Contributed by:
Bob Meckfessel
FAIA

Talk About It

About 2 years ago: Mahbuba Nahid K.

15 years ago my first job in US was at a 6 person firm in Dallas where I worked with Bob's wife Pat. At that time bob was AIA president and I used to hear about all of these aspects of profession from Pat. I was an associate member at that time and looked up to leaders of AIA Dallas, but could not relate to most of these. Now that I am a small form owner, I ditto Bob. On top of that AIA Dallas replaced my friends and colleagues I left behind and became an umbrella over my head.

Why AIA Matters

For the past 23 years, I have had the privilege of creating and running a small architectural firm, DSGN Associates. And, fortunately, DSGN has been successful (mostly), allowing me to feed my family, to pursue a passion for design, and to greatly enjoy my work days, even those long ones (luckily rare) fraught with recalcitrant contractors, insecure clients, and obstinate officials.

When I look back over those 23 years, I am struck by the role — always positive — that AIA has played in DSGN’s history and success, in matters large and small, from the mundane to the sublime.

A few examples…

For business — AIA has provided me with resources to address those nuts-and-bolts matters that can drive small practitioners mad, generally keep us from doing what we really want to do and, if neglected, kill our firms. In the past ten days alone, I have received invaluable (and mostly free!) advice and input on legal matters, studio space standards, and BIM technology, all from individuals I met thru AIA.

For marketing — Exposure to AIA members (who, while friends, are often competitors)  and their practices has allowed me to benchmark our firm’s performance, understanding how we stack up —whether in design, smart management, staff recruitment and retention, or delivery processes. And, even better, the AIA network has resulted in a significant amount of high-quality marketing leads, either by reference or by collaboration.

For moral support and advice — Whether the challenge is a knotty design problem, a puzzling code issue, or a baffling business matter, I guarantee that there is another architect out there who’s dealt with it before and figured it out. The best way to find that architect is thru an AIA-focused circle of friends and colleagues. Worst case — even if they can’t help me figure it out, it’s nice to have access to a friendly ear that “gets it” and may even cover the bar tab.

For inspiration — How to say enough about this? While AIA doesn’t have a lock on inspiring individuals doing inspiring work, it sure does pack a whole lot of them together. And it’s not just architects, as AIA’s wide network reaches out to encompass so many others doing amazing things in the arts, in planning and urban design, in government, and in non-profit advocacy. I cannot begin to count the number of talented and dedicated people I’ve met (and now treasure) thru AIA, both in and out of our profession.

For fun — Hoo boy, the stories I could tell…suffice it to say that AIA architects (often after, or even at, AIA events) know how to have a good time.

For a better world…I feel particularly fortunate to be a member of AIA Dallas, a savvy, fearless chapter willing and driven to speak out on matters important to our community. Foremost for me (of course) is the chapter’s recent leadership on the ill-advised Trinity Tollway, when we became one of the first (if not the first) organizations to publicly challenge the conventional wisdom sustaining this bad idea. More recently, via the Urban Summits, AIA Dallas is highlighting many of the critical urban challenges facing North Texas. By doing so — in a leadership role with other influential organizations — AIA is bringing national and local experts and activists together to find common ground to address these challenges. As a result, Dallas is a better place to live, to work, to play, and to thrive.

So, does AIA matter? You bet it does, and my career, my life, my family, and my community are the richer for it.