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American Institute of Architects
American Institute of Architects logo.svg
Abbreviation AIA
Formation 1857; 167 years ago (1857)
Type Nonprofit
Purpose Architectural profession
Professional title
Headquarters Washington, D.C., U.S.
Region served
United States

The American Institute of Architects (AIA) is a professional organization for architects in the United States. It is headquartered in Washington, D.C. AIA offers education, government advocacy, community redevelopment, and public outreach programs, and collaborates with other stakeholders in the design and construction industries.


OctagonHouse-Washington-DC DSC6648
The Octagon House in Washington, D.C., built in 1799 and owned by the American Institute of Architects
Architects 3c 1957 issue U.S. stamp
1957 stamp commemorating the AIA's centennial

The American Institute of Architects (AIA) was founded in 1857 in New York City by a group of thirteen architects. The founding members include Charles Babcock, Henry W. Cleaveland, Henry Dudley, Leopold Eidlitz, Edward Gardiner, Richard Morris Hunt, Detlef Lienau, Fred A. Petersen, Jacob Wrey Mould, John Welch, Richard M. Upjohn, and Joseph C. Wells, with Richard Upjohn serving as the first president. They held their inaugural meeting on February 23, 1857, and invited 16 additional architects to join, including Alexander Jackson Davis, Thomas U. Walter, Frederick Clarke Withers, and Calvert Vaux. There were no architectural schools or licensing laws in the United States at the time, allowing anyone to claim to be an architect.

By March 10, 1857, they had drafted a constitution and bylaws under the name New York Society of Architects. The name was later changed to the American Institute of Architects at the suggestion of Thomas U. Walter. On April 15, 1857, the members signed the new constitution, having previously filed a certificate of incorporation two days earlier. The following year, the constitution was amended to include the mission of promoting the artistic, scientific, and practical aspects of architecture, facilitating professional interaction and camaraderie, raising the profession's standing, and uniting architects for the advancement of the field.

In the 1860s, architects from other cities began joining the AIA. By the 1880s, chapters had been established in Albany, Baltimore, Boston, Chicago, Cincinnati, Indianapolis, Philadelphia, Rhode Island, San Francisco, St. Louis, and Washington, D.C. As of 2008, the AIA boasted over 300 chapters.

In the mid-1960s, a design competition was held to select an architect for a new AIA headquarters located at 1735 New York Avenue, NW, in Washington, D.C. Mitchell Giurgola Architects won the competition but failed to gain approval from the United States Commission of Fine Arts for the design concept. Subsequently, the firm resigned from the commission, and The Architects Collaborative (TAC) was chosen to redesign the building. Led by TAC principals Norman Fletcher and Howard Elkus, the design was ultimately approved in 1970 and completed in 1973.

In 2007, on the organization's 150th anniversary, the building was officially renamed the "American Center for Architecture." It also serves as the home of the American Institute of Architecture Students, the Association of Collegiate Schools of Architecture, and the National Architectural Accrediting Board.



The American Institute of Architects (AIA) has a membership of over 98,000 licensed architects and associated professionals. AIA members adhere to a code of ethics and professional conduct designed to demonstrate commitment to upholding the highest standards in professional practice and dedication.

AIA offers membership at five different levels:

  1. Architect members (AIA): These individuals are licensed to practice architecture by a recognized licensing authority in the United States.
  2. Associate members (Assoc. AIA): While they do not hold a license to practice architecture, associate members work under the supervision of an architect in a professional or technical capacity. They may have earned professional degrees in architecture, work as faculty members in architecture programs, or be interns earning credit toward licensure.
  3. International associate members: This category is for individuals who hold an architecture license or its equivalent from a licensing authority outside the United States.
  4. Emeritus members: These members have maintained AIA membership for 15 consecutive years and are either at least 70 years old or incapacitated and unable to work in the architecture profession.
  5. Allied members: Allied members are professionals whose work is related to the building and design communities. This includes engineers, landscape architects, planners, and senior executive staff from building and design-related companies, such as publishers, product manufacturers, and research firms. Allied membership represents a partnership between the AIA and the American Architectural Foundation.

Many local and state AIA chapters offer student membership categories. While there is no national AIA membership category specifically for students, they can join the American Institute of Architecture Students.

The AIA's most esteemed recognition is the Fellow of the American Institute of Architects (FAIA) designation. This honor is awarded to members who have made nationally significant contributions to the profession. Approximately 2% of all members, or slightly more than 2,600 individuals, have been elevated to the AIA College of Fellows. Prominent foreign architects may also be elected as Honorary Fellows of the AIA, gaining recognition within the college.


The AIA operates under the governance of a board of directors and maintains a staff of over 200 employees. While the AIA serves as a national organization, its reach is extended through its 217 local and state chapters. Chapters span the United States and its territories. AIA components also operate in several international locations, including the United Kingdom, Continental Europe, the Middle East, Japan, Hong Kong, Shanghai, and Canada. These chapters offer programming and direct services to support AIA members at various stages of their professional careers.


AIA monitors legislative and regulatory activities and encourages its members to actively participate in decision-making processes at the federal, state, and local levels. By engaging in community-based programs, the AIA works in collaboration with federal legislators and local governments to improve the design of public spaces, protect infrastructure, and facilitate the development of affordable housing that is accessible to all Americans while ensuring high-quality design standards.

In June 2013, the American Institute of Architects unveiled the "Designing Recovery" initiative during CGI America, an annual event of the Clinton Global Initiative. This initiative involved a design contest conducted in partnership with charitable organizations such as Make It Right, SBP, and Architecture for Humanity. The contest focused on single-family housing designs aimed at enhancing the quality, diversity, and resilience of housing in each community. The portfolio of designs, including those from non-winning entries, was made available to communities recovering from natural disasters. Dow Building Solutions sponsored the contest, providing a total prize money of $30,000. The prize was equally distributed among three winning designs from New Orleans, Louisiana; Joplin, Missouri; and New York City.


AIA members actively contribute to their profession and communities by participating in various professional interest areas, ranging from design to regional and urban development. They also engage with professional academies that foster the generation of new ideas and responses. Local components provide support to younger professionals through programs such as the Intern Development Program, Architect Registration Exam preparation courses, and employment referral services.

The AIA organizes an annual conference held in late spring or early summer, which attracts the largest gathering of architects worldwide.

Public education

The AIA attempts to meet the needs and interests of the nation's architects and the public by raising public awareness of the value of architecture and the importance of good design. To mark the AIA's 150th anniversary and to showcase how members have helped shape the built environment, the AIA and Harris Interactive released findings from a public poll that asked Americans to name their favorite 150 works of architecture.

At the 2007 Associations Advance America Awards, two of the AIA's public outreach efforts earned the Award of Excellence: The Blueprint for America nationwide community service initiative, and the Sustainability 2030 Toolkit, a resource created to encourage mayors and community leaders to advocate environmentally friendly building design. The national competition was sponsored by the American Society of Association Executives and the Center for Association Leadership.

Honors and awards

The AIA recognizes individuals and organizations for outstanding achievements in support of the architecture profession and the AIA.

Honors Program

  • AIA Gold Medal
  • Architecture Firm Award
  • AIA/ACSA Topaz Medallion for Excellence in Architectural Education
  • AIA Whitney M Young Jr Award - given to an architect or architectural organization that embodies social responsibility and actively addresses a pressing social issue

Institute Honors

For new and restoration projects anywhere in the world:

  • Institute Honor Awards for Architecture
  • Institute Honor Awards for Interior Architecture
  • Institute Honor Awards for Regional and Urban Design
  • Twenty-five Year Award

This award, recognizing architectural design of enduring significance, is conferred on a project that has stood the test of time for 25 to 35 years. The project must have been designed by an architect licensed in the United States at the time of the project's completion.

For Professional Achievement:

  • Associates Award
  • Collaborative Achievement Award
  • Edward C. Kemper Award
  • Thomas Jefferson Awards for Public Architecture
  • Whitney M. Young Jr. Award
  • Young Architects Award
  • College of Fellows honor – Benjamin Latrobe Prize for Architectural Research
  • AIA Committee on the Environment AIA/COTE Top Ten Green Projects

Cosponsored programs

  • AIA/ALA Library Building Awards
  • AIA Housing Awards
  • AIA/HUD Secretary's Housing and Community Design Awards

Membership Honors

  • Honorary Membership (Hon. AIA)
  • Fellow of the American Institute of Architects (FAIA)
  • Honorary Fellowship (Hon. FAIA)


The following people served as presidents, all of whom were elevated to Fellows of the American Institute of Architects:

See also

Kids robot.svg In Spanish: Instituto Estadounidense de arquitectos para niños

  • American Architectural Foundation (AAF)
  • AIA Columbus, a chapter of the American Institute of Architects
  • Architecture Billings Index
  • Boston Society of Architects (BSA), a chapter of the American Institute of Architects
  • Society of American Registered Architects
  • Architecture of the United States
  • Architecture of Washington, D.C.
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