What happened in Vegas..


… should not stay in Vegas.

As 2019 President of AIA Montana I had the pleasure to represent our state at our National Conference. This is a copy of my article for our latest Newsletter:

Let me qualify that.  I was happy to make it  back to Montana late Saturday. Vegas is deliberately designed to make wayfinding difficult, with each venue rolling out all its tricks to trap you right there. Slot machines hold no appeal to me so attempting to get from one location to the next had me wandering through dead end back alleys, parking garages, and jumping walls.

What I do want to take away from Vegas are the lessons to be applied, and people to stay in touch with. I might have developed a little crush on our profession, ok let’s make that a major crush. You guys are smart, friendly, enthusiastic, collegial, and walk the talk.

When I was not on official AIA business, I loved the exchange with fellow firm owners. Aligned with the AIA’s commitment to help practices  be successful, they put up a complementary AIA Business Lounge with offerings including coffee, face shots, linked in profile and website audits, mini marketing sessions, and elevator pitch coaching and videos. Make sure to take advantage of this resource next year in LA.

Your Montana votes.

The general business meeting brings the leadership of all states together to vote, with all of us sitting in our regions, and equipped with little real-time voting gadgets. William J. Bates, our current president, demonstrated his leadership with warm composure and humour as we navigated through a few technical hiccups, and otherwise very technical discussion and voting procedures.

What might be of interest to you:

Inspired by findings in the equitable practice initiatives, AIA National is conducting a legal review of it’s design award programs for opportunities to promote a level of  (in my own words) “general human decency” in the context of stellar design production.

At the end of the meeting, at which point we were pretty much starving and ready to leave the cold dark hall, new business can be added from the floor. In unprecedented fashion,  grassroots resolution 19-11 about climate action was introduced, enthusiastically endorsed by many, and passed by a majority vote. While it acknowledged regional differences in practical application, it will boost many efforts towards carbon neutrality. As members, we might see more related changes in our Code of Ethics and in the framework of Health, Welfare, and Safety.


I have to admit that I found myself torn between likable enthusiasts and more down-to-earth folks with a track record of getting things done. The enthusiasts won the vote, and with that we can look forward to charismatic leadership with a british accent and fantastic storytelling skills. Maybe just the right medicine to get our profession more public awareness. Show us what you got, Peter!


We represented, it was good to see so many of you there. While MSU didn’t host a social this year, we were welcomed by the NW&P Region. Some members attended solo, others, like Nelson Architects, made it an off-site team outing.

I asked them what they got out of the experience:  Ryan Smith, AIA, loved all the interactive flow of the entire event, and insights into what the future might hold in various fields, citing medication delivery via drones. Tyson Kraft, AIA, reported how he is coming back very inspired, almost like back in school. Doug Lorello (insert membership poke here) is coming home armed with case studies of a wide range of historic revitalization projects and tools.


Sophia Sparklin

Growing up in a family with generations in medical practice, Sophia discovered her passion for architecture during an internship 1996. Since then Sophia received formal and informal education in Germany and the US. At Arizona State University she was honored by the Henry Adams Certificate for graduating on top of her (Master of Architecture) class in 2005.