14 Jan Past President Profile: Steve Kenat
Steve Kenat, Director of Community Development | Principal, GBBN
Looking back at your time leading AIA Cincinnati, what are you most proud of accomplishing?
In 2005, the city was beginning to rediscover the Over-the-Rhine neighborhood and seeing its potential – something that architects were already well aware of. We hosted numerous events in collaboration with other organizations – aimed at bringing together partners in the A/E/C industry like SMPS and ULI, and others targeted toward architects, like the young architects and interns, (YAiF) broadening our own diversity and engaging others. With exciting new projects going on, we hosted a variety of hardhat tours, including negotiating a tour of Zaha Hadid’s new Contemporary Arts Center that included an annual membership to this new groundbreaking building to all attendees.
In your career, what is the biggest change you’ve seen in the field of architecture?
Our use of technology in both design and construction has unleashed possibilities in fabrication and construction I never envisioned when I graduated. New technologies truly support iterative testing processes, and being able to test and digitally prototype ideas in the computer has helped us improve our work at all scales. Innovation has never been coming faster!
Looking ahead, what is the biggest challenge facing architects working today?
Challenges of sustainability & resilience at all levels is something we must face head on, as architects and urbanists. We are thinking of buildings & construction beyond mere shelter – they are a means to heal the environment, serve all inhabitants, and make the world a better place. But demands on the industry to perform faster, with budget expectations to build for lower costs, create challenges to quality of the design process itself and for buildings and their material longevity – create a frequent contradiction to that resiliency and those aspirations. It’s well documented that the global trend toward urbanization will continue. Our cities must evolve with those demands and remain affordable, accessible, and diverse to stay vibrant, let alone competitive. We have the responsibility to be thinking much further ahead, leading smart policy, delivering vision for current clients, and as stewards for future generations.
How has AIA membership benefited you?
AIA has helped me grow as a professional both within and outside our practice at GBBN. When I moved to Cincinnati, AIA involvement helped me build a network of firm leaders, and being involved in AIA leadership kept me connected to other practitioners and programs. Beyond local experiences, annual meetings and conferences, especially the national convention has been a great resource on all aspects of the profession. I’m excited to see AIA taking a leadership role in the 2030 Commitment, which elevates those conversations inside our practice and with our clients.
What advice would you give to a recent architecture graduate?
Simply put…get involved! AIA and the profession get better and more diverse with each new voice. While firms are admittedly professional competitors, the organizational culture of the AIA is one of helping each other make connections, advance careers, and genuinely driven to make our communities and neighborhoods better through design.