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May 17, 2017

Plus ça change, plus c’est la même chose (Fight the power)

Lee header2

Header image: ANG40InfantryDivisionLosAngelesRiot1992. Credit: US Army Field Artillery School, creative commons license, modified.

It was a great honor and lasting source of pride to have been selected by my peers to lead one of the oldest and most highly regarded AIA chapters in the country. Spoiled by the support and guidance of the BSA staff, led by executive director Richard Fitzgerald, it became abundantly clear how well regarded the Boston chapter was when I had occasion to serve on juries elsewhere or interact with AIA National. We were the gold standard.

Before the full depth of the recession, it was a heady time for many firms and interesting, provocative, award-winning work was being generated by Boston and New England architects and urban designers.

And then my presidency was highjacked by 52 Broad Street. The iconic granite building that the chapter had purchased was demanding significant financial resources just at a time when firm billings were beginning to slide as the real estate bubble and the recession was in its nascent stages. It almost took us under! But “angels” among us stepped up, and the likes of Tom Payette FAIA Emeritus, Buzz Brannen FAIA Emeritus, Ed Tsoi FAIA Emeritus, Richard Bertman FAIA, and others rolled up their sleeves, made substantial financial commitments, and offered expertise that helped us refinance the debt and save our headquarters and—dare I say it—our hard-earned national reputation.

Finally, as one of the first African Americans to head an AIA chapter, it gave me a platform to address the tragic beating of Rodney King and the subsequent LA riots. (Plus ça change, plus c’est la même chose.) I took an aggressive position on that shameful occurrence in a letter to the chapter. Without my knowledge, Richard forwarded it to AIA National, which published it in every chapter across the country.

The BSA had my back. I will never forget it.

David Lee FAIA, 1992 BSA president