Citizen Architect: Allison McKenzie, AIA

Allison McKenzie, AIA, Cincinnati Historic Conservation Board

Firm and Role: SHP, Principal, Director of Sustainability

What is the purpose of the organization/committee that you are involved with?

To conserve historically significant buildings and protect the vital history of our city, while also encouraging investment in historic neighborhoods. 

Why did you choose to get involved?

I was actually asked by a friend who knew there was a board position open if I would consider applying for it. I thought about it for quite awhile, knowing it was a significant responsibility, but I eventually agreed because the character of some of Cincinnati’s historic neighborhoods is one of the things that makes Cincinnati so unique, and a place that I love to live.

How does your experience as an architect contribute to the organization/committee?

Cincinnati’s Historic Conservation Board has the following required make-up: one professional historic preservationist, one historian, two architects, one attorney, one person engaged in the real estate or development business, and one economist. While all of those backgrounds are extremely important, architects bring comprehensive knowledge of architectural style through time as well as the knowledge of what is and is not feasible from a design perspective. 

How has serving in this role benefits you as an architect? 

There are really numerous ways. One of the most basic but powerful ones is a feeling of greater connection to my city and the design and development communities within it.

How much time and effort does your role require? 

Appointments are for 3 years and most board members serve two back to back terms. We meet twice a month for approximately 2 hours each time, but meetings can be much lengthier when there are complicated or controversial cases. Reviewing the case materials and urban conservator staff reports can also take several additional hours ahead of each meeting to familiarize myself with all of the drawings and data we will discuss at the meetings.

Would you encourage other architects to get involved in a similar commission?

Absolutely. Not only is it personally rewarding, but boards like historic boards or zoning boards are essential to protecting the health, safety and desirability of our communities, and architects can, and should, have strong voices on these boards.

Are you a Citizen Architect? Please let us know by emailing

Are you interested in getting more involved with your community? Check out AIA Ohio’s Finding Your Voice advocacy series or come to one of AIA Cincinnati’s Local Advocacy Working Group meetings (second Thursday each month at 8:30 am on Zoom).

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