On the last day in December, I was listening to a ​podcast piece about habits​–about how to start new ones, how to disrupt unhelpful or unhealthy ones, how to break them down into tiny bits and ultimately try to become a better person with the new habits that I will implement smoothly, effectively, and with no trouble or sacrifice at all–as I confidently assure myself every January. It will be like magic, right? Yet more often than not, my track record suggests otherwise. Other than a recent resolution to floss more consistently (stemming from the post-grad school financial shock of my first significant dental procedure), I have an admittedly poor record with immediate follow through on my resolutions. I am an aspirational person, but usually by the grey days at the end of January, my big goals have shrunk to small goals, if they still exist at all. I suspect I am not alone.

Michael Spory, Assoc. AIA

And yet, I look back and realize that even if those resolutions did not immediately pan out, that resolving myself to stretch and grow in new ways each year has positively bent the arc of my life in the long run. In the act of reflecting every new year, I can clean off the dust of the everyday chaos of deadlines and redlines and take stock of who I have been–and more importantly–who I want to be. Not just trying to go to the gym more often, but someone who takes action on my holistic health more intentionally. Not just checking off the next professional credential, but understanding what is piquing my curiosity and holding my creative attention. Not just trying to quantify ways to appease my internal sense of my own racism, but undertaking the steady, consistent work to undo the white supremacy where it shows up in my life.

For me, this realization helps shape the often slow, sometimes frustrating back-of-house efforts that begin the new year. As the AIA Virginia representative for unlicensed professionals across the commonwealth of Virginia, I am looking ahead to how to bend the arc of our emerging professional architectural community more towards excellence, more towards equity, more towards connection in a challenging year for designers everywhere. In serving your needs, I am committed to the following:

  • To connect our five distinct chapters in more concrete ways, building bridges across professional networks and universities to celebrate and share what each of our components does really well.
  • To increase opportunities for allyship and equity-building for women, LGBT, BIPOC, folks with disabilities, and non-traditional professionals.
  • To find ways to better serve our design outposts in under-resourced cities and the rural areas outside of Virginia’s traditional design geographies.
  • To supporting entrepreneurship and design organizations (and the people running them) that don’t always look like traditional architectural practice.

If you find that you are inspired by something in these goals–please please please get in touch with me. Our AIA Virginia team is always looking for new team members–emerging leaders who can take on the big and small things that serve each other and our communities in better ways. Will you come join me?

In that podcast that I mentioned, the host suggested breaking down new goals into the tiniest bits possible, to build on small successes consistently. As 2021 gets underway, I wonder what these first small successes will look like over the next weeks and months, as we work together to build and celebrate the good daily work of design in ourselves, our neighborhoods, and across Virginia.

In solidarity and action,
Michael Spory, Associate AIA

Just a few fun things to click on:

Some dope projects. ​The Architect’s Newspaper announced its ​2020 Design Awards​ list, which features Virginia’s own ​Memorial to Enslaved Laborers​ at the University of Virginia as Project of the Year.

Something to listen to. ​Speaking of habits, this ​podcast from Hidden Brain​ explores how to build better habits–and maybe even break some of the worse ones. Plus, it features an “irresistible staircase” in the Miller Hull’s ​Bullitt Center​ in Seattle.

Something to jumpstart your ARE studying. ​AIA Northern Virginia is gearing up another round of ARE prep courses, which will all be virtual for the time being. If you are anything like me, having others to share the ARE studying gauntlet with is an invaluable resource and motivator. More info ​here​.

Something to join. ​VANOMA (recently founded in the fall of 2020) is up and running. Get info and connected to its efforts, and join the meetings to learn more. They can be found on social media ​here​.