The AIA Chicago Bridge program was created to provide Young Architects and Associate members with access to local AIA Fellows (FAIA), leaders and designers from the Architectural community, in both formal and informal group settings.
Outlined after the AIA’s Young Architects Forum’s (YAF) Mentor guidelines (http://www.aia.org/professionals/groups/yaf/AIAS075219), Bridge focused on Mentorship, which has long been a keystone of Architectural practice, education, and an integral component in a young Architect’s professional development. In the past, young Architects worked alongside a master Architect and learned by listening, observing, and participating. The specialization of today’s modern practice has created a shift away from this one-on-one form of professional education and relied more on a community education approach.
The Bridge program was created to bring experienced AIA Fellows and young Architects together in mentoring relationships. These pairings bridge the gap between the young Architect’s need for mentorship and the ability, knowledge, and experience of AIA Fellows. Additionally, the program inspired and motivated the Fellows to reinterpret and evaluate the trajectory of their practice.
The program accepted twenty Mentee’s with a range of professional experience from recent graduates to young firm owners. Each Mentee was paired with a Fellow serving as their Mentor. The program began with an informal social event followed by several organized mentorship discussions focusing conversation on past experiences, career development, and the future of the Architectural practice. Throughout the program, the Fellows and their Mentee’s met in a one-on-one setting to informally discuss specific professional goals while further developing and strengthening their relationship.
Bridge Mentee, Nootan Bharani, Associate AIA, describes the program as “a dynamic way to listen and learn about other architects’ experiences – both from the FAIA Fellows as well as from my peers.”
The Mentee’s were also asked to collectively discuss the potential for Architects to become leaders in our communities and to develop a community service project of their choice. The Mentee’s used the opportunity with their Mentors to present and review several ideas until the group decided on two separate, but connected projects. This produced the most powerful outcome of the Bridge program with real results that will benefit the community at large.
Half of the Bridge group moved forward and focused on the creation of the AIA Chicago Community Interface Committee (CIC). The CIC’s mission is to increase the visibility and participation of Architects within community groups and non-profit organizations. The group serves as a network and forum for exchange of knowledge related to public interest work; a point of contact for community groups and non-profit groups that seek design solutions; a liaison between the AIA and established pro-bono design groups; and support for architects’ involvement in civic activities.
The second half of the group focused on creating the first pilot project for the CIC. That project partnered with Growing Power, an urban farming group based in Milwaukee and Fourth Presbyterian Church in Chicago. The Bridge Mentee’s helped lead a design charrette with local community groups to provide a vision and master plan the future development of their community garden and urban farm in Chicago’s Cabrini Green neighborhood.
The Bridge program formally concluded with a “fire-side chat” at Walter Sobel, FAIA’s Frank Lloyd Wright-designed house. This reception was a final opportunity for all of the Mentee’s and Fellows to connect as a group, discuss mentorship within the profession, share stories about career development and community engagement.
“Before Bridge, we had no mechanism to facilitate an exchange of information and knowledge between our emerging, young architect members and our longtime, wisdom-rich, FAIA members,” says Zurich Esposito, AIA Chicago Executive Vice President. The Bridge program helped form lasting mentoring relationships, provided leadership opportunities for young Architects, re-connected Fellows in AIA Chicago, and catalyzed a dialog the community. Several of the young Architect Mentee’s have emerged as active leaders within AIA Chicago. Due to the program’s success, AIA Chicago is planning to launch Bridge 2.0 with a new group of Mentee’s later this spring. (click on Bridge logo for link to AIA Chicago Bridge Program website)
The Community Interface Committee continues to encourage community engagement within the profession by organizing presentations and project tours with Architects and community groups. In addition to Growing Power, the group has assisted Habitat for Humanity with a design charrette to develop affordable and sustainable housing types. The CIC has also partnered with the Chicago Architecture Foundation’s Education Department to match Architects with elementary school teachers and provide support for visiting their schools to talk with students about Architecture and Design.
The Community Interface Committee is always looking to connect with Architects, community groups or non-profit organizations. Please visit the CIC website/blog for more information – www.communityinterface.org
(All photos courtesy of AIA Chicago)