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AIA Philly Opens a Center for Architecture

July 31, 2008

By John Gendall

The Philadelphia chapter of the American Institute of Architects (AIA) recently opened the doors to its new Center for Architecture.

The 8,000-square-foot center—located in an old factory near the downtown convention center—provides the growing chapter more space for offices, meetings, exhibitions, and its popular bookstore. One of the most noticeable advantages is a glazed storefront, which gives the center a public face. The AIA is sharing its new space with The Community Design Collaborative, an organization that helps nonprofits procure free design services.

Center for Architecture in Philadelphia
Center for Architecture in Philadelphia
Photos courtesy John P. Claypool/AIA Philadelphia
The new Center for Architecture in Philadelphia is located in an old factory near the downtown convention center.
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AIA Philadelphia formerly was housed in a leased space several blocks away from its new location on 12th and Arch Streets. “We had outgrown our old space,” says John Claypool, the center’s executive director. “The new center gives us a facility to accommodate our ongoing work, and a place where design can be a conversation not only between architects, but with the broader community.”

AIA Philadelphia purchased the basement and ground level of the century-old, 8-story industrial building in the spring of 2007. In envisioning the center—which features 17-foot-high ceilings and exposed brick walls—Claypool says that collaboration was key, noting that chapter members were invited to attend design charrettes. KlingStubbins was the architect-of-record for the project, a service the firm donated to the chapter.

This is one of about a dozen Centers for Architecture around the United States. AIA Austin recently opened its center, in a converted gas station, and Dallas will open one in September. “What we notice with Centers for Architecture across the country is that they respond in their own way to their specific place and time,” explains Rick Bell, FAIA, the executive director of AIA New York, which opened its center in 2003. “There isn’t a formula. That’s exactly what Philadelphia is doing. It’s the best location for outreach, and a perfect space for the bookstore.”

“People will be coming to conventions from all over the world,” adds Bell, “and the Center for Architecture will be right there.”

To learn more and watch a video, visit the Philadelphia center’s Web site.

Jenna M. McKnight contributed additional reporting for this story.

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