Since 1857, the American Institute of Architects (AIA) has represented the professional interests of America's architects. As AIA members, architects, emerging professionals, and allied partners express their commitment to excellence in design and livability in our nation's buildings and communities. Members adhere to a code of ethics and professional conduct that assures the client, the public, and colleagues of an AIA-member's dedication to the highest standard in professional practice.
History and Mission
Prior to 1857, the title of "Architect" could be applied to any person practicing any one of several occupations, including masons, carpenters, bricklayers, and other members of the building trades. No schools of architecture or architectural licensing laws existed to shape the profession.
On February 13 of 1857, 13 men met in Richard Upjohn's office in New York City to form what would become the American Institute of Architects. The group was convened to create an architecture organization that would "promote the scientific and practical perfection of its members" and "elevate the standing of the profession."
By the mid-1860s, architects in other cities wished to join the Association, and so various "chapters" emerged in Philadelphia, Chicago, Cincinnati, Boston, Baltimore, Albany, Rhode Island, San Francisco, St. Louis, Indianapolis, and Washington, D.C. A special meeting soon became necessary to unite the various chapters, and the first AIA convention was held in New York City, on October 22 and 23, 1867.
In 1884, another organization was formed by architects in the Midwest and the South. That organization was founded in Chicago and called itself the Western Association of Architects. The two groups merged in 1889 under the name American Institute of Architects—the same year that Louise Bethune (the organization's first female member) again broke the gender barrier and was made the AIA's first woman Fellow.