Residential Architect Initiatives

I recently returned from a CRAN meeting, the AIA’s Custom Residential Architects Network initiative. Titled “Learn from the Lakers,” the purpose for the gathering was to increase awareness of CRAN and to provide ideas and creative tools by which to promote residential architecture within other communities. Hosted by the Minneapolis AIA and the CRAN leadership, visiting architects gathered from such progressive cities as Cincinnati, Portland and Austin.   

A lot of discussion also centered on CORA, the Council of Residential Architects, which is another avenue for promoting residential architects. The AIA is trying to incorporate the energy that has begun in CORA, which shares a very similar mission statement as CRAN. Interestingly, the residential chapter of the Cincinnati AIA has completely embraced CORA, using their logos together in advertising and promotions between the groups and acting as one. 

The CRAN meeting coincided, through good committee planning, with the Minneapolis AIA’s first annual Homes by Architects tour. For being the first AIA home tour in Minneapolis, it was a resounding success raising approximately $150,000 largely through ticket sales to a public keen on glimpsing the interiors of more than 25 well-designed homes. The home tour was, in fact, one of our group’s highlights and allowed a more intimate glimpse into Minneapolis’ diverse residential architecture. Not coincidentally, the local builders’ association hosted its 60th home tour the same weekend, with approximately 500 homes open to the public.  

The weekend was an overall success on several counts. The CRAN gathering was in itself an informed, intelligent exchange among like-minded architects whose focus is on improving national AIA support and communication for its residential constituency. The panel discussion lead by the local AIA of Minneapolis spoke to their recent experiences with the home tour. It was engaging, informative and will undoubtedly influence more successful home tours and other public awareness of residential architecture in other cities.   

Additionally, it was a pleasure to witness the wide diversity of architecture that was represented on the tour. There was everything from classic Midwestern to modern urban. For being in its infancy stage, it was striking to note the high number of quality homes and architects that participated in this tour.    

I attribute the success of Minneapolis’ tour to the breadth of its AIA residential leadership. The architects recognized the terrific public exposure that the tour would bring to their product and viewed their time commitment as an opportunity to connect with potential clients. They understood that in this economic climate, and indeed in every residential marketplace, architects need to identify themselves as professionals and market their design services.       

Local AIA chapters can be very instrumental in providing the venue to garner attention for residential architects. Participating with either CRAN or CORA can lead to getting your voice heard at the national level.  Each of these platforms is gaining momentum and finding leadership. This is a great time to get involved, at a somewhat grass roots level, both locally and nationally. 

One thing is certain, and that is residential architects are demanding a voice. There is a lot we can gain by belonging to a group that supports us, provides continuing education and creates a network of support for our particular specialization of residential design. I strongly recommend that if you are not a member of either one of these groups that you get involved, now. 

Many of us are very eager to find a venue for our professional endeavors, and after many decades it is assuring to have two viable organizations in their infancy. It’s up to you and me to make these initiatives work for us.