Architects as Civic Leaders

In early August, Populous hosted an American Institute of Architects (AIA) event at our Kansas City office. The event, called “Architects as Civic Leaders” included a panel of local officials who are architects by trade and civic leaders by choice. The purpose of the event was to generate much needed conversation about the importance of civic service and how architects can contribute to their local communities. Moderated by The Kansas City Star’s Kevin Collison, the panel included five panel members of varying levels of local government.

At the very core of our work as architects, we consider how to inspire, develop and sustain cities, towns and communities through architecture. With every project we ask ourselves how our designs can positively affect the environment, the profession and the citizens who will visit and enjoy them. We consider the economic benefits of sites and the cultural benefits of designs. By nature, a career as an architect carries civic responsibility; after all, we design buildings that last generations and can be the impetus for public discourse about social values and urban societies.

It should be no surprise then, I also believe that architects can provide a perspective to government roles that is beneficial to their communities. We understand planning, development and design, but more importantly, we understand the constraints to doing so.  On a larger scale, architects tend to be forward-thinkers, who can see the big picture and potential of a site and a city, something that each of the panelists mentioned as to be a strength of architects in local government.

There are many ways to get involved. Perhaps you choose to join a school board or city council. Perhaps you provide planning insight for a development advisory committee or sit on a zoning board. Regardless, your talents and skill sets can be put to good use if you’re motivated to contribute. It won’t be without its challenges, but it’s perhaps the most rewarding career decision you can make.

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