One of the unique contributions that America has made to the world is the advent of the modern city. Through the development of the technologies and techniques that made the steel-framed skyscraper possible in the late 1800s, American architecture, led by the American Institute of Architects, has led the way to what we now know as the modern city. Not only has the development of the modern city, based on the urban built environment of New York and Chicago, changed the way in which hundreds of millions of people live and work across the globe, it was arguably the key development that allowed America to become a world economic power, dominating global trade for more than 100 years.
An organization that moved architecture into the real of respectable professions
Today, the American Institute of Architects is run by the renowned architect and biographer Robert Ivy. He fills a position that has a deep history, with the chairmanship of the AIA being held by some of the most recognized luminaries in the history of American architecture.
But prior to 1857, American had no professional organization for architects at all. It was the ability of anyone to call themselves an architect, coupled with the complete lack of professional standards, that led to the formation of the American Institute of Architects in 1857. At that time, it was one of the first professional institutions in the country, meaning that the architecture profession has been a rigorous and scientifically oriented profession for nearly 175 years.
The professionalization of architecture quickly led to an increase in quality and standards of the members of the AIA. Acting in a capacity similar to the American Bar Association or the American Medical Association, anyone who wanted the privilege of calling themselves an architect needed to pass through the gatekeepers at the AIA. This assurance of standards and quality led directly to the incredible advances that took place in the American built environment between 1860 and 1960, with the U.S. leading the way in the implementation of virtually all building, architectural and design schools. In fact, while American architects have traditionally looked to European, Roman and even Indian built environments for inspiration, today, the world largely looks to American buildings as the benchmark by which all architectural achievements are judged.
In this way, the American Institute of Architects has played a crucial role in the ascendance of American buildings and cities as models to be emulated worldwide.