American Institute of Architects
By Maggie Mick, CSG Associate Director of Development
The American Institute of Architecture’s Design Assistance Program, which aids communities in rebuilding after natural disasters, seems destined to be in high demand again this year after tornadoes and severe thunderstorms tore across Illinois, Indiana and Kentucky in early March.
AIA’s Design Assistance Program brings together a team of experts from a variety of disciplines to evaluate how best to rebuild communities hit by natural disasters. The goal is to help communities rebuild to be safer, healthier and more attractive to residents and businesses.
The program’s call to action is nothing new. After tornadoes ravaged the Birmingham, Ala., neighborhood of Pratt City last year, the architects met with community leaders to find out what the people wanted to see in the “new” Pratt City. Not only did these volunteer architects tour and assess the damage, but they also held public hearings and helped to design a plan for redevelopment. The AIA plan includes walking trails, bike paths and new buildings, including a new public library.
The AIA helped more than just Pratt City public officials by mobilizing their redevelopment. Birmingham Mayor William Bell said after AIA’s efforts in Pratt City reinvigorated residents in his city who were initially discouraged by rebuilding, encouraging them to move forward with reconstruction plans in other sections of Birmingham. While Pratt City’s redevelopment is still underway in the greater Birmingham area, the AIA plan includes walking trails, bike paths, and new buildings; including a new public library.
The AIA has worked in more than 200 communities to bring together architects and other professionals to provide roadmaps for communities looking to improve sustainability, including communities that have faced natural disasters such as the March tornadoes.
The result in many communities is the development of recommendations that have enhanced credibility with local stakeholders, as well as momentum for partnerships and implementation. As objective outsiders, these professionals are able to listen to community input and provide professional expertise without political context.