Early in 2005 a group of architect-members of the Society began to realize that if they wanted to actively promote AIA’s new strategic goal of encouraging the growth of sustainable, healthy communities, they would have to play a part in the policy decision-making process across the Commonwealth.

As a result, architect Scott Spence of Williamsburg conceived the idea of the “Citizen Architect.”

“It seemed a natural progression, particularly in Virginia, where the nation’s first and most famous citizen architect, Thomas Jefferson, gave us such a great example after which to pattern the program,” said Spence.

Duncan Abernathy, AIA, Director of Government and Industry Affairs for the state association at the time, took the lead on forming a committee of the members and developing a chart of appointed and elected positions throughout the state for which architects would be appropriate candidates. “The hardest part of the whole program,” he says, “was researching every town, county and municipality. But at the end of the day, the very nature of the practice of architecture, as well as our commitment to the AIA’s 10 Principles for Livable Communities, made the contribution of Virginia’s Citizen Architects to their communities, one that was welcomed by the jurisdictions with open arms.”

Since its inception, this concept has been adopted nationally. If you’d like to get involved or find out more about this initiative, contact Corey Clayborne, AIA.