Interview with Frank Visconti, President Elect of the AIA Southwestern Oregon Chapter (AIA-SWO)


When were you elected and how long will you serve?
I was elected in January 2017 by the current president Katie Hall. I’ve been involved in the AIA since 1991. I served on the board of directors in Florida in 1991 and in New York in 2004. The position is really three years: the first year, you shadow the current president; then you are the president; then the next year, the next president shadows you.

What does the job entail?
Planning out all the events for the year at the local chapter and overseeing communications with the state and national AIA components. We’re voting members of the state AIA, so we have more exposure to the state and national organization. I went to Washington, DC, in April 2017 for a grassroots conference attended by hundreds of directors of all the different chapters in the country. We were there to see policy progress and meet with state legislatures to discuss important items of the year. This year there was a lot of attention on urban development, improving cities through codes and good design, and advocating for the architect’s role as part of the design of cities. We are also working to reorganize Oregon AIA into a single chapter for a more cohesive organization. Many states have successfully done this over the last five years.

What exciting things are you doing?
Locally, we have been working on the competition for parklets in downtown Eugene. It’s being installed this weekend; winning teams are finishing up their installations over the weekend. The opening is this Sunday during the Eugene Sunday Streets event. The mayor will be selecting a “mayor’s choice” design. The City of Eugene and the AIA have worked on this as a partnership. The City gave $10,000 to AIA-SWO to make this happen as an annual investment back into the city through art programs. The money was raised from Parking Services with additional sponsors from the downtown area.

How does practicing in Oregon compare to practicing in New York?
It’s a smaller community. You feel more connected to people. There is an unfathomable amount of members in the city and it’s a lot less grassroots!

Has being AIA president elect changed your relationship to Eugene and Springfield?
I feel more connected. I’m still in the process of meeting lots of people, networking, and understanding the community of design professionals and policy makers.

Any advice for upcoming professionals?
Join the AIA! It’s a really good organization. You can get as much or as little as you want out of it. It’s there for everybody. And they have a very impressive building in DC.