The American Institute of Architects (AIA) has been all about education these days, and the AIA Vermont chapter is taking that message on the road in a mobile education center. From an old, 1969 Airstream to a newly outfitted Archistream, this project hopes to educate the public – and everyone else involved – along the way.
Architecture might be one of the most misunderstood professions in America, but if the AIA and the AIA Vermont chapter have anything to do with it, that won’t be the case for long.
The AIA Vermont Vision
At the 2013 AIA Vermont retreat, brainstorming sessions culminated in this project that would “advocate for local architecture, design, and planning,” says Nalina Moses for the AIArchitect. And soon after writing the project proposal, the Vermont chapter learned that it had won a $42,750 grant from the AIA National Innovation Fund to pursue it.
Although the organization linked the mobile education center with its “Repositioning the AIA Initiative,” it was also quick to add that the initiative itself wasn’t an ad campaign or a new logo. The Archistream is one of many different projects intended to help keep the AIA relevant now and in the future.
Finding the Right Vehicle
AIA Vermont had its goal – an educational tool that could travel throughout Vermont – but first it needed a vehicle. The iconic, vintage Airstream fit the bill. Although they’re pricey, nothing else would have worked quite as well.
The trailer embodied what Vermont architecture is all about. There’s sustainability, conservation, and a tendency for contemporary design that’s also nostalgic. Because even new design in Vermont tends to cling to its traditional roots, as does the Airstream.
One of the best tools is hands-on education.
Handing it Over to Undergrad Students
The mobile education center was and is a project within a project. First there were 12 undergraduate students who redesigned the Airstream as a design-build studio. Moses explains that they learned the “everyday professional realities” of architecture and design from demo to the final installation.
Students outfitted the interior with state-of-the-art audiovisual equipment, which contrasted perfectly with the instantly recognizable, vintage styling of the shiny, rounded exterior. Once it was complete, Vermont communities could see “innovative design materials and technologies” firsthand in a meaningful way.
Now that the Archistream has been on the road for a while, the future isn’t entirely certain. The initial plan included limited funding that would allow the AIA Vermont team to travel to different communities, sharing this educational tool to promote a better understanding of architecture and what it means to Vermont citizens. After the first run, the trailer might find another home, perhaps with a different chapter of the AIA, according to Moses.
Architecture is constantly evolving, and the AIA intends to evolve with it. Part of that is educating the community about what architecture is, why it is always important, and how it affects people and whole communities every day. With the Archistream mobile education center, the message has reached more people throughout Vermont, and perhaps it will continue to grow throughout the whole country.
PDH Academy shares the AIA’s commitment to education. We offer the professional development hours that you need to stay both current and relevant in an ever-changing world. Check out our courses when it’s time to meet your requirements. We’ll even file your credits with the AIA for you.