Towards the end of last month, the world received the shocking news that pulled our hearts deep into the pits of our stomachs.

Kobe Bryant. Dead. Age 41.

A fatal helicopter crash snatched the lives of all passengers, including his 13-year-old daughter.

The world is still processing this heart-wrenching news. Men and women. Young and old. Athletes and those who have never stepped foot on a basketball court. There is still chatter in the air at the local grocery store, church, and barbershop.

Those in my generation, felt like they knew Kobe personally. We didn’t. But his contributions on and off the court were so great that you could not ignore them. Even if you rooted against the Los Angeles Lakers, there was not one person who did not realize that the sport was better with Kobe than without him. And after basketball, the community benefited beyond belief from his contributions. He was enshrined as a Legend.

R. Corey Clayborne, AIA

So, what does this have to do with architects and architecture?

As the Executive Vice President of AIA Virginia, it is my goal that our members have the resources and support that allow them to make contributions to our communities and built environment that are undeniably positive. Every project you take on as an architect has great value, regardless of the size, scope, and fee. Yes, some projects are “glamorous” and win Design Awards. That’s cool and it is important to recognize design excellence, however that is defined.

But don’t you think for one moment that the sidewalk repair you did for your community’s Public Works department or the bathroom renovation for the local soup kitchen isn’t valuable or important. I would argue that these projects can potentially impact more lives than the projects that get bright lights and recognition at black-tie events. For example, someone who has been ordered by a doctor to get more exercise, because their life depends on it, requires that sidewalk. That bathroom for the soup kitchen may be the only opportunity an individual has to experience a clean space with natural daylighting daily. A space, no matter how public or private it is that says, “you matter.”

Don’t take any day for granted.

It is so easy to get into the “work” routine. Come in and get coffee. Bang out a reflected ceiling plan and wall details, take a meeting or two, finish a specification section, wash out your coffee cup and go home. What’s going to be your legacy when you are no longer on this Earth? Are you going to be selfish with your talents or share them with others?

I’m challenging you to take your God-given abilities and use them to the fullest. If it is design, then do that. If it is service, then consider serving on a Board or Commission in your community. They truly need your problem-solving abilities. AIA Virginia has the tools and resources to help you be that architect whose contributions are undeniably everlasting. That, my friend, is the value of membership.

Corey Clayborne, AIA, MBA
Executive Vice President