Practitioners can bring a much-needed technical, apolitical perspective to the organizations that lead their communities.

Feeling isolated as a sole practitioner, San Antonio architect Roberto Treviño, AIA, reached out to city council member (now mayor) Ivy Taylor in 2010 to ask how he might leverage his design expertise on local issues. She invited Treviño to join city committees on building and fire codes. When a council member resigned in 2014, Treviño was appointed to fill the spot. He was re-elected in 2015 and continues to serve on the council.

“Architecture is one of the most important things that we have to help communities shape themselves, both literally and figuratively,” Treviño says. “However, when we start talking about the leaders of the community, most often you have people without an architectural background.”

As local leaders, architects can bring an objective, analytical perspective to the organizations that run their communities. And there’s already widespread interest among practitioners in making a difference. In a 2013 survey of 383 AIA-member architects by the Center for Public Interest Design at Portland State University’s (PSU) School of Architecture, 8 in 10 respondents said that their desire to improve the quality of life in their communities has increased since they entered architecture school, while three-quarters think that architects should advocate for underrepresented groups, engage local stakeholders in decision-making, and conserve resources.