AIA President Carl Elefante Talks about Architecture’s Relevance Revolution with Our Students

Carl Elefante, FAIA, president of the American Institute of Architects (AIA) delivered a powerful talk on “Architecture’s Relevance Revolution” Monday, October 15 in our Innovation Space. Elefante is Principal and Director of Sustainability for Quinn Evans Architects, which has offices in Washington, D.C., Ann Arbor and Detroit, Michigan, and Madison, Wisconsin. He serves as design principal for a broad spectrum of projects including architecture, historic preservation, and community revitalization.

Elefante posed the question, “What is the architect’s job?” He then began to unfold his thesis of how the architect’s role is not merely of bricks and mortar but more humanistic, as “human destiny will be shaped by how we [architects] design.” He challenged the audience, comprised primarily of our architecture students, to consider the impact of their design projects. While he cited many examples, Alejandro Aravena’s social housing in Chile resonated with the audience as an important approach to rethinking housing for underserved populations. Fundamental to this perspective of designing with the final and lasting impact in mind, is the use of materials and the way architects design for the changing social, cultural, economic, environmental, and political aspects of our world.

Elefante’s motivational talk was a call to action: he stated that the estimated 92,000 licensed architects in the United States are not enough to meet the challenges of a global population now well over 7.5 billion. He challenged the students and faculty to expand their inquiry beyond the traditional means to embrace innovative approaches to building with sustainability and resiliency.


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