Collective Narratives: Shaping ACLA’s Dedication to Architectural Education, Diversity, and Community Building
Stories possess immense power as a fundamental aspect of human experience, shaping our understanding of the world and ourselves. They serve as conduits for connection, inspiration, education, and the communication of values. Beyond individual impact, stories play a pivotal role in cultural preservation and act as catalysts for social change. My story has led me to AIA|LA and ultimately to ACLA.
In my early years, I was fortunate to be exposed to the world of architecture and design, influenced by my mom’s profession, family road trips exploring Iran’s architectural landscape, and the inherent connection between art and architecture in Iranian culture. As I matured, I gained a profound understanding of the complex challenges faced by women and individuals from diverse backgrounds in the architectural field. Witnessing this struggle fueled a creative shift in my educational and professional trajectory within architecture. Early on, I consciously integrated diverse fields of study into my college curriculum and thesis, allowing me to incorporate my narrative into design. Navigating my career, I found the most invigorating growth within Unibail-Rodamco-Westfield, which converges diverse disciplines to shape visions for placemaking. Concurrently, I directed a portion of my focus outward, actively working to advance environmental and inclusivity issues, aspiring to contribute to a brighter future for the next generation.
This journey brought me to AIA|LA five years ago, where I initially served as a director. Concurrently, I took on the roles of the first vice-chair of the JEDI committee and chair of the Strategic Planning Task Force. These positions held immense importance for me, serving as pivotal avenues to contribute to advancing diversity within the profession. Transitioning to ACLA felt like a natural progression, aligning closely with the vision that resonates with my personal narrative.
Witnessing ACLA in action today, I am struck by the unified dedication to ignite inspiration and impart knowledge to the upcoming generation, thereby emerging as a formidable force for the betterment of civic life. In contrast to the AIA’s focus on our current architect members, ACLA purposefully directs its efforts towards future members and the well-being of our local communities.
Our objective goes beyond merely introducing students to potential careers in architecture. We recognize that a diverse student body is indispensable for the progression of our profession. It is not solely about envisioning and crafting more habitable neighborhoods; it is equally about empowering the diverse voices within our communities. By doing so, we aim to gain a deeper understanding and foster innovative solutions that not only transform the architectural landscape but also enhance the lives of every resident in Los Angeles.
The vision of ACLA is to establish itself at the forefront of architecture education and community building. To achieve this goal, the composition of ACLA’s board of directors and committee members plays a pivotal role. This year, ACLA’s team has placed a strong emphasis on diversity, recognizing that it goes beyond race, gender, and sexual orientation. Our commitment to diversity extends to embracing a broad spectrum of professional backgrounds and expertise, both within and beyond the field of architecture. Our impressive lineup of diverse leaders reflects a forward-thinking approach that acknowledges the multifaceted and evolving nature of the architectural profession and the broader communities it serves. It expands the organization’s capacity to innovate, problem-solve, and contribute meaningfully to both the education and community-building aspects of its vision.
This exceptional team is poised to significantly enhance and magnify ACLA’s overarching vision in 2024 through three pivotal areas. Firstly, we are dedicated to fostering connections, particularly between ACLA’s partners and the new Center for Community. We plan to achieve this by implementing innovative and impactful programming, creating a network that strengthens collaboration and community engagement. Secondly, the team is geared towards boosting fundraising efforts through diverse channels, creating opportunities for donors and sponsors to be a key part of achieving our ambitious and important goals. Lastly, we will keep working on a robust communication approach, including a new website and comprehensive toolkits that facilitate meaningful connections with audiences. As ever, we are committed to ensuring effective and engaging interactions that resonate with the community. This strategic approach underscores our commitment to securing the necessary resources for ACLA’s initiatives, ensuring sustained growth and success in empowering all to create a better Los Angeles.
These key areas will also enable us to enhance the growth of our flagship programs: the 2×8 Exhibition & Scholarships and the Design X Diversity annual block party. Additionally, they will support our newly established K-12 committee and other initiatives more effectively.
As we reflect on the transformative journey encapsulated in this narrative, we recognize the power of collective stories in shaping the narrative of ACLA. Each individual’s journey contributes to the rich tapestry of experiences that define our commitment to architectural education, diversity, and community building. Now, more than ever, we extend an earnest invitation to the broader architecture community, industry affiliates, and all those passionate about the transformative power of architecture to join hands with ACLA in our relentless pursuit of a more inclusive and innovative future. Your unique stories, expertise, and collaborative spirit are integral to amplifying our impact. Together, let us forge ahead, united in our dedication to inspiring the next generation, fostering connections, and creating positive change in the architectural landscape and the communities we serve. Join us in this collective endeavor as we continue to build a legacy that transcends individual narratives, making ACLA a beacon of excellence and progress in 2024 and beyond.
I am proud to introduce you to our outstanding lineup of the 2024 ACLA Board of Directors:
Pooja Bhagat, AIA – Vice-President President-Elect
Ingalill Wahlroos-Ritter, FAIA – Past President
Mark McVay, AIA – Secretary
Francisco Arias, Associate AIA – Treasurer
Julia Hawkinson, AIA – Director of Academic Outreach, K-12
Alise Robles, Assoc. AIA – Director of Academic Outreach, K-12
Dr. Michael Hamner, FAIA – Director of Academic Outreach Higher Education
Tibbie Dunbar, Hon. AIA|LA – Director of Community Engagement
Tracy Stone, AIA – Director of Political Outreach
Dr. Tilly Hinton – Director of Partnerships & Fundraising
Walmir Luz – Director of Communications
Carlo Caccavale, Honorary
AIA|LA – Executive Director.