December 12, 2008
  Malecha Sworn in as 85th AIA President
Inaugural address emphasizes embracing design thought, architectural agility and innovation

Summary: Marvin J. Malecha, FAIA, dean of the College of Design at North Carolina State University, was sworn in as the 85th AIA president on December 5 at the new Foster & Partners’-designed courtyard of the National Portrait Gallery in Washington, D.C. Watch an excerpt of his inaugural address. Highlights of his speech follow.

The inaugural ceremony kicked off with a toast for Malecha by 1973 AIA President Scott Ferebee, FAIA, also from North Carolina. Malecha’s first act as AIA president was to confer on 2008 President Marshall Purnell the AIA Former Presidents Medal. “I do this with great appreciation for his open leadership style that encouraged spirited discussion, for his sense of humor and respect for our profession, for his willingness to assist me as I prepared to assume these duties, and for the friendship that has grown between us,” Malecha said.

Inaugural address highlights
“We live in a time of extraordinary challenge and opportunity, a time when the influence of our profession will be measured not by celebrity, but by the degree of our relevancy to the most pressing issues before us,” Malecha noted. He spoke of the influence of his father, who had wanted to be an architect but, thwarted in his dream by the Great Depression, still approached the challenges of his life with “the heart of a designer” and a dedication to hard work.

Among the challenges Malecha sees facing architects and the AIA today—to which we need to employ these same attributes—are:

The environment, as it is ultimately a matter of public health and welfare. “It strikes me that opportunities amidst this challenge will be opened to us only if we first exhibit responsibility and humility in our relationship to each other and in the architecture we create,” Malecha said.

International inclusiveness. The sharing of information across national boundaries, cultural bias, and economic means implies an inclusiveness that is in itself a powerful tool. “We are truly on the verge of a society founded on collective intelligence,” Malecha notes. “These powerful forces combine to enable the transformation of design practice requiring new institutions to emerge.

New technologies. We must examine the effect of new technologies on every aspect of practice, education, and the life of our professional community, Malecha asserts, as we look to the future of our Institute and profession. What must we be like in 25 years? What will we be like?

Learning about architecture and architecture learning. Who learns from whom, and when, is no longer confined to traditional teacher-student relationships, Malecha says. The investment in the evolution of the design practice as a learning organization is no longer optional and includes an imperative to commit to nurturing the generations that come after us.

Embracing design thought. We are embraced by possibilities. We have come to understand that design is a distinct discipline, an honored, respected discipline with a history and a unique way of thinking and doing of its own. Ours is an endeavor with the ability to see what is to come, Malecha explained. “It is an actionable asset that is our most valuable tool in an increasingly competitive world. Innovation and agility have been the mark of human progress. Innovation and agility have been our gift to the world.”

I believe that we must never forget that as a professional association we were born out of the notion that architects could help architects and that by coming together all of us are stronger,” Malecha said. “From this union we can undertake great ideas even in the times of greatest difficulties. And, our common language is design thought.”

There is joy in what we do
“I receive this President’s Medal with a deep sense of humility. It is an understatement to tell you that I understand the importance of the responsibility entrusted to me. It appears that I stand alone at this lectern, it is just not so,” Malecha said. He paid special tribute to his family and friends, including his granddaughter Chloe, many of whom were present to share his special evening. He singled out his AIA Board class and members of the leadership team from the College of Design at N.C. State, including Provost Larry Nielsen, to acknowledge their support.

“There is joy in what we do. It is up to us to match our opportunities with hard work. But, let us also remember, with humility and a sense of responsibility, that it is not for ourselves that we undertake this endeavor, it is for Chloe,” Malecha concluded. “I promise you, and her, my very best effort. I owe it to my father’s dream.”

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