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American Institute of Architects Sends National Team of Experts to Assist Pratt, Alabama, Community Ravaged by Tornadoe

Birmingham, AL – October 11, 2011 – (RealEstateRama) — A team of national experts assembled by the American Institute of Architects (AIA) are heading to Alabama this week to assist storm damaged communities and residents in the development of a long-term recovery strategy. The team, which will be in Alabama from October 7-10, is serving at the invitation of the City of Birmingham, will be conducting a participatory planning process with the entire community.

The 4-day community process will include physical tours of the neighborhood and surrounding area, public workshops and focus groups to solicit the input of citizens and stakeholders, and a series of design studios that will culminate in a public presentation to the community highlighting key strategies moving forward. The team will also issue a formal report that captures its recommendations. The event will conclude with a press conference hosted by the City of Birmingham on Monday, October 10th, at 8:00 p.m.

“This is a critical step in rebuilding these communities and for the City of Birmingham,” said Birmingham Mayor William Bell. “We look forward to working with these experts, hearing from the communities and then the AIA’s recommendation and plan.”

The Regional and Urban Design Assistance Team (R/UDAT) project is a public service of the AIA. The multidisciplinary team of national experts will be providing pro bono services for the event. “Our team includes experts in a range of disciplines that have decades of experience working with thousands of citizens on revitalization issues in a host of communities around the world,” said Joel Mills, Director of the Center for Communities by Design.

The team consists of nine national experts who are volunteering their services on a pro bono basis. As objective outsiders, they are able to listen to community input and provide professional expertise free from any hidden agendas or political context. The result in many communities is the development of recommendations that have enhanced credibility with local stakeholders, as well as momentum for partnerships and implementation.

“We want this vision to come from the people that live there and work there and are part of the Pratt community,” said team leader Bert Gregory, FAIA.

Background on the Design Assistance Program
Since 1967, the American Institute of Architects has been at the forefront of the community design movement. It has worked in over 200 communities through its design assistance program, involving over 1,000 professionals in the provision of pro bono assistance worth millions of dollars. The program brings together architects and other professionals assembled from across the country to provide a roadmap for communities seeking to improve their sustainability – as defined by a community’s ability to meet the environmental, economic, and social equity needs of today without reducing the ability of future generations to meet their needs. Through its participatory processes, the AIA has involved thousands of residents in the design process, thereby building broad ownership for designs and plans that get implemented. Its programs have developed concepts and principles that have resulted in some of the most recognizable public places in the nation. The AIA approach to pro bono design assistance has been widely modeled and replicated. In the UK, a British design assistance program was developed and has been operating with similar results for over a decade now. In Germany, the process was adapted to create “Planning Weekends” that function in a similar fashion. In 2010, the AIA was named “Organization of the Year” by the International Association for Public Participation (IAP2) for its impact on communities and contributions to the field.

About the AIA Center for Communities by Design
The Center for Communities by Design is the clearinghouse for the American Institute of Architects’ many activities—from promoting sustainable design to leading design based technical assistance projects in communities—that influence the quality of life in our nation’s communities. The center is a nonpartisan forum that provides information, develops policy, creates partnerships, and assists in advocacy efforts to facilitate discussions of community design and inform choices for neighborhoods, cities, regions, and the nation.

About The American Institute of Architects
For over 150 years, members of the American Institute of Architects have worked with each other and their communities to create more valuable, healthy, secure, and sustainable buildings and cityscapes. Members adhere to a code of ethics and professional conduct to ensure the highest standards in professional practice. Embracing their responsibility to serve society, AIA members engage civic and government leaders and the public in helping find needed solutions to pressing issues facing our communities, institutions, nation and world. Visit www.aia.org.

John Schneidawind
johnschneidawind @aia.org

April Odom, City of Birmingham
205- 254-2368
april.odom (at) birmingham.al (dot) gov