AIA-DC Celebrates 125th Anniversary

On Nov. 2, AIA-DC celebrated its 125th anniversary with a party and award ceremony at its offices at 421 7th St., NW. The Washington Chapter of the American Institute of Architects is a professional organization for architects that was founded in 1887 by Glenn Brown. Brown is known among architects for works around the District, and Georgetowners are probably familiar with his work here. Brown was the architect of the Dumbarton Bridge, which, flanked by bison statues, brings Q St. from Dupont Circle into Georgetown.

Anyone who has visited a D.C. Zoning Board meeting knows how important architectural details can be to people, but Washington was a very different place in 1887. AIA-DC’s executive director Mary Fitch described how little planning went into the design of the late 19th-century District.

“Washington and the mall don’t look like they did in the 1900s,” said Fitch. “It had a very different look. We had train tracks across the mall, a big market where the monuments are.”

Today, with a new home and educational programs for both architects and members of the community, AIA-DC’s goal, as Myer puts it, is to “try to get more people involved in the architectural scene in D.C.”

“The first chapter had 70 architectural firms listed in Washington in 1892,” said Fitch. “Now there are many, many more than that. We have about 2,100 members now.”

“There are certainly a lot of associations are inwardly focused on their members,” said Fitch. “One of the big differences about our chapter is that, over the last few years, we have created an outward focus. We have moved into this new center which has a very public purpose.”

A recent architectural issue in Washington, D.C., has been questioning about the District’s unique height-limit law.

“We’re in on that discussion,” said Fitch. “We don’t have a position at this time. We’re talking about whether that is an option or an opportunity or not.”

“The subject has just been put on the table, so nobody has really had a chance to think about it carefully.”

At AIA-DC’s anniversary party on Nov. 2, things were a little more collegial. Myer showed up to assist in emceeing the event dressed as Glenn Brown himself.

“He looked like he was from the 1890s. So, it was very cute,” said Fitch.

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