What an honor and privilege it is to serve as this year’s president of the American Institute of Architects, Jacksonville Chapter. Great things are happening in our wonderful city and it’s an exciting time to be an architect. I always look forward to the architecture issue of Arbus Magazine and this year is no exception. With all of the excitement and anticipation generated by the various Downtown related projects, I am especially interested in this year’s article. How do architects feel about these projects and how do we ensure that Jacksonville moves in the right direction to realize its full potential and transform our Downtown into a vibrant and livable city center? We truly have a unique city with its connection to the beautiful St. Johns River and I believe we are on the verge of seeing momentous things happen.
The Downtown Investment Authority (DIA) released their extensive and very detailed Business Investment and Development Plan this spring, and along with it a specific set of redevelopment goals, strategies and benchmarks. We have come a long way since the Adams Mark Hotel came to town back in the late ’80s and created such an uproar in the design community by placing a large, rather bland box on the river. While the DIA’s comprehensive plan will help prevent impulsive and imprudent growth from happening, I’m interested in the input our local architects have as a body of creative design professionals. We tend to bring a unique perspective to the table and I’m looking forward to positive critical feedback.
I believe we owe a huge thanks to Councilman Bill Bishop, citizen architect, for his recent run for mayor of our city. His campaign brought a lot of vision and clarity to many of the issues important to the development of Jacksonville. I’m excited about our city’s future and believe the best is yet to come. Jacksonville’s One Spark Festival gets better each year and does a wonderful job of getting people into Downtown. Yet if we hope to sustain that type of energy and vitality we cannot rely on festivals and weekend events alone. Creating a vibrant city core needs a healthy mix of business and entertainment, housing and shopping, cultural centers, parks and open spaces as well as public art and visual interest. How these elements connect and relate to each other, and how we get from one point to another, must be taken into account. All of these things are important because cities are most often defined by their architecture and public space.
As far as our chapter goes, AIA Jacksonville is stronger than ever as we have teamed up with AIA Florida to help serve our members more effectively. Michael Murphy of MASS Design spoke to us in February about how architects can have powerful, positive impacts on our community, beyond just the buildings we design. I’m eager to read the responses from our local architects to this year’s question on how we can contribute to quality of life issues within our community. Dr. Wayne Wood spoke at our March program, giving us a unique perspective on Downtown Jacksonville’s history and architecture and how it relates to a vision of the future. He talked about our urban core and its decline from earlier years, and also spoke of current projects and our recurring hope of a true renaissance of growth.
Finally, in the tradition of bringing in nationally acclaimed and exceptional speakers, AIA Jacksonville is honored to have Matthew Hufft, AIA, as this year’s design awards juror. He is the founder and creative director of Hufft Projects in Kansas City, Missouri, where they design and construct everything from furniture to houses. He has won over twenty national and international awards and will be speaking at our 2015 Design and Honor Awards Gala, Friday, May 29th at the Florida Theater. Join us if you are able as we celebrate some of the best architecture Jacksonville has to offer. Keep up with us at aiajacksonville.org on other exciting things the chapter is planning to celebrate about architecture this month.