AIA Chicago, the a trade association with 4,000 member architects in Chicago, has selected Jen Masengarb, a 20-year architecture veteran with deep Chicago ties, as executive director. New leadership comes amid AIA Chicago’s efforts to develop a new strategic plan that will guide the chapter for the next several years.
Masengarb joins AIA Chicago after more than three years at the Danish Architecture Center in Copenhagen, where she was senior project leader for international visitors. She previously served in leadership roles for 18 years at the Chicago Architecture Center, including five years as the organization’s subject matter expert where she co-curated exhibitions, lectured, and wrote and edited publications. Chicago residents might also remember Masengarb from her contributions to the WBEZ podcast “Curious City.” She also received a 2016 AIA Chicago Distinguished Service Award for her ongoing contributions to Chicago’s architecture community.
With more than 175 applicants, AIA Chicago’s process of selecting a new executive director involved extensive member insight, a highly experienced search consultant and a search committee empowered by the board to act independently and autonomously. The committee was representative of the chapter’s broad membership and of the entire profession – including such factors as gender, age, race, size of firm and area of focus.
Along with a membership focus – notably regarding equity, diversity and inclusion initiatives — AIA Chicago under Masengarb will emphasize community outreach and members providing an architect’s perspective to their work in the community and local government. Being an architectural ally for Chicago’s underserved communities, communicating effectively to the public about architecture, fostering connections with residents of all ages and backgrounds, and building and maintaining partnerships with other architectural organizations in the city will also be priorities under Masengarb.
AIA Chicago will also continue to take an aggressive stance regarding advocacy and promoting hope. Chapter leaders are active in the national organization’s lobbying regarding climate change, notably on green building infrastructure. Additionally, a number of AIA Chicago members are partnering in INVEST South/West, an unprecedented community improvement initiative, galvanizing the resources of multiple city departments, community organizations, corporate and philanthropic partners towards ten communities on Chicago’s South and West Sides.