Heart Your Institution

Earlier in August, the Australian Institute of Architects (‘the Institute’) deployed, analysed, and published the “Graduate Survey 2012” so that they could “develop programs and initiatives to suit the specific needs of this demographic.” It is an important initiative for the Institute because any representative group should regularly take stock of the experiences and expectations of its members, as this should inform quite explicitly what an institution should be focusing its resources and energy on while also maintaining momentum in their core trajectory, which in the case of architects, usually reads something like ‘promoting the value of architects’ and ‘promoting the value of architecture and design in improving the quality of the our lives’.

It’s worth analysing that the Institute, and similar national representative organisations, like the New Zealand Institute of Architects and the Royal Institute of British Architects, are a membership-driven representative group of practicing (or aspiring) architects, meaning their advocacy is prioritized to the experiences, needs, quality of life, and professional sustainability of architects.

This differs slightly, but importantly, from other institutions and groups such as the Danish Architecture Centre, Netherlands Architecture Institute, and the Wellington Architectural Centre, whose advocacy prioritizes the promotion, dissemination and education of architecture as a social and cultural aspiration benefitting the general population’s experiences, needs and quality of life.

Of course both types of groups work substantially and passionately for the advocacy of architects and architecture because they are naturally interwoven, but their differences exist, and are played out more forcefully when resources are scarce.

When the body gets cold, blood leaves the extremities to keep the center warm.

An important canary down the mine-shaft of institutionalisation is membership convergence. In my experience, these two types of groups differ wonderfully if you characterize their membership. The New Zealand Institute of Architects for example is a large and increasingly coherent group, but are expensive to join, and you’re probably indifferent about why you’re joining anyway. The Wellington Architectural Centre has a small, and colourful membership, are cheap to join, and because you doubted joining in the first place, are a much more motivated member of the Centre.

What I want you to consider then, is when it does get cold out, and the air is getting rank (to recklessly mix metaphors), are you at the heart of your institution, or will you find yourself out on a limb, freezing your tits off.