Kimberly Dowdell Elected First Black Female AIA President

Kimberly Dowdell 
AIA 2024
At the A’22 conference in Chicago, Kimberly Dowdell (far left), AIA 2024 president-elect, who thinks making architecture more relevant to the public will draw young people to the profession, talks with National Organization of Minority Architects’ leaders (from left) Jason Pugh, current NOMA president; Pascale Sablan, incoming NOMA president; and Tiffany Brown, NOMA executive director.
Photo Courtesy NOMA

by: Engineering News Record

Earlier this month, the American Institute of Architects announced the election of Kimberly Dowdell as the AIA’s 2024 president. She will be the first Black woman to serve as president in the group’s 165-year history.

In her campaign for election, Dowdell proposed an “alphabet platform” consisting of advocacy for architects in practice, belonging, climate action and designing the future. 

“I think it’s important that the AIA is advocating for the prosperity and fulfillment of architects,” she told Architectural Record, ENR’s sister magazine. “By increasing our relevance and opening our world up a bit more to the public, we can attract more young people to want to pursue architecture and have more informed clients.”

First Female AIA President Was in 1992

Susan A. Maxman was AIA’s first woman president, in 1992-93. Marshall E. Purnell was the first Black AIA president, in 2007-08. William J. Bates was the second, in 2018-2019.

Dowdell served as the 2019-2020 president of the 50-year-old National Organization of Minority Architects (NOMA). During her tenure, she built up the staff to three from zero and membership is up from 500 to more than 3,000 in three years.

“Kim, as my predecessor at NOMA, I was amazed at your leadership, even though you were blindsided by the pandemic,”  said Jason Pugh, a principal at Gensler and the current NOMA president, at the A’22, the AIA’s conference on architecture in Chicago, June 22-25. 

Tiffany Brown, NOMA’s executive director, is “over the moon” about Dowdell’s AIA win. “NOMA will support Kim,” in her AIA role, she said, at the NOMA leadership panel, which also included Pascale Sablan, a senior associate with Adjaye Associates and the incoming NOMA president, beginning next year.

The gathering—the first since the COVID-19 pandemic started in 2020—drew more than 12,000 registrants, down from 16,000 in 2019. 

Dowdell graduated from Cornell University with a bachelor of architecture in 2006 and received a master of public administration from Harvard University in 2015. She is currently a marketing principal at HOK Architects.

A member of the AIA since 2007, Dowdell served on AIA’s equity and the future of architecture committee from 2019-20 and the new urban agenda task force from 2019-21.

Increasing Demand for Design ServicesIn a release June 22 at the conference, AIA indicated architecture firms reported increasing demand for design services in May.

The Architecture Billings Index score for last month was 53.5, down from April’s score of 56.5. But AIA says the score still indicates “very strong business conditions overall,” because any score above 50 indicates an increase in billings from the prior month. Also in May, both the new project inquiries and design contracts indexes expanded, posting scores of 63.9 and 56.9 respectively.