’.  Through lectures, exhibitions, tours, film series, and collaborative programs with other organizations, the Center will celebrate design, explore creative possibilities for the future of our region, and highlight the contributions of local architects and designers.  The Center will bring together multiple design industries – architecture, interior design, graphic arts, landscape architecture, urban planning, and others to strengthen our positive impact in the business and civic communities.  Agreements have already been reached to allow these other organizations to use the Center, such as the International Interior Design Association and school programs such as ‘Look Up To Cleveland’.

The Center will exhibit design excellence and represent the talent and aspirations of AIA Cleveland members.  A 72” digital display projected on the storefront glass will allow for both Chapter events as well as members work to be displayed to those passing through Playhouse Square.  A gallery display system on the walls inside also allows for exhibits to be showcased, such as the one on display now which highlights the work of local female architects.

Another important feature of the Center will be the AIA bookstore.  The bookstore, which currently features approximately 750 various items related to architecture and design, had only appeared at the Chapters large events in the past.  The bookstore having a permanent home in the Center will present a unique retail amenity for residents and visitors to Playhouse Square.  The intention of the bookstore as it evolves will be to focus primarily on Cleveland related architecture, design and art.  AIA Cleveland has applied for grants which would allow for it to stay open extended hours, on the evenings before shows at the Hanna Theater.

The emphasis of the Center is to raise awareness on the value of architecture and design in our city and region.  With this goal in mind, AIA Cleveland welcomes Richard Kennedy, of James Corner Field Operations as its opening lecture.  As the Principal in charge of the Public Square project, Richard will discuss the aspirations of the redesign of Cleveland’s most prominent public space.  Chris Ronayne, an instrumental member of the Group Plan Commission board, will help us in welcoming Richard.  Please join us for this lecture at the Kent State CUDC, and then walk the half-block through Playhouse Square for the launch of the AIA Cleveland Center for Architecture and Design.  Drinks and hors d’oeuvres will be provided.  This Grand Opening event will take place on Wednesday, April 29th at 5:30pm.  Click here to register and learn more.



Aaron Hill, AIA

AIA Cleveland President

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Why “Looking Up” is Important.

by Aaron Hill, AIA | AIA Cleveland President


In order for us to become a more valued and relevant profession, the time has come to change perceptions about architects.  According to a Harris Poll conducted last year of over 30,000 people, architecture is one of the highest-regarded professions in the United States.  However, thinking highly of an architect, and understanding what an architect does are two different things.  That same survey revealed that a gap exists between admiration and understanding, as those surveyed had a limited understanding of how an architect works to develop an idea and transform it into reality.

No one is more aware of this difference than the American Institute of Architects.  In response to the lack of public knowledge about the profession, the AIA decided to do something it’s never done in its history: advertise on television.  The goal is simple, yet extraordinarily important—to expand the public’s awareness of how architects impact their daily lives.

Super Bowl Sunday kicked-off a three-year initiative by the AIA to demonstrate architects’ value to society.  The integrated campaign is designed to re-connect the public with architecture and position new generations of architects as catalysts of growth and visionaries for renewal.  The campaign, titled “Look Up”, capitalizes on the original thinking architects bring to solving problems.  “We are undertaking this campaign to not only change the perception of architecture and architects among the public, but to also place the architect back into the national discussion on infrastructure, economy, the health of communities, and the future of our country,” said AIA CEO Robert Ivy, FAIA.

The campaign urges people to take note of the architecture in their everyday lives; to see architects as members of their community, constantly seeking the highest potential in the world they create; to see that the comfort, harmony, security, and awe in our world is no coincidence. It’s the work of architects.  “This campaign we’re doing is significant because we’re not going to focus on what an architect does, or how they do it,” says Roy Spence, CEO and founder of The Purpose Institute and the creative force behind the campaign. “We’re going to shine a light on why architects do what they do.”

Click here to see the commercial.

The television commercials, appearing on CBS, NBC, CNN, CNBC, and Fox Newswill be broadcast through April.  Following the television spots, the AIA will launch a series of print ads through the fall in the build up to an even bigger public awareness push that includes two new television commercials in 2016 with promotional support and efforts on industry briefings, legislative information campaigns, media and speaker training, component media relations development, emerging professionals support, and additional broadcast media campaigns.

The majority of reaction to the campaign has been positive.  For instance, an editorial in this month’s Metropolis magazine praised the campaign for its celebration of diversity, acknowledging that the AIA knows it needs a more diverse architectural field if the organization is going to survive and thrive in the future.  And this celebration of diversity is about more than just race or gender.

But the campaign is not free from detractors, as one writer (Justin Shubow) for Forbes recently wrote a disappointing article stating that “the outreach campaign is doomed to fail.”  This adverse article goes on to make biased and improper statements that seem merely intended to grab attention and create controversy.  The writer suggests that “architects services are never required”, and “if you need design services, it’s just as easy to hire a contractor or engineer to slap something together” because “architects are an additional expense, and they have a reputation for being difficult and impractical.”  Cynical statements such as these being read by the public are exactly why the message of this campaign is desperately needed.  As AIA President Elizabeth Chu Richter, FAIA notes, “Our overarching goal with this campaign is to make sure that when clients are considering whether to design or build anything, the first call they make is to an architect.  We have the skills, talents and creative thinking that is best for a holistic approach to the design and building process.”

The Forbes article makes the claim that the “AIA fails to consider that their problem is not fundamentally one of public relations—it is the product: the junk that architects are churning out.”  The writer’s classification of architecture as “junk” is founded in his belief that “the AIA is dominated by a Modernist orthodoxy hostile toward traditional and classical architecture and urbanism.”  While it is certainly true that architecture is subjective and a matter of personal taste, it is simply untrue that the AIA is opposed to architectural diversity.  The AIA is certainly not about promoting a specific style of architecture, such as iconic modernism, but rather focuses on supporting the diversity of work by all architects.  Whether our designs favor modern or traditional, we are all the AIA.  The more diverse the field of designers, the ideas, and the meanings that are embedded in the built environment the better.

Contrary to what this particular writer seems to believe, architecture is not a stylistic choice.  As the ‘Look Up’ commercial states, the architect envisions the potential of what can be; their work considers nature, art, and history, as well as the limitations of every project and the ways around these limitations. It asserts that architects “look within,” “look through the eyes of others,” and listen to their clients as well as to their own hearts. “It’s about purpose,” says Roy Spence. “Architects are wired to care and to listen when they’re at their best—and create things that have never existed.

Yes, we all recognize that “Look Up” is a commercial, and commercials are about image, aspirations, and branding.  But we should all be hopeful for our profession’s future and work toward making this vision a reality.  To be an architect is to be relentlessly optimistic.  This advertising campaign will be experienced by millions of people and I appreciate the AIA’s effort to bring attention and understanding to our profession.  But reaching millions begins with one person and it is the responsibility of each one of us, as AIA members, to create a positive experience for our clients and the public. Changing perceptions will require us all to become positive advocates for architecture.  You’ll be hearing more from AIA Cleveland in the coming weeks regarding how our concerted advocacy efforts can strengthen and elevate our entire architectural community.

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Women in Architecture & Design – A Vibrant Event!


WomenArch Banner_FINAL-2

In honor of Women’s History Month, AIA Cleveland and the CUDC partnered to present Women in Architecture and Design. Over 100 participants attended the program last Wednesday evening, which featured a lecture on significant women architects in history, followed by an engaging panel discussion.  

Women in Architecture & Design

Women in Architecture & Design Panel, featuring (from left to right) Sally Levine, AIA; Jill Akins, AIA; Elizabeth Corbin Murphy, FAIA; Deb Donley and Ann Dunning, AIA. All are owners of their own Architecture / Design businesses in Northeast Ohio.


Elizabeth Corbin Murphy, FAIA, lectures on significant women in architecture history before inviting the panel for the engaging discussion.

The Keynote address was delivered by AIA Ohio Gold Medalist, Elizabeth Corbin Murphy, FAIA which focused on seminal women architects in the US including Julia Morgan, the architect of Hearst Castle, and Florence Kenyon Hayden Rector, the first female registered architect in Ohio, as well Elizabeth’s personal mentors. The panel discussion on women’s and leadership issues was moderated by Ms. Murphy and included prominent Cleveland women architects and business owners: Deb Donley, Jill Akins, former Cleveland AIA president Ann Dunning, and Sally Levine. The discussion was lively, at times humorous, and at times poignant and went on into the evening after the event formally ended.


With over 100 attendees, the event allowed for many clustered discussions that pushed the conversation of women in architecture & design forward.

An accompanying exhibit on the work of local women architects and designers will be showing through April in the new AIA offices at:

AIA New Offices
Hanna Annex Building
2059 East 14th Street Cleveland, OH. 

AIA Cleveland distributed a survey to attendees to seek mentors and mentees in the formation of an ongoing Knowledge Community for women’s issues.

If you would like to complete a survey, or would like further information about how to participate in the Knowledge Community and future events, please contact Mary Helen Hammer at the AIA office.

AIA Cleveland would like to thank our sponsors who helped make the event possible:

Silver Level: Millennium Tiles

Bronze Level: Maguire Photo, McGuiness Unlimited, and Metis Construction Services

Friends Level: CIVITAD Services, and HLMS Sustainability Solutions.



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Welcome to the new AIA CLE Website!

-Dave Robar, 2014 AIA Cleveland President

WE are all AIA Cleveland. Founded in 1890, we showed up right alongside The Old Arcade. Due to the foresight and persistence of our predecessors, both institutions are still standing. We’ve seen tremendous change and have gone through amazing transitions over the years. Like the Old Arcade, AIA CLE is an important component of our City. Like the rejuvenation of Cleveland itself, AIA CLE is ready for the Big Time. This is the age of Repositioning within the American Institute of Architects. I know…sound familiar?

It is a tag line that’s been told many times in the past. Myriad previous initiatives, while well meaning, have failed to achieve the basics of re‐creating AIA for its members. Why is this time any different? Because, as local members and those practicing in the allied arts, WE are in control now. Our national leaders have confirmed, though extensive research, something that WE already knew…AIA CLE has the power to reposition everything that we know (or think we know) about our local mission within the built environment. WE are recognized as leaders in the local community, containing the unique expertise to keep an eye on the past while laser‐focusing on the future. WE create value for members. WE define our fate. Architecture itself is an act of sheer optimism. As architects, we all create tangible, sustainable environments out of the simple hopes and dreams of communities and clients alike. AIA CLE has taken on that challenge as well…and we need your help! WE are crafting a new future. With the support of a fully energized board and many new initiatives, we strive to bring everyone together and move Cleveland forward under a united effort of constructive engagement. Whether you’re a current, future or former AIA member or a partner in the allied arts of design, engineering, materials, building codes and furnishings, you participate in determining the quality of the Built Environment every day that you go to work or engage each other in conversation over a beer. You know that WE are ready for the big time.

We all have ideas (lots of ideas). We need to harness this energy in order to create our own future. For starters, please participate in our newest survey, which represents the beginning of an ongoing dialogue that will bring focus to the new, sustainable direction of AIA CLE. Results will be shared as part of our new communications strategy. The survey can be reached by CLICKING HERE!

As AIA CLE President and on behalf of the Board of Directors of AIA Cleveland, welcome to our new website. Keep an eye out here for exciting announcements, contribute to its content and help to keep AIA CLE moving forward. Please contact me directly at if you would like to voice your opinions or find out ways to get involved.

A special thank you to our Communications Committee – Ted Ferringer, Michael Christoff and John Workley – for spearheading the development of our new site and continuing to AIA’s communication strategy through email and social media. See you back here soon!

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