Tuesday, December 8, 2009

AIA Bridge Program Gets a Pony for the Holidays

I had mentioned the new AIA Bridge program in an earlier post and now that the program is coming to the end of its term I can write a bit about the outcome. Please look for that in future posts.

Brett Taylor, top photo, lower left, sees no evil. James Holland, bottom photo, foreground, smells no evil.

A few weeks ago we were given the opportunity to present our proposals to the AIA Chicago Chapter Board. While the presentation was well received, at some point during the meeting someone suggested the Board might sponsor the Bridge program, many of whom are unemployed emerging professionals, to the AIA Holiday Party. So a few days later word came down that they had ponied up the dough and they deserve our sincerest thanks.

But this is related to another important issue. One of the things that was brought up at the meeting was a summary from the Large Firms Round Table. Apparently they were concerned about loosing emerging architects to the recession as has been the case in years past. Now, whether they are, in fact, concerned about loosing young architects or whether that was just said because the room was full of Bridge program members, many of whom are emerging architects and newly unemployed, remains to be seen.

But one of the ways unemployed emerging architects have remained engaged with the profession has been through the AIA. I'd like to suggest that the vast majority of young, laid-off architects come from big firms that sponsored their membership to the AIA. Well, many of those memberships are coming to term and many of those emerging professionals will not be renewing them.

I've heard a number of AIA administrators point out the membership in Chicago is in better shape than the national numbers. Those numbers may soon fall off a cliff as emerging professionals let their memberships lapse because they are still unemployed. On top of that, those EP's will no longer have access to many of the resources that AIA provides. The Chicago Chapter has certainly been supportive of me, along with the Bridge program and the seminars I attend for Learning Units, they have a link to this blog on their home page.

So, if I take what I have heard over the last few weeks regarding emerging professionals, AIA memberships, large firms, etc., and plug them into a formula I come up with a solution. I'm not suggesting large firms provide memberships to former employees for nothing. But I have a number of ideas in which the EP's can be put to work towards social issues involving communities or segments of society who lack access to professional services. A large firm could volunteer a team leader and a few of their workstations that have been dormant for about a year now. In return, EP's would have access to professionals, equipment, colleagues, professional memberships, and most importantly they would have the ability to work toward completing their IDP.

The sponsor firms, in turn, would be able to maintain a connection to these employees during this recession and build upon their skill set so they are prepared for the economy when it recovers. At the same time they would be training their existing employees to be future team leaders.

As I said, I have a couple of ideas for projects for which this system could be put to use. Please look for those in upcoming posts.

Wednesday, December 2, 2009

Food Desert Caravan Charette This Saturday

Project Brief from Architecture for Humanity, Chicago Chapter:

Food Desert Caravan 

Project Partner
Food Desert Action

A July 2006 study sheds light on a major facet of community disinvestment in Chicago’s African-Americancommunities: the lack of grocery stores. The study examines the phenomenon of “food deserts,” described as “communities with little or no access to grocery stores and quality, nutritious food choices.”

Roughly one in six Chicago residents lives in a food desert. The report demonstrated statistically significant relationships between food access and diet-related disease, including diabetes and obesity, and premature death.

A significant part of the cost and risk in grocery retail lies in real estate. This involves tremendous cost, and is an irreversible decision once made. Minimizing the real estate aspect of the business could reduce start-up costs and lower risk for a new enterprise.

Project Description and Goals
The Food Desert Caravan is a proposal for a mobile store, built in a retrofitted city transit bus, to restore urban food access. The Caravan will focus on providing fresh produce.

Parameters and Design Considerations
• Chicago Transit Authority accordion-like bus
• Four season operation
• Green, sustainable and energy efficient technologies (i.e., bio-diesel fuel, solar-powered sound system, reused materials, etc.)
• Appropriate shelving, refrigeration and storage for produce
• Accessible/universal design
• Storage area for packaged pre-ordered produced boxes/bags
• Space for income generating signage/advertisements
• Easy loading and unloading produce
• Space for point of purchase area
• Area for educational and promotional materials
• Speedy Construction (easily replicated)

Conceptual Design Charette, 8am-12pm, Saturday December 5, 2009
Location: MacArthur Foundation, 140 S. Dearborn, Suite 1700

Geoff Malia