Where we come from and our passion, Celebrating 45 years.
AlA Redwood Empire, a chapter of the American Institute of Architects, is an association that represents member architects and professionals in eight Northern California regions including Del Norte, Humboldt, Lake, Mendocino, Modoc, Siskiyou, Sonoma, and Trinity counties. Over its 44-year history, the chapter has provided its members with opportunity for professional development and continuing education through programming, design awards and local and national advocacy and community leadership.
The mission of the Redwood Empire Chapter of the American Institute of Architects is to advance design and the built environment through education, public awareness and by empowering its members.
The chapter’s roots can be traced back to the 1930’s and Clarence Caukins, a man who headed what was then Santa Rosa’s only architecture firm. As the area grew, one of Caukin’s employees left to form J. Clarence Felciano Architects. This marked the beginning of many new firms, and by the 1950’s, there was a growing need for communication between them. To meet the need, the San Francisco based AlA Northern California chapter created a special Sonoma County Section. Unfortunately, the Section was a weak voice and was not involved in many local issues.
Early in 1973, architects Robert Morris and “Whit” Cox led the way to the formation of a new chapter addressing the specific needs of architects north of the Golden Gate. Thanks to their hard work and perseverance, the Redwood Empire chapter was born Friday, September 13, 1974. The AIARE’s first board of directors included Robert Morris as president, M. George Lawry as vice president, Dan Peterson as treasurer, and Grove Bolles as secretary. Schuyler Jeffries, Thomas Tomasi, William Knight, Lawrence Simons and John Miller served as its first directors.
Chapter membership and involvement continued to grow in the late 1990’s, with a successful AIA Re- gional Urban Assistance Team (R/ UDA T) visit to the Santa Rosa area. The process provided much publicity for the AIARE chapter, and resulted in CityVision, a new non-profit organization working to bring the R/UDA T recommendations to life. We have had numerous SDATs and R/UDATs in our chapter since helping to redesign the communities in which we live and serve.
By 1982 membership, activities, and financial resources had grown, and it was decided to get an office space and part-time Executive Director to operate the chapter. Barbara MacLeod was hired later that year, and successfully heightened the effectiveness of the chapter, making its identity known on local and state levels. Following Barbara, Anne Foellmer was selected as the chapter’s Executive. Anne’s contributions to the profession and chapter resulted in her being made an honorary AIARE member. After ten years of dedicated service, Anne resigned in July of 1996, and Kimberly Anderson was hired to assist the chapter as Executive Secretary. In March 2001, Kimberly resigned after five years of untiring contributions. Amanda Danchi was hired as Executive Director. Wendy Young was hired in August 2007 when Amanda decided to move back to North Carolina. Wendy helped bring the chapter into the digital age and helped create many strong partnerships. Liz Edwards then took the helm from 2017-2019 after Wendy’s 10 years of service. Liz brought an incredible amount of energy, collaboration and leadership to the organization. Carissa Green took over in October 2019 and though things are far from normal in the world, with natural disasters, the pandemic, social unrest and injustice, she continues to lead the chapter with strong leadership and collaboration with the Board through these challenging times.