The reason for the foundation of The American Institute of Architects was to promote the scientific and realistic perfection of its members and elevate the profession’s standing. Its birth was conceptualized and brought to being by thirteen architects in 1857, in New York. The founders included Henry Cleaveland, Charles Babcock, Leopold Eidlitz, Henry Dudley, Richard Morris Hunt, Edward Gardiner, Jacob Wrey Mould, Fred A. Petersen, John Welch, Joseph C. Wells and Richard M. Upjohn, who was the then president.
Before American Institute of Architects was established, there weren’t any architecture schools or laws that governed architecture licensing. Anyone could claim to be an architect. As a group, they drafted by-laws and a constitution and named it the New York Society of Architects. The constitution was signed by all members right after they had filed for a certificate of incorporation. Architects from other cities wanted to join, and by 1880s, eleven cities had been incorporated.
A competition was held in the 1960s to come up with a new architectural design for AIA headquarters, which was won by Mitchell/Giurgola but, unfortunately, the United States Commission of Fine Arts did not approve of its concept. It was later redesigned and approved in 1970. In 2007, to mark its 150th anniversary, the building was named the American center of Architecture.
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AIA has a membership of over ninety thousand architects and associated professionals, all who adhere to its code of ethics and professional conduct. There are five levels of memberships.
• Architect members.
These members are licensed, by a licensing body in the US, to practice architecture.
• Associate members.
These members are not licensed to practice but work under a professional architect’s supervision. They should be enrolled in a university program, have a degree, or are interns working towards licensure in the profession.
• International associate members
These members have an architecture license, or its equivalent, from a body outside of the US.
• Emeritus members.
These members should have been members of the AIA for fifteen consecutive years, at least 65 years of age and are not in a position to practice the profession.
• Allied members.
These members work in professions that are related to architecture, for example, engineers, planners, landscape architects, etc. This type of membership is as a result of the partnership between AIA and American Architectural Foundation.
The institute’s most prestigious honor is the Fellow of American Institute of Architects, which is awarded to members whose contributions are of national significance to the profession. Only 2% of its members have been able to get to such great heights.
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