The American Institute of Architects (AIA) has announced that its executive vice president and chief executive officer Robert Ivy, FAIA, will retire at the end of 2021 after a transformative, decade-long tenancy in the association’s top leadership role.
As detailed by the AIA this morning, Ivy led the institute through numerous impactful changes since his appointment in 2011 including a restructuring of the Board of directors to “encourage nimble debate and decision making,” the organization’s successful “digital transformation” across a multitude of platforms, overseeing an ongoing awareness campaign and reconstituted philanthropic foundation, and maintaining what the AIA called a “consistent, assertive public voice based on architects’ values.”
Under his tenure, Ivy, a veteran of McGraw-Hill and celebrated former editor of Architectural Record, also shepherded the AIA through a remarkable, post-recession period of financial stability and membership growth. Under Ivy, the AIA reached a record-setting benchmark of 95,500 members across over 200 chapters and components in the United States and further afield. This figure represents the AIA’s highest total membership since the organization was established in 1857 in New York City by a group of 13 architects—Charles Babcock, Henry W. Cleaveland, Henry Dudley, Leopold Eidlitz, Edward Gardiner, Richard Morris Hunt, Fred A. Petersen, Jacob Wrey Mould, John Welch, Richard M. Upjohn, Joseph C. Wells, and Richard Upjohn serving as the inaugural president—with the goal to “promote the scientific and practical perfection of its members.”
More recently, Ivy led the association through a period of political and societal turbulence that found the association taking “strong stands on urgent matters facing contemporary culture, including climate action and racial equity.” During this period Ivy, per the AIA, has been “instrumental in the AIA’s championing the positive and necessary role architects can play in issues such as sustainability, resilience, school safety, immigration, infrastructure, and shoring up the pipeline for present and future architects by addressing equity, diversity, and inclusion in the profession and society.“
As AN has reported in the past, Ivy’s tenure wasn’t completely without controversy. In the hours immediately following the presidential election of Donald Trump in 2016, the AIA released a memorandum containing “conciliatory and supportive language“ in support of Trump’s $500 billion infrastructure building program (a program which went on to become something of a running joke throughout his presidency). Reactions to the memo from AIA members were swift and highly critical. As a result, Ivy eventually issued two apologies, the second of which was a joint video apology with former AIA National president Russ Davidson.
“Robert’s leadership and vision have been instrumental in successfully moving the organization forward through challenging times, realigning its values with today’s membership, and positioning the organization to address society’s most pressing challenges, including climate action and racial and ethnic equity,” said AIA 2021 President Peter Exley, FAIA, in a statement. “He will leave behind a legacy that has enhanced the standing of architects and laid the foundation that is critical to creating a more welcoming and inclusive profession for the future.”
AN will continue to update this announcement with reactions to his retirement from AIA members and the larger architecture community. You can read more about what Ivy achieved during his time leading the AIA here.