Messages from the Executive Director

December 2023: A Year of Unforgettable Moments in our Community

Thank you for demonstrating your passion for learning and connection in 2023! As we look back on the year, our community demonstrated a readiness to learn in multiple formats, from desks at lunchtime or in person for all-day forums. In 2023, we introduced in-person elements of collaboration for a series of events that were held online.

In 2023, you showed unbridled enthusiasm to come together for socializing and networking, which happened at celebratory programs and committee happy hours. You all activated spaces around our ten-county membership area, from bars, pubs, and hotel conference rooms to member firm lobbies and corporate allied partner office spaces. ‘Cheers’ to the year gone by!

Your passion extended to advocacy spaces on housing and climate. Your voices were amplified in relation to design review, the update of the City of Seattle Comprehensive Plan, and regulations to boost housing density. Thank you for your voice and passion for problem-solving!

Thank you for your continued thoughtful engagement!
Melissa K. Neher
Executive Director, AIA Seattle + Seattle Design Festival

June 2023: Coming Together

Dear AIA Seattle Community,
We are at the summer solstice, and all ten counties of our members can look forward to longer, sunnier days in the months ahead. As we emerge from our annual period of social hibernation, our community has demonstrated eagerness to gather, and make great things happen together!

Our chapter membership is growing, with more than 2,800 members, and folks are ready to learn and engage. From the more than 250 participants who took a break at their desks to learn about Code in a virtual format, to the 130+ members, elected officials, municipal employees and allied professionals who gathered for Housing Now! last week, there is a readiness to improve our practice and our community.

We are just weeks away from Seattle Design Festival, and this year more than 60 partners are creating events and installations around the theme CURIOSITY. We asked our community…’what if?’ and the response has been vibrant and joyful! Full festival details will be launched next week – sign up here to get the info first thing about the upcoming Block Party, Design Mixers and Virtual Mainstage events. Join us for multidisciplinary engagement as we unleash the design thinker in everyone through the Festival.

Our member advocates have also been asking ‘what if’ questions by engaging in the City of Seattle’s Comprehensive Plan process, which will shape Seattle for decades and generations to come. Our engaged Housing Taskforce members advocated with success for a balanced approach to tree policies! For decades, AIA Seattle has been advocating for regulations that balance the urgent need for housing and foster a healthy tree canopy. The revised tree legislation demonstrates the diligence of our individual member advocates and the power of our collective voice.

Your vote is necessary to confirm the slate of leaders selected to fill open seats on our Board of Directors. If you haven’t already voted, please do so now to elect these new board members or current board members moving to officer positions.

As we look to the weeks ahead, we hope to see you at the Seattle Design Festival, and our upcoming Culture Change EDI series, Code Series, Committee events, and submitting for Honor Awards. You are a member of our extended AEC community, and you are a valued participant to make great things happen as we move forward in 2023.

Thank you for your continued thoughtful engagement!
Melissa K. Neher
Executive Director, AIA Seattle + Seattle Design Festival

December 2022: Reflections on 2022 & Looking Forward to 2023

Dear AIA Seattle Community,

As we close the calendar on 2022, we have so much to celebrate. In the past year, our community has adapted to a shifting work environment and embraced many of the silver linings and lessons of the past few years. Our community came together in 2022 in person and online with increased engagement and excitement.

We saw robust participation in online learning through Climate Summit and Code Series, as members and partners embraced the ability to tune in by zoom. In-person at the Honor Awards, nearly twice as many of us came together from the past year to celebrate projects which exemplify the future of the profession, and the celebration continued with individual achievement through Parti where we recognized 9 outstanding individuals, 1 allied organization, and our community of newly licensed architects. Our members brought forward solutions to problems in our ten-county area by advocating for the vibrant, livable, and accessible communities we value.

As we look ahead to 2023, we are embracing three themes developed by our Board of Directors which inform our annual plan: Community, Connection, and Care. In our extended community of designers, architects, planners, and allied professionals, we have come to a consensus that we value each other’s human experience, and that we must aspire to further the profession while at the same time taking care of each other and our community. These themes are threaded throughout the year ahead of us in programming, committees, advocacy, and engagement opportunities.

We are welcoming new members, including on AIA Seattle’s staff. The mighty team in place in 2022 has demonstrated flexibility and resilience, and above all else, teamwork. We are all excited to welcome new team members whom you’ll be meeting in the months ahead.

Thank you for being a part of the AIA Seattle Community! Happy New Year, and I look forward to welcoming in 2023 focused on Community, Connection, and Care!
Melissa K. Neher
Executive Director, AIA Seattle + Seattle Design Festival

June 2022: Continued Connections

A message for our valued AIA Seattle Community,
Summer has finally found us in Seattle, and all around us are signs of increasing community engagement. In our highly hybrid and virtual times, our committees and staff team at AIA Seattle are continuing to explore ways to leverage flexible formats, while eagerly embracing the in-person engagement opportunities we’ve hosted in the past few months. We appreciate the resilience and community care demonstrated by our members who have joined in-person events with respect and support for ever shifting Covid protocols.

AIA Seattle has delivered Continuing Education and Committee Programs in multiple formats, including:

  • Climate Summit: Practicing Equity and Advocacy in Rapid Decarbonization was delivered virtually and is now available online for continuing education credits.
  • Housing Forum: Precedents & Possibilities Transforming Residential Practice, was our first return to an in-person forum and was recorded for online education credits as well (coming later this summer).
  • Solstice Celebration: Creative Convergence, a collaborative program hosted by AIA Seattle Diversity Roundtable, Seattle Architecture Foundation and Seattle Design Festival in celebration of the Diversity by Design Exhibit highlighting designers, designers of all genders, LGBTQI + designers, designers with disabilities, immigrant designers and more.

AIA Seattle advocacy activities with focus on climate and housing persist, with significant engagement with the City of Seattle’s Comprehensive Plan Update. Engaged members are providing input to the to the current urban village growth strategy, with focus on speeding up and reducing barriers to housing production, fostering 15-minute neighborhoods, prioritizing and protecting BIPOC communities, promoting sustainability, and addressing city design.

Looking forward – AIA Seattle is excited to support CONNECTION, the theme of Seattle Design Festival 2022, with an expanded Festival August 20-26 to unleash the design thinker in everyone. The 2022 Festival kicks off with the Lake Union Park Block Party with 40+ Installations & Pop-Up Experiences and also includes Community Spotlights, Virtual Mainstage programming and a Closing Party.

As we welcome back summer to the Pacific Northwest, we look forward to welcoming you, our valued members and community partners, to future programming and events.

Thank you for your engagement!
Warm Regards,
Melissa K. Neher
Executive Director, AIA Seattle + Seattle Design Festival

December 2021: Reflections on 2021, Looking forward to 2022

Dear AIA Seattle Community,

Thank you for the warm welcome to lead AIA Seattle’s mission to champion the central role of architects in creating and sustaining a better built environment. It’s a pleasure to share with you a reflection on our work in 2021 and our plans for 2022. We’ve come a long way in the past year through the availability of vaccines and evolving understanding of COVID 19. 2022 holds the promise of continuing impactful programs, and our work to move forward our vision of design that fosters equitable, resilient, and thriving communities.

In 2021, disruptions transformed into opportunities as we adjusted how we provide programs for our members and the community. Over the past year, AIA Seattle has maintained focus on the core elements of our strategic plan, to prepare our profession to lead, to deploy design to make a difference and to sustain a healthy chapter. We move forward in service to the membership in ten counties which we serve.

We are launching into 2022 with steady focus on three areas of highest priority for advocacy, engagement, and programming:
Justice and Equity, Diversity and Inclusion

We will continue to engage as problem solvers in an evolving environment, and have plans for 2022 to provide education for our members through a broad range of programming including everything from the Small Firm Series to the Climate Leadership Summit. Advocacy plans include hosting sessions for members of the public and profession to learn how they can engage in the City of Seattle’s Comprehensive Plan process, perhaps the most urgent and valuable step forward towards the city we want to become. In fall we plan to gather together for the Honor Awards, an opportunity to share and celebrate nationally recognized excellence in design by architects in Washington State.

In 2022, I am personally looking forward to continuing to develop my understanding of your interests and relationships with you as a stakeholder. Your first opportunity to express your interests is below in our brief Programming Feedback Survey, and in early 2022, I’m also hosting ‘Ask me Anything’ sessions in a virtual format. I encourage you to consider what questions you have for me as AIA Seattle’s Executive Director. Submit your questions here and we will group those by theme and announce dates early in the year for interactive zoom sessions.
Thank you for your engagement, and I look forward to our future connections in 2022!
Melissa K. Neher
Executive Director, AIA Seattle + Seattle Design Festival

September 2021: Welcome to our new ED - Melissa K. Neher

Melissa K. Neher comes to AIA Seattle + Seattle Design Festival most recently from her role as Executive Director of Architects Without Borders Seattle, an organization formed by a dedicated group of volunteers who came together under the umbrella of AIA to provide access to design to underserved communities.

Melissa is from upstate NY, and from a small town start has lived all over the world, including London, Japan, Chicago, Singapore, Hong Kong, and Sydney. Melissa and her family made Seattle home in 2009, embracing the natural beauty, outdoor lifestyle and community values of a thriving region.

Melissa has decades of experience in nonprofit leadership as a problem solver. She began her career as a social worker for adults with physical disabilities, realizing early on that systemic inequity was the underlying cause of most of the challenges her clients faced. Melissa sought systemic solutions through advocacy by attending law school. As a social justice lawyer, Melissa advocated for underserved and marginalized communities, including asylum seekers and migrant workers.

Melissa witnessed firsthand the transformative power of the built environment when a legal clinic she co-founded received a donation of space for their work with asylum seekers. More than just a safe place for vulnerable people, the space became a place to make connections and build community. Before her time at Architects Without Borders Seattle, Melissa secured support for Refugee Women’s Alliance’s (ReWA’s) expanded flagship facility in Rainier Valley for immigrant and refugee populations at a time when such communities were disproportionately impacted by regressive federal policies.

Melissa enjoys working side by side with architects as problem solvers and community builders, and is dedicated to and excited to lead the combined vision of AIA Seattle and Seattle Design Festival’s culture of design that fosters equitable, resilient, thriving communities. She views climate change as an urgent social justice issue, and AIA Seattle as a leader for advocacy and responsible action in the sphere of the built environment.

Please join us in welcoming Melissa to the organization! We are excited to be working alongside Melissa, as we navigate a “new normal” in our region and profession. She will have a running start implementing our new five year strategic plan, supporting the board of directors and managing a dedicated and resilient staff. Together we will continue to bring members the programs, resources, and connections they need to thrive, and continue our collective work on our strategic imperatives: Climate, Housing, and Justice, Equity, Diversity & Inclusion.

Myer Harrell AIA
President ’21-22
Weber Thompson

Brendan Connolly AIA
Past-President ’20-21

Marisa H. Zylkowski
Past-President, Seattle Design Festival ’20-21

Melissa begins her time with AIA Seattle + Seattle Design Festival today, September 13. Melissa’s pronouns are she/her. She received her BA in Public Relations with a minor in Art History from James Madison University, and her Juris Doctorate from University of San Diego School of Law where she was a lead articles editor for San Diego Law Review and received the Outstanding Public Interest Advocate award. Melissa can be contacted via email and phone number listed on our staff page.

June 2021: Farewell to ED Lisa Richmond

Dear AIA Seattle Colleagues,

As most of you know, next Wednesday, June 30 is my last day with AIA Seattle, and these final days are bittersweet. I have enjoyed every moment of my time within this community. You have inspired me daily with your commitment to excellence, your passion, your creative ideas and willingness to share them. Thank you for welcoming me into the fold 15 years ago.

AIA Seattle will be announcing a new Executive Director within the next few weeks. I know you will embrace them as a valued member of our AIA family.

The next 12 months will be an exciting time for AIA Seattle. In addition to welcoming a new director, we will see the fruition of plans and changes that have been in the works over the past year. Our Board of Directors is finalizing three new Imperative Statements, formally committing to leadership on Climate, Equity and Housing. We will be implementing a refined brand strategy and more efficient governance model for the Seattle Design Festival, recognizing the power, momentum and recognizability of the festival to the public. And coming out of COVID, the staff is ramping up for in-person programming this fall and a full complement of events, classes, exhibits and advocacy efforts in 2022.

I’m taking a gap year to reflect and renew before stepping into the next chapter of my career. My time will include travel and outdoors adventures, volunteering, education, and maybe even some continuing connection with AIA. If you’d like to keep in touch, you can also find me on Linkedin.

All the best to you, and thank you for giving me the opportunity to call AIA Seattle home.

Lisa Richmond Hon. AIA
Executive Director
AIA Seattle + Design in Public

March 2021: Transition

Dear AIA Seattle Community,

I am writing to share some bittersweet news. After 14 wonderful years with AIA Seattle, I will be stepping down as Executive Director at the end of June. After so many fulfilling years in this role, I plan on taking a gap year to spend time with family, travel, and explore new ideas.

Working with AIA Seattle has been one of the most rewarding experiences of my life. We have accomplished so much together: successfully advocating for local policy change to promote an equitable, well designed, and sustainable city; creating the Seattle Design Festival and the Center for Architecture and Design; leading the Institute through national education programs like AIA+2030 and Materials Matter; and elevating the ideas and interests of AIA members through myriad committees and events.

AIA Seattle is a collective endeavor, the sum of the energy and passion of engaged members, committed leaders and capable staff. Its success is not dependent on any one individual. AIA Seattle will continue to thrive and grow, dedicated to the mission to champion the central role of architects in creating and sustaining a better built environment. The Board of Directors is actively working with an executive search firm and will soon be sharing more information about an executive director hiring process.

I remain totally invested in AIA Seattle’s success, and plan to set your new director up for success. Our whole team is committed to a smooth, successful, and transparent transition process. Look for more information about the hiring process and farewell events in coming weeks.

It has been my great honor and pleasure to serve as your Executive Director, and I will take with me not only pride in the work we have done together, but also the warmth of the relationships we have forged. Thank you for giving me this once-in-a-lifetime opportunity.

Lisa Richmond Hon. AIA
Executive Director
AIA Seattle + Design in Public

June 2020: AIA Seattle Statement on Racial Justice

Dear AIA Seattle Members and Community At-Large,

AIA Seattle joins powerful community voices raised to condemn the murder of George Floyd and the broader system of racism, violence, injustice and inequity that it represents. We see the sustained anguish of Black people in our profession and in our broader community. Black lives matter. We know there is hard work to be done.

Social justice is inextricably linked to the built environment. It is evident in the racist history of redlining in Seattle and other practices that were put in place to undermine communities of color, and it remains evident today in the displacement experienced by communities of color. Leaders of National Organization of Minority Architects Northwest, Leon Holloway and Veronica Barrow, assert in their eloquent statement released today:

Architects are civic stewards who aim to protect the health, safety, and welfare of the public through the built environment. As members of NOMA NW and of the AEC community, we believe it is our duty to design and build equitable spaces for all, without prejudice or bias, and to minimize the effects of racism within our profession. We must leverage our positions of privilege to help our most vulnerable citizens, neighbors, and colleagues – who too strive for life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness.

As we experience daily images of pain and conflict, it is easy to feel powerless. But architects are not powerless. The work architects do matters, because it centers the experiences and needs of people. Cornel West says that justice is what love looks like in public. Architect Bryan C. Lee Jr. adds that design justice is what love looks like in public spaces.

Architects choose this profession out of a passion to make our communities better. Never has that urge been more important. We can and must act to make a difference — through our commitment to anti-racism, our design work, our intercultural understanding, our community leadership, and our workplace practices. We must begin by listening to the diverse communities we serve.

We accept the hard work ahead, and take it on with humility. Please help us. Add to our learning and our dialogue with your thoughts and ideas. Speak up where you believe we should be better. Let us join together in this somber moment, as designers and as human beings, to use our time and skills and voices in service to a better world.

Lisa Richmond
Executive Director
AIA Seattle + Design in Public

Meredith Everist
President, AIA Seattle Board of Directors

March 2020: An Update about Covid-19 Coronavirus

Dear AIA Seattle Members,

AIA Seattle as an association exists to do together, as an architecture community, what individual members and firms cannot do as easily or as well on their own. Our mission depends on bringing people together. In these unprecedented times, our work will need to look very different, but our goals will remain the same.

What our board and staff most want you to know in this moment – in the midst of these unprecedented times – is that our focus remains on you.

We will cooperate fully with the guidelines of public health officials. Architects pledge to uphold the health, safety and welfare of our community, and those values must also guide our chapter’s actions.

    • The Center for Architecture and Design will remain closed as long as needed to enable our employees to work from home. We will regularly update our websites – and – with closure information. If you need to check on our status, please contact Megan Harmon. Staff are still working and available via email.
    • Committees will continue to meet virtually. All member groups have the tools to meet remotely, and most will begin doing so in April. Watch our websites for the most current updates.
    • Education and events through the spring will be delivered online or rescheduled. AIA Seattle has some powerful education planned through many hours of volunteer effort, and we are committed to offering it despite the challenges.

Community is more important than ever. AIA has always been fundamentally about bringing people together. Although we can’t convene in person, that sense of connectedness has never been more valuable. We are actively looking for new and engaging ways to co-create, share knowledge, and support one another. Seattle Design Festival planners are converting upcoming Design Jams into virtual collaboration opportunities. We are currently evaluating tools to connect members to each other around shared concerns and interests.

We must be adaptive and patient with one another. Things will not be the same for a while. AIA Seattle staff are working hard to adapt on the fly, and inevitably we will stumble and struggle sometimes, as will you.

    • Members, please be patient as we learn new systems and ways of working, explore tools to create virtual community, and adapt our programming to the times. But please do continue to participate. Upcoming programs represent countless hours of volunteer effort, and they deserve an audience.
    • Sponsors and donors, your support is more important than ever. We are committed to delivering on our promises, but that will look different now than what it did two weeks ago. Thank you for your patience as we pivot to respond to current circumstances.
    • Leaders and volunteers, all of us are dealing with the same extreme stressors and demands on our time. We recognize that you have lots of important things to attend to – caring for young children at home, conducting business virtually, ensuring the health and safety of your families – and it may seem hard to prioritize involvement in community institutions. But even in challenging times, working together for common cause is affirming and enriching, and we are committed to finding ways for our work together to continue, recognizing the challenges we all face.

We must be proactive in addressing the new needs of our firms and our broader community. AIA Seattle’s purpose also manifests in anticipating and responding to new challenges facing members. The disruption to the operations of architecture firms and industry partners will be significant. AIA Seattle has already been hearing from members suggesting specific actions we can take to assist members. For example, thanks to a member query, our board sent a letter to SDCI asking that the implementation of the city’s 2018 codes be delayed to provide greater flexibility during the crisis. If you have additional ideas for how our chapter can be helpful, please share them. We will consider every idea and respond based on the resources we are able to marshal.

At the same time, we cannot lose sight of our core mission: champion the central role of architects in creating and sustaining a better built environment.

Thank you for sticking with us. Great members, supporters, and volunteers have made AIA Seattle a model chapter, and we thank you. While there are inevitably big challenges ahead of all of us, our city is resilient, our community is strong, and our organization will weather the storm.

Know, beyond all else, that we care about each and every one of you. We know that your professional and personal lives are being affected by this situation. As you take on new challenges as an individual, spouse, partner, parent, caregiver, neighbor, community member, or friend, know that we are thinking of you. Stay healthy, stay safe, and stay in touch. We are here for you.

Lisa Richmond
Executive Director
AIA Seattle + Design in Public

March 2020: A Message about Covid-19 Coronavirus

Dear AIA Seattle Members,

As news of the coronavirus in Washington state leads to increasing action by both public health officials and private businesses, I wanted to share with you the steps AIA Seattle is taking to protect the health of our members and staff while continuing to offer the best member service we can. Thank you for your partnership and flexibility as we all navigate this health challenge together.

Encouraging the sick to stay home
Following the advice of public health officials, we ask that any member or employee experiencing flu-like symptoms stay home and recover.

Offering video access
For major education programs like our Project Management Series, we will be videotaping content and sharing it with individuals whose health concerns prevent them from attending in person. We will work with those individuals to secure CEUs for those who need to attend by video.

Accepting cancellations
If health concerns prevent you from attending an event for which you have already registered, AIA Seattle has extended our no-penalty cancellation policy for late cancellations.

Rescheduling meetings
If committees or other groups meeting in our space wish to reschedule or cancel, we ask that you contact staff so that we can include notification in our enews and online.

Assessing event and facilities standards
We are working with vendors, caterers, and our partners at the Center to enhance safety. At the Center, we are taking extra care to clean surfaces and provide hand-washing facilities. Our caterers take food safety very seriously, and have rigid standards for food prep and service. They ask in return that our guests do their part and wash hands prior to joining the buffet line.

Supporting local businesses
While the news about COVID-19 is concerning, we are also keenly aware that cancelling events has a negative impact on members, venues, and particularly the small local businesses we use to cater and support our events. We will consider cancelling events when it seems prudent, but guard against premature cancellations that may hurt the partners whose businesses depend on us.

We will continue to monitor the situation, and may evolve our response as circumstance requires. Thank you for partnering with us.

Lisa Richmond
Executive Director
AIA Seattle + Design in Public

November 2019: A New Strategic Plan

AIA Seattle believes our world needs the visionary and integrative thinking of architects and designers, and that design solutions can positively impact our communities. That is why we champion the central role of architects in creating and sustaining a better built environment. Guided by our values of excellence, advocacy, integrity, equity, stewardship, and collaboration, we prepare our profession to lead, and we deploy design to make a difference, so that we are all able to do our best work in a culture of design the fosters equitable, resilient, thriving communities.

Our new strategic plan is built directly on the hopes and needs of our members, collected through feedback at the beginning of the planning process.  The AIA Seattle Board of Directors worked with Crux Consulting to insure that members were engaged through an extensive stakeholder discovery process.  Input was collected through more than 100 individual interviews, focus group conversations and firm visits, as well as targeted surveys to current and former leaders and key member groups.  Input was sought from the chairs of AIA Seattle’s two dozen member committees.  Targeted outreach focused on groups with specific needs from the organization: small firms, large firms, emerging professionals, remote members living outside King County, and “silent” members with low participation levels.  We engaged current and former sponsors and allied members through focus groups and surveys.  Finally, our strategic planning consultants conducted confidential interviews with other large chapters across the country to identify where our chapter is leading and where we can improve.

Our Mission:

We champion the central role of architects in creating and sustaining a better built environment.

Our Vision:

We envision a culture of design that fosters equitable, resilient, and thriving communities.

Our Values:

Demonstrate and promote design excellence.

Represent our collective design voice, while valuing individual contributions.

Speak up on important issues, convene courageous conversations and embrace risk when it serves our mission.

Advocate for opportunity, diversity, and inclusion in practice and process.

Consider future generations and elevate sustainability to safeguard our Northwest landscape, community and climate.

Foster cross-industry connections and partnerships to magnify our collective impact.

November 2016: AIA Seattle Members have been heard

Dear AIA Seattle Members,

I wrote you on Friday to share our chapter’s renewed commitment to our core principles of equity, diversity and sustainability, in light of the significant political changes underway in our country.  Since sending that message, I have heard from many of you, expressing the value you place on our community and our core principles, as well as your anxiety about what the future might hold for gender equity, racial equity, LGBT people, vulnerable populations, and the future of our planet.

Many of you also wrote me to share your concern about statements from AIA National issued immediately following the election on behalf of the membership, which constituted a “business-as-usual” approach and overstated and misrepresented member sentiment. Those statements were issued without input from our chapter or members. I contacted AIA CEO Robert Ivy on Saturday to express our concern and request an apology for the post.  This recognition has now occurred and an apology has been issued.

Let me be clear: AIA Seattle will vigorously champion inclusion and stand against bigotry, racism, sexism, and discrimination. Today, our staff discussed concrete steps to ensure that our Center for Architecture & Design is a safe space for all who are interested in design.  We renew our commitment to ongoing efforts of our many member-led initiatives that seek a profession that reflects the demographic diversity of our state.

AIA Seattle will continue to champion climate action.  We will advocate for local and state policies, such as carbon taxation and stricter energy codes, that help make buildings part of the solution. If new federal policies step back from action on the environment, we will lead by example in our city and our state.

AIA Seattle will redouble our commitment to advocacy on issues our members care about, from housing and homelessness to livability and place-making. Finally, AIA Seattle will continue to find new ways for our members to engage directly in our community.

Now is the time for action.  Each year our volunteer leaders set priorities for advocacy, continuing education, and programming. In light of our shifting political landscape, the staff, board, committees and members of our strong, regional chapter will work to be as agile and nimble as we can to respond to threats and opportunities within our spheres of influence. Some of our current efforts are already extremely relevant, and some things we committed to may fall away in the face of more urgent priorities. Over the coming weeks, we invite all AIA Seattle members, committees and volunteers to refocus and align our efforts to respond to our new political landscape.

On the heels of a campaign shaped by divisiveness, we cannot fall into the trap of arguing among ourselves.  Our organization must bring people and communities together, and shape (and defend) the physical and cultural realms we hold dear. Such significant national change opens the door for our generation to lead, and AIA Seattle must step up into that leadership.  If we spend our energy on disagreement within our community, we won’t have the energy left to address the very real challenges we face.

We are in uncharted political territory. Each of us will be called on to stand by our core values, to contribute to solutions, and to lead by example. Your involvement now, as members, is more critical than ever.

We welcome your ideas for how we can accomplish that – together.

Lisa Richmond
Executive Director
AIA Seattle

November 2016: To Our AIA Seattle Community

Dear AIA Seattle Members,

As we all deal with the impacts of this divisive election, we wanted to check in with you, our members. While we may come from a spectrum of political viewpoints, we’ve all survived a wrenching few months. We will face the monumental political changes in our future together.

For 150 years, our AIA family has been a place of collegiality and hope. We will continue to welcome people of all backgrounds and persuasions, and to open our doors to all that are interested in joining with us, regardless of political party, race, ethnicity, religion, gender or sexual orientation. We will stand behind AIA’s commitment to diversity and inclusion, understanding that it will take the combined wisdom of many different viewpoints to develop solutions to our nation’s pressing problems. Today, our community feels more important than ever.

Working for our shared future, we will continue to empower leadership within our profession and advocate for our community design values. As government policies and funding change, our local leadership is critically important. Seattle’s design community represents the hopeful, creative thinking our country needs to heal, and to progress. The turbulence of these past few weeks must renew and strengthen our commitment to each other, to our community and to our planet. We are stronger together.

Lisa Richmond
Executive Director
AIA Seattle

April 2015: AIA+2030 Success Story

In late March, I was honored to join a group of 20 sustainable design leaders from across the country who convened in Seattle to design the new AIA+2030 Online Series.

The move to online delivery as part of AIAU is just the next step in what has been a powerful expansion of this Seattle program. Started by AIA Seattle with the intention of providing a meaningful national tool, AIA+2030 has now been produced in over 25 cities in the US and Canada, touching almost 30% of AIA’s national membership.

Our Seattle design community rightfully takes pride in our leadership in sustainable design. We can draw on a wealth of expertise and a growing number of case studies in our professional education. AIA+2030 has allowed us to share that rich resource with our colleagues around the country, and in turn to learn from them.

The program has also helped our chapter build lasting relationships with partners like Architecture 2030, Northwest Energy Efficiency Alliance, and our many funders and educational partners.

Look for AIA+2030 online by the end of 2015.

– Lisa Richmond, AIA Seattle Executive Director


Your AIA Seattle Board of Directors recently held its annual planning retreat to identify priorities and programs for 2016. We heard from you, our members, about what you like and what you want. Here’s what we heard:

Valuable member feedback.  Thanks to you, our members, who answered surveys, participated in firm visits, or volunteered through an AIA Seattle committee. Your feedback shaped the conversation during the entire retreat, and helped us prioritize our plans for the coming year.

Expanded public programming. You shared the importance of continuing to elevate the value of good design with the public. At our retreat, we talked about opportunities to enhance and expand the Seattle Design Festival and other work of Design in Public (an AIA Seattle strategic initiative), as well as plans for new exhibits and related programming on change and growth in our city, housing and density, and fit design.

More visible advocacy. AIA Seattle’s Public Policy Board is very active on local policy and design issues, but you want to hear more about that work. Our board discussed ways to enhance and communicate our advocacy efforts so that our architect members have a more prominent voice in decisions that matter.

Continued professional education and career support. We heard how much our members value education, networking, and career opportunities. In 2016, we plan to expand that good work through an educational series on sustainable and healthy materials, a conference on mega-projects, and education on innovation and the business of building.

Changes at all levels of the AIA. AIA Seattle has been a vocal champion of Repositioning, and is now hard at work with our partners across the state to restructure the way our association does business. Our board’s goal: greater efficiency and reduced dues.

From all this input and great thinking, we will produce an annual plan, which I look forward to sharing with you this fall.

– Lisa Richmond, AIA Seattle Executive Director

July 2015: Statewide Chapters Seeking Better Efficiency and Service

AIA Chapters in Washington State Discuss Improving Efficiency and Service

As part of AIA repositioning, the chapters in our state have convened a task force to explore ways to improve efficiency and reduce redundancy. Our state is currently home to six local chapters and one state chapter, all operating as independent corporations. The largest local chapter is AIA Seattle, with 1900+ members, and the smallest is Southwest Washington, with 32 members.

Your AIA Seattle representatives are participating in all aspects of this conversation. Our chapter’s goals are to:
• Improve efficiency and eliminate redundancy across chapters
• Serve all members across the state better and more consistently
• Maintain our state chapter’s strong focus on state advocacy
• Reduce AIA Washington Council member dues

By December, our chapters plan to finalize a Memorandum of Understanding that defines new structures and working relationships amongst our components. The task force is considering models that will allow members outside of Washington’s concentrated centers of membership to leverage services available at some of the larger chapters. For example, AIA Vancouver and AIA Southwest Washington are considering a merger that would allow the two chapters to combine administrative functions yet still allow the Vancouver area members to maintain their local events and identity.

The task force is meeting again in July and August, and hopes to draft an MOU in the fall. This MOU would be reviewed by members at the Nov 20 AIA Washington Council Annual Meeting.

– Lisa Richmond, AIA Seattle Executive Director

September 2015: A New Home for Design

A New Home for Design

I hope you’ve heard the exciting news that AIA Seattle, Design in Public, Seattle Architecture Foundation, and AIA Washington Council will be moving into a shared home later this year, the new Center for Architecture & Design. With this move, a world of possibilities opens up for us to connect, inform, and engage both our industry and the public, exploring how design shapes and inspires vibrant communities.

The Center will be a place to connect and learn through exhibits, public programs, and professional education. Thematically organized programming will touch on relevant issues, including design for health and fitness, urban housing and density, preservation and adaptation in a changing city, and many more.

But we also envision it as your place: a home away from home for AIA members and our industry partners, somewhere you can connect and share ideas with colleagues in the design community. As always, AIA Seattle is for and about our members; your interests, knowledge, and volunteer involvement will be a welcome and critical part of the Center’s success. I hope to see you there!

– Lisa Richmond, AIA Seattle Executive Director

White Papers

Getting to Zero with AIA Seattle, by Louisa Gaylord

Our world is changing, and with 82% of the population living in urban areas, how we design and build our cities should be changing too. AIA Seattle recently hosted a four-part series called Getting To Zero which focused on supporting net zero design in the next 15 years. The series gave local architects, engineers and project managers the tools to create more innovative net zero energy buildings in the Pacific Northwest. By focusing on changing the mentality of creating beautiful efficient buildings, AIA Seattle is empowering building professionals to go out and change how the world thinks about design. Read More

Seattle Design Festival

Seattle Design Festival

Seattle Design Festival connects designers, community members and civic leaders to explore the ways design improves our city and our lives - and will be August 17-22, 2024 Read more