HomeAbout Us › History › 100 Year History

The History of AIA Pennsylvania

Efforts to form a Pennsylvania Chapter of The American Institute of Architects began on December 17, 1908, when several Pennsylvania architects met in Room 936 of the Willard Hotel in Washington, D.C. The politically-minded Pennsylvania architects were in town to discuss their enterprise with AIA national officials at the nearby "Octagon", home to the AIA, since it relocation from New York City a decade earlier.

The first formal meeting of the Pennsylvania Association of The American Institute of Architects was held at the Commonwealth Hotel in Harrisburg on February 23, 1909. The licensing of architects and a statewide building code were the major topics of the first gathering.  In 1945 the chapters were reconstructed and the old Pennsylvania Association of Architects was succeeded on April 30, 1945 by the present Pennsylvania Society of Architects.  The name was changed again to AIA Pennsylvania, A Society of The American Institute of Architects, in 1998.

"...striving for the highest quality in the built environment..."

In 1909, architects were not licensed. According to the minutes of the first meeting, "the organization decided that it would not be advisable for it to take any definite stand on the registration and licensing of architects in Pennsylvania. It was decided that education is the most powerful means of placing architecture on a higher plane, that in view of the influence which the new Association hopes to have with the legislature, it would be unwise to try to push a Registration bill, the real necessity for which is questionable at least for the present."

Although AIA Pennsylvania took this cautious position in 1909, the organization had active involvement in passage of the original licensing law, as evidenced by documents in our archives, including a copy of a draft of the first bill to register architects. That legislation, providing for examination and registration of architects, was ultimately enacted on July 12, 1919.

Another item of interest from the first meeting is the subject of revision of building laws. According to the minutes the "architects of Pittsburgh were not satisfied with the present Building Laws of Pittsburgh and advocated a uniform law for the state on all buildings that can be classified. Mr. Stotz suggested that this Association declare itself in favor of a revision. Mr. MacClure suggested that we pray the Legislature to appoint a Committee consisting of an Engineer, an Architect, a Lawyer and other qualified persons or some similar competent Committee to draw up a set of Building Laws."

The establishment of a statewide building code was an elusive legislative goal. In 1999, however, the Pennsylvania State Legislature passed and Governor Tom Ridge signed into law Act 45, the Uniform Construction Code for Pennsylvania.

Government affairs at the state level is the top priority for AIA Pennsylvania. The organization establishes an annual legislative agenda that includes issues related to professional practice and sustainable communities.

With its Harrisburg-based staff and its Board of Directors representing eight local AIA chapters across Pennsylvania, AIA Pennsylvania today represents the interests of its chapters and thousands of member architects in Pennsylvania, "while striving for the highest quality in the built environment."