2021 | First Quarter Edition
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It’s an understatement to say that this past year has been unlike any other for many of our members and Allied members. Even with the difficulties that we have seen, I’m very appreciative of all the programs that we’ve been able to hold and the new technology we’ve embraced to all stay connected. AIA Arkansas has been working hard over this past year to adjust to the pandemic and allow our organization to deliver the high level of activities and interactions our members expect.

Throughout the year as I’ve attended online meetings and conferences with other AIA sections across the country, I’ve been very encouraged with the position of AIA Arkansas. Many other chapters and sections do not have the connections and relationships that we do with each other and our Allied members. As a state chapter, I can very confidently say that we are better and stronger together.

As we are working our way into 2021, we are excited about what our chapter has planned.
The Board of Directors has modified our Allied Membership Sponsor program to respond to their needs, allowing them to better engage with our overall membership. We have shifted to a more a al carte menu to allow Allied membership to select which opportunities are most impactful for them with our membership. Our section chairs and Convention Committee, led by Rich Brya, are hard at work making plans to put on many of our past successful events that were put on hold in 2020. We hope to bring several of these back, both at the section and state level.

Due to our pivot to virtual featured speakers last year and the amazing responses we’ve had to this series, we have decided to continue offering these webinars throughout this year. This will be done in conjunction with an anticipated “in person” two-day event held Oct. 21-22 in Hot Springs. This modified version of our state convention will allow our members and Allieds to still gather together and celebrate the successes of our organization with our design awards ceremony, while safely following CDC guidelines. We’ve all missed the engagement with our peers and look forward to meeting together again to safely celebrate.  

During our virtual board retreat this year, the board worked hard to revamp our strategic plan, shifting to fewer standing committees and towards more goal-oriented task forces or teams. As we finish adjusting this structure, a call for volunteers will be sent out to members and Allied members to fill positions on these groups. It is a wonderful way to engage with AIA Arkansas, gain leadership skills, work to better the profession and participate in outreach opportunities across the state. Please be on the lookout for an email blast describing these amazing opportunities.

Our Legislative Committee has been working very hard behind the scenes to help fight or amend legislation that is potentially harmful to our profession or might endanger the health, safety and welfare of the general public. AIA Arkansas sent out an advocacy update to our entire membership to let them know about HB 1264. If you haven’t already, please look at the email and see how it might affect your business.

If you haven’t been to the AIA Arkansas website lately, please take some time to visit it, as it is host to a lot of useful information. It has recently been updated to include the new brand standards of AIA National. Moving forward we will be represented by the circle with three letters “AIA” in three colors – white, red and black. This is being done to unify all chapters and sections and all use the one logo to build brand recognition. You can see examples on our website at https://www.aiaar.org.

I’d also like to take this opportunity to announce a new member recognition program, the Chapter Service Awards. These members were nominated and voted on by the Board of Directors in response to their high level of passion and service that they provided AIA Arkansas in 2020. For pivoting the convention speakers into a monthly virtual lecture series and running that series all last year, Chapter Service Awards go to Nate Deason, Tim Varner and Patty Opitz. The response from our members about the virtual series has been tremendous. Our second group of awards goes to Lisa Skiles and Nate Deason, as members of the PR Committee who worked hard to produce our Year-End Review, recapping all the achievements that AIA Arkansas had in 2020. If you missed it, here is the link to it on our website https://issuu.com/aiaarkansas/docs/aiaar_year_in_review_2020_-_final_draft. We are proud to honor them for this wonderful achievement. Our third award goes to Katherine Lashley for leading the Emerging Professionals Committee through the creation of the MERGE mentorship program. The MERGE program is well under way, already hosting two successful virtual programs on mentorship and work/life balance. This program is a great example of a service that AIA Arkansas provides to our membership.

I’ve saved my biggest thank you for last. Kyle Cook, thank you for leading our chapter through an incredibly difficult and unprecedented year. I appreciate how tirelessly you worked to better the organization and deliver value to our membership during these stressful times. You were an outstanding role model and I hope I live up to the high levels of performance that you demonstrated.

Thank you all for taking the time to read about all the great things our chapter has been up to lately. We look forward to having a very productive year. Remember that we’re all still connected, even when we have to social distance.

Jonathan Opitz, AIA
2021 AIA Arkansas President
AMR Architects
Marlon Blackwell Elected to Membership
In American Academy of Arts and Letters
University of Arkansas architecture professor Marlon Blackwell has been elected to become a member of the American Academy of Arts and Letters. The Academy was founded in 1898 as an honor society of the nation’s leading architects, artists, composers and writers. Membership is limited to 300 individuals who are elected for life and pay no dues. The honor of election is considered the highest form of recognition of artistic merit in the United States.
The 29 new members and four honorary members will be inducted into the American Academy of Arts and Letters during its virtual award ceremony May 19. Including the newly elected members, Blackwell will be one of only 21 architects in the Academy. He is the only member architect with a practice outside of the East and West Coasts; most are based in New York.
“You are welcomed into a fellowship of esteemed American artists who are making a real impact, and your work is acknowledged by these folks who are operating at the highest level of excellence in the discipline,” Blackwell said. “It’s amazing, and it’s amazing to be part of this accomplished group – I’m very humbled.”
Blackwell is also the only current living Arkansan to be elected to Academy membership. Architect Edward Durell Stone, who was born in Fayetteville and received multiple design awards from the American Institute of Architects, was elected to the Academy in 1958. Poet and essayist John Gould Fletcher, who was born in Little Rock and won the Pulitzer Prize for Poetry in 1939, was elected to the Academy in 1949, the same year he was a visiting professor at UA.
Blackwell is a Distinguished Professor and the E. Fay Jones Chair in Architecture in the Fay Jones School of Architecture and Design at the university, where he has taught since 1992. He is also founder and co-principal of his Fayetteville-based design practice, Marlon Blackwell Architects, and is a Fellow of the American Institute of Architects.
“This is a tremendous honor – for Marlon and for the university,” UA Chancellor Joe Steinmetz said. “We take great pride in the accomplishments of our faculty. Marlon’s election to the American Academy of Arts and Letters is the latest honor in a stellar career that has included just about every national and international accolade. All are well deserved. And it doesn’t hurt that this election also brings attention to the fantastic work being done at the Fay Jones School of Architecture and Design.” 
The lead (AIA) AR Member Highlight is an opportunity for AIAAR members to learn a bit more about fellow members. Every conversation yields insights and inspiration as an AIAAR board member visits with a member who is making a positive impact. 
On NCARB Involvement
Blake Dunn was interviewed by Nate Deason, AIAAR board member, about the importance of licensure, mentorship and the improvement of the experience for those just starting in the profession

Originally from El Dorado, Blake earned his BArch from Louisiana Tech University in 1985. Following graduation, he worked a few years in Little Rock and Pensacola, Fla., before returning to El Dorado in 1991 to become an owner in the firm now known as CADM Architecture, Inc. Blake was appointed to the Arkansas State Board of Architects in 1999 and served there for 11 years. In 2007, he was elected to the NCARB Board of Directors, serving there for eight years in every elected position, including 2013-2014 as president. Blake was privileged to receive the E. Fay Jones Gold Medal from AIA Arkansas in 2015 and to be elevated to the College of Fellows of the AIA in 2016.
Why did you become an architect?
BD: I distinctly remember the very day I decided I wanted to be an architect. When I was 17 years old, I was fortunate to be able to spend six weeks that summer touring in Switzerland. One of the days was spent at Chateau de Chillon, a 1,000-year-old castle on the shores of Lake Geneva made famous by Lord Byron. Standing in the courtyard admiring its design, I was struck by how that structure was still able to affect people 1,000 years after it was conceived and thought how awesome it would be to be able to do that … create something that had the ability to be appreciated after I was gone. That was the day.

How long have you been active with AIA Arkansas? What roles have you held within the organization?
BD: I have been a member of AIA Arkansas since 1991 and just completed my second three-year stint on the Board of Directors last year. The first term was by virtue of being    the president of the Arkansas State Board of Architects, and the most recent term as an elected director.

Can you tell us about your involvement with NCARB, and how do you feel that has affected your professional career?
BD: My involvement with NCARB began in 1999 with my appointment to the Arkansas State Board of Architects, and for over 20 years now has been my passion and my principal area of service to the architectural community and the public at large. It was quickly evident to me the impact that organization had on the development path for licensure by establishing requirements for education, experience and examination, so I set out to learn everything I could about its programs and services by serving on virtually every one of its committees and subcommittees, and ultimately moving through its leadership ladder to be in a position to influence positive changes.

You mentioned being in a position to influence positive changes. Can you expand   on the impact your involvement in NCARB has had on the architecture profession?
BD: I feel very strongly that the current generation of practitioners have a duty to leave the profession better than it was when they entered it, however that may be possible based upon individual interests and passions. For me, that meant using my deep engagement in NCARB towards improving and streamlining the licensure path by eliminating unnecessary requirements and shortening the duration for those committed to moving diligently through the process.

My primary focus was the old Intern Development Program (IDP). In fact, the principal reason I sought election to the Board of Directors was to concentrate on radically changing that program, which had remained essentially unchanged since I had gone through it 20-plus years before. As good as the IDP had been towards ensuring well-rounded training for future independent practice, in my opinion it had become calcified, with many of its rules and requirements no longer justifiable or defensible.
Just before being installed as president, I established a task force charged to do two things – streamline the program by eliminating elective hours, effectively reducing the amount of time to complete the program requirements by one third, and then, completely overhaul the program to correlate it with the new ARE 5.0 structure and become the Architectural Experience Program (AXP). Using my leverage as the first NCARB president to have completed the IDP, I was able to lead the board to do both, as well as to modify reporting rules to allow IDP credit for hours beyond the original six-month reporting limit, and to remove the duration requirement for the number of consecutive work hours needed for them to receive IDP credit. These are the things I am most proud to have been involved in due to their direct impact on the development of future architects, and they were major factors in receiving my fellowship.

Did you have a mentor or someone that helped you find this outlet?
BD: I was fortunate to have a few mentors in leadership positions of the council that understood my goals and encouraged me, and used their positions to appoint me to task forces and committees that would help me network and develop support for what I wanted to do.

How could others get involved?
BD: Unfortunately, membership in the council requires one to be a member of a member board, which are almost always gubernatorial appointments. That’s one path, but another is to volunteer for service on the various NCARB committees based upon your interests – AXP, ARE, Education, Professional Conduct, etc. The council relies heavily on such volunteers from across the country for its various committees, task forces and other programs. There have been many from Arkansas that have done this, and I think all would tell you how rewarding it is being involved and influencing those programs, including Steve Miller and Candi Adams, who both have multi-year service on various AXP committees, Rich Brya, Chris Sullivan, Brian Monroe, T. G. Connelly and Kingsley Glasgow, to name a few off the top of my head. The incoming NCARB president each year issues a call for such volunteers, and anyone interested in doing that can get in touch with the current president of the Arkansas State Board of Architects, Landscape Architects and Interior Designers and let them know they are interested in applying.

What advice would you offer someone interested in seeking to learn more or to excel in this area?
BD: If you believe that changes are needed to improve the profession, wherever or whatever those may be, then do what it takes to put yourself in a position to influence that evolution, rather than staying on the outside waiting for it to be done by someone else. Be involved. Lead. There are way more opportunities to make a difference than there are people willing to do the work necessary to make that happen.
Strategic Council's Work This Year
Focuses on Four Main Areas of Study

In January, I began serving as your AIA strategic councilor through 2023. Kevin Alford with RHH Architects in Baton Rouge also serves as one of the strategic councilors for our region.
The mission of the Strategic Council is to advance the architecture profession by informing the board and other institute bodies about important professional issues, opportunities and threats. The council approaches its task with an emphasis on outwardly and forward-focused vision.
This year the council’s work will revolve around four main areas of study – housing and infrastructure, mental health and architecture, rural and suburban agenda, and technology impacting practice. Each of these areas of study are intertwined with areas of impact (climate action, equitable communities and systems distributors) and our goal is to create connectivity to resources that align with the AIA’s Strategic Plan.
Our work within the areas of study is just beginning. Kevin serves on the rural and suburban agenda and I’m serving on the technology impacting practice area of study. We will be focusing on these challenges in the year ahead and helping AIA align its resources for the profession. I am also serving on the Communications Committee to share the council’s message through board visibility network calls and the AIA Strategic Council webpage on AIA.org plus monthly updates to our region.
Please do not hesitate to contact either Kevin or me if you want to learn more or have additional questions about the AIA Strategic Council.
Respectfully submitted,
Michael L. Lejong, AIA, LEED AP BD+C
AIA Strategic Councilor - Gulf States Region
MERGE Mentorship Program Begins
With Work-life Balance Discussion

The year 2021 is off to a great start with AIA Arkansas’ new MERGE Mentorship Program.

Fifteen pairs of mentors and mentees have signed up to participate in the first year of the program. We kicked off this year with a panel on a very important topic for architects: work-life balance. Led by our panelists Ashley Mauldin, Patty Opitz, Brandon Ruhl, Jessica Lewallen and Matt Poe, as well as our moderators Nate Deason and Adam Day, MERGE participants spent time discussing the questions surrounding work-life balance.

How can you deal with a stressful day? How has COVID-19 affected your work-life balance? How can you make family and hobbies a priority in a profession that is traditionally very demanding? Everyone has a unique experience. List making, getting outside and talking to other architects were only a handful of the strategies mentioned for dealing with stressful days. COVID-19 has affected everyone, but working from home impacts everyone differently. For some, it is an opportunity to focus and increase efficiency in work. For others, the lack of access to immediate collaboration and complete isolation can be challenging and demoralizing.

For our architects who are parents, working from home with children can be a distraction, but can also be an opportunity to share your work with your children and inspire another generation of designers and problem solvers. Young professionals – fresh out of demanding and competitive architecture programs – can often feel the need to prove their value – to their employers or just to themselves – and may find it difficult to settle into a healthy work-life balance. On the other hand, stressful, demanding, or complex work is what drives a lot of professionals to be their best and many architects truly thrive in this kind of environment.

Finding a healthy balance is a challenge. There isn’t a “one-fits-all” solution. One person’s idea of a work-life balance may not be acceptable or even possible for the next person. Whether you work 80-plus hours a week or have a hard stop at 40 hours, the key to a good work-life is finding the balance that works for you, that makes you happy and that allows you time to give to the things that are the most important to you.

We closed our MERGE Work-Life Balance Panel by sharing resources for further growth and discovery. If you are looking for some new additions to your reading list, check out “Atomic Habits” by James Clear, “The Leader You Want to Be” by Amy Jen Su, “The Ruthless Elimination of Hurry” by John Mark Comer, “Stillness Is the Key” by Ryan Holiday and “The Obstacle Is the Way” by Ryan Holiday.

For more information on the MERGE mentorship program, see https://www.aiaar.org/membership/emerging-professionals/

To salute excellence in architecture, AIA Arkansas conducts an annual Design Awards Program. This program honors works of distinction designed by AIA Arkansas members. The program also brings to public attention outstanding examples of architecture. 
Entries are due Friday, April 16th. 

How to Enter:
The Design Awards Program is in electronic format. You may access the entry form by clicking the link below. Upon receipt of your entry form and fee, you will be provided information to access the Design Awards project submission page as well as presentation board requirements. Project's will be submitted electronically through our website and are due by Friday, May 29th. Presentation boards are not due until the convention.

Every year, AIA Arkansas recognizes members, individuals, and organizations that exemplify the pursuit of the Chapter’s mission.

The categories of nominations are:
  • Fay Jones Gold Medal Award
  • Dick Savage Memorial Award
  • Emerging Professional Award
  • Award of Merit
  • Diversity Award

For information about each category or to view a list of past recipients, visit AIAAR Chapter Awards.

Nomination Procedures: All current members of AIA Arkansas are invited to submit nominations for the 2021 Chapter Awards. There is no limit to how many years an eligible nominee may be submitted for an award; however, a recipient may receive a specific award only once.

  • Submission deadline is 5pm, Friday, April 16, 2021
  • Awards will be conferred at the annual Design Awards Celebration scheduled for Thursday October 21, 2021 in Hot Springs

Nominator Responsibilities: Nominations should clearly demonstrate how the nominee's sustained efforts, exceptional achievements, and significant contributions over an extended period, meet the purpose and criteria of the specific award and elucidate the nominee's impact on the community and/or the profession of architecture. 
Architecture and Engineering Salaries
In Arkansas Below Mean Wage

In February, Arkansas Business reported that the annual mean wage for architects and engineers in Arkansas was $71,400 in 2019, the latest statistics available from the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. For the United States as a whole, the annual mean wage was $88,800. The category encompasses a broad range of occupations, from landscape architects to mechanical engineers to surveying and mapping technicians. In Central Arkansas, 4,600 architects and engineers were employed in 2019 with an annual mean wage of $72,200. In Northwest Arkansas, the category employed 2,470 with an annual mean wage of $69,060.
This rendering shows the proposed Watershed Conservation Resource Center, one of several projects to be developed in the new Fayetteville Riverine Commons.
UA Community Design Center
Wetlands Project Receives NEA Grant

The University of Arkansas Community Design Center has been awarded a National Endowment for the Arts grant to support the creation of a public access master plan for a wetland near downtown Fayetteville. The $25,000 award is through the NEA's Grants for Arts Projects program in the design category.

The grant will support the creation of a Public Access Master Plan for Fayetteville Riverine Commons at property co-owned by the Watershed Conservation Resource Center and the city of Fayetteville. The Watershed Conservation Resource Center is a watershed-based ecological restoration and education nonprofit organization that is working to restore a 98-acre property that has an extensive riverine and open wetland landscape on a degraded floodplain along the West Fork of the White River near downtown Fayetteville.

The Public Access Master Plan will combine watershed planning with urban design, bringing together city, ecology, culture and art in reinventing a riverine commons. This public access will facilitate the reconnection of the community with the river and wetland ecology, while cultivating a historic understanding of indigenous cultures' management of these natural features.
Licensed Architect for Little Rock or Springdale

Cromwell Architects Engineers has an opening for an Architect with 5 plus years of experience. Architectural registration and license required. Must have experience with commercial building design, production, and construction documentation....

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Emerging Professionals and Experienced Architects

Emerging Professionals and Experienced Architects Are you ready to grow your career and contribute to a team? Come join us! BRR Architecture is growing.We're a design firm with offices across the U.S., partnering with clients in all regions.

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Opening for Architectural Associate or Project Manager

arch and craft design is looking to add an additional person to our team. We are an architecture firm located in Fayetteville, AR specializing in multifamily and commercial projects. Responsibilities of the position would include being involved...

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AMR Architects is looking for a licensed architect

AMR Architects is looking for a licensed architect with 5-10 years of experience to join our Springdale office.⁠⁠Projects will range from small commercial to multi-family, adaptive reuse, institutional, and hospitality. ⁠⁠Responsibilities include ...

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When Interest Rates Are Low, It's Time for Estate Planning

In a volatile economic environment, the idea of making substantial gifts may give you pause. But with interest rates at historic lows and the value of many assets depressed, now may be an ideal time for estate planning. Current conditions present an opportunity to transfer substantial wealth to the younger generation while minimizing your exposure to estate and gift taxes. And many estate planning strategies provide you with an income stream, which can give you peace of mind in uncertain times. Katie Lejong, a CPA with Landmark CPAs, takes a look at estate planning strategies here.
AR Ready Mixed Concrete Association
CDI Contractors
Crow Group
Engineering Consultants, Inc.
Hunt Design Group
JE Allen Co
Johnson Architectural Systems
KI/Glen Jones & Associates
Landmark CPAs
Malmstrom White
Mays Maune McWard
Pettit & Pettit Engineers
Powers of Arkansas
Southwest Terrazo Association
American Institute of Architects
Arkansas Chapter

318 S. Pulaski Street
Little Rock, AR 72201