by: LUCA MARINO-BAKER, ASSOCIATE AIA
As my first Grassroots experience I wasn’t sure what I was getting into. I had been to design conferences before, but never had experience with advocacy. Architecture as a field is extremely collaborative, yet many of us (myself included) tend to get wrapped up in our own work and are missing out on the experience you gain conversing with your peers about work and our future both individually and as a practice. The diversity of backgrounds, experience and scale of design was illuminating. It was an opportunity to talk to lots of peers and find out how much you have in common while learning what it’s like working in completely different markets and firm sizes. Grassroots immediately sparked my interest in the exciting projects we as architects are working on globally.
A lot of other EPs are in the same boat as I am in terms of exams, experience and especially knowing how much they are worth. Mainly that most of us have no idea what we are worth. The recession changed the field in many ways, especially how we are compensated. All markets were affected by it and in many ways we as professionals are still recovering from it.
A workshop at Grassroots exposed me to efforts the AIA is taking to ease the burden of student loans. The National Design Services Act (NDSA) is one such effort the AIA has been spearheading for the last few years. The NDSA is legislation, that if passed, will credit hours dedicated to non-profit and community focused work towards paying down one’s student loans. Emerging professionals working on a variety of projects nationally and internationally will be able have their hours credited towards paying down and even forgiving federal student loans. This is similar legislation that has been successfully passed for graduates of other fields such as doctors, nurses and even lawyers (obviously they have deep pockets for lobbying the right lawmakers). Getting this legislation through congress is a goal of the AIA and the more people know about it, the better. I will be working locally to help in this process.
Most importantly Grassroots reaffirmed my conviction that architecture is important and directly influences all of our lives on a daily basis. We shouldn’t just be happy to have a job. Our work directly influences everyone’s lives in that we spend most of our time indoors. One’s mental and physical health hinges on our environment, which not only includes “buildings”, but the urban and not-so-urban communities we live in New Mexico. We are urban designers in addition to architects and need to take more leadership positions in our communities to drive resilient urban planning and design.
Grassroots revealed the very supportive network we have in the AIA and more locally in the WMR region, and finally our state and city chapters. Immersion in our communities, professional networks, and civic entities will ensure architects have a powerful say in how our world develops. Unlike any other field, architects are uniquely qualified with their education, hard work ethic, passion for design and especially our creativity, the key ingredient in changing what we don’t like about the world. I strongly advise any emerging professional in NM to go next year and embrace this experience.