American Institute of Architects: Setting The Standards

Before 1857, there were no degrees of architecture in higher education, no professional ethics, no architectural licensing laws, or standards and anyone could claim to be an architect. Thirteen professional architects came together in New York City and decided to change this. They organized an association that would help standardize the profession. Richard Upjohn was voted in as the first president. This group invited an additional 16 highly regarded professional architects to join on February 23, 1857.

By March 10, 1857, this group, under the name of New York Society of Architects, created the first set of by-laws and a constitution. The name was soon changed to American Institute of Architects. The certificate of incorporation was filed on April 13 and the new constitution was signed two days later.

The next year the constitution’s mission was amended to read “to promote the artistic, scientific, and practical profession of its members; to facilitate their intercourse and good fellowship; to elevate the standing of the profession; and to combine the efforts of those engaged in the practice of Architecture, for the general advancement of the Art.”

By the 1880’s, chapters had formed in the major cities of Washington, D.C., Chicago, Indianapolis, Baltimore, Philadelphia, San Francisco, Albany, Rhode Island, Boston, St. Louis, and Cincinnati. Today, there are now over 300 chapters located nationally.

The AIA has several types of members and currently has a total membership of over 90,000 licensed architects and associated professionals. The types of memberships include:

Architect Members are those licensed as architects to practice architecture in the U.S.A.

Associate Members are people who are interns or otherwise engaged in the field of architecture under a licensed firm or individual, and faculty members in a university program in this field.

Allied Members are professionals that work in associated fields such as landscape architects, planners, designers, and engineers. Also, included in this group, is the executive staff of building companies that include related product manufacturers, research firms, and related publishing houses.

Emeritus members are extended the courtesy of continuing membership if they have been a member for 15+ years and over 65 years old who have retired or no longer working in the field.

International Associate Members are located outside the U.S. borders and are licensed to practice in the field of architecture.

The AIA has over 200 staff members and is led by its board of directors

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