Message from 2016 AIA Austin President

Pro-sper-i-ty: The condition of having success, flourishing. To be fortunate or to thrive financially.

My strongest mental images of the movie The Agony and the Ecstasy feature Michelangelo lying on his back, painting the ceiling of the Sistine Chapel with a furious Pope Julius II pacing back and forth on the floor far below demanding more work for less fee. I worry that this scene plays out in many architectural practices today precisely because we see ourselves as artists before business people–happy just to have an expressive commission. We do ourselves a grave injustice with this philosophy, however, and an even greater injustice to our peers. While there are certainly down markets when many businesses struggle to keep their doors open, in times like these we can, and should, enjoy the up-cycle and realize the value we bring through smart, sharp, responsive design to our clients. Our profession is clearly devoted to the “business of design” and we must embrace both operative words in that phrase: “business” and “design”. It is more than ok for all of us to be a bit more proud when preparing and presenting fees to our clients these days. As a developer told me when asking me to lower our fees in 2009—“just look out of the window at the economy”. We must encourage our clients now to “just look out the window at the economy” so that we will be compensated on as basis commensurate with our value. True, we have the best profession in the world in that we can create environments where people live, love, learn, laugh, thrive, and work, but we do not have to compromise our own financial success simply because we love our work. I would encourage all of us to value our skills and to craft our proposals to reflect that value and confidence in how we contribute to the personal and financial successes of our clients. So it is, in fact, ok for architects to be profitable. When we all begin to realize and act on this, the rising tide will lift all boats. Your boat deserves and has earned this opportunity.

Go for it. Live long and prosper. (If you are interested in a good book on our business, pick up a copy of The Business of Design by Keith Granet. It’s a good read.)

Jim Susman AIA, IIDA

Principal, STG Design

President AIA Austin Chapter