The AIA Historical Directory of American Architects

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About AIA Membership

The AIA Historical Directory of American Architects is based on a complete list of all AIA members from 1857 to 1978. The name, membership years, state, and death date come from the ledger books and card files in which the AIA staff kept its records of membership and dues over the years. In 1978, the membership data began to be kept as computer records instead of in a card file. Post-1978 member names will be a future expansion of the AIA Historical Directory.


Before the 1940s, an architect could join a local AIA chapter without also becoming a member at the national level. Only national members were allowed to use AIA after their names. The AIA Archives does not have a record of local-only members. Chapter records from the 19th and early 20th century no longer exist in most cases. If you are looking for someone who was said to be an AIA member, and you do not find the name in the AIA Historical Directory, it is possible that the person was a local chapter member and there is no information about that person available through the AIA. Today, AIA members join simultaneously at the local, state, and national levels.


Not all architects are AIA members. Becoming a licensed architect is controlled by each state. AIA membership is not a prerequisite.


AIA membership requirements have changed over time, as education and licensing have changed. For architects applying for AIA membership in a state where there was an established licensing law, having a license was required to become an AIA member. In states with newly adopted laws, or states which did not yet have licensing laws, the applicant had to demonstrate his or her status as a professional architect in other ways. For a fuller discussion of early AIA membership, see The A.I.A.'s First Hundred Years, a history of the AIA published for its centennial in 1957. The book From Craft to Profession, by Mary N. Woods (University of California Press, 1999), provides a good look at training, education, practice, and professionalism of American architects in the nineteenth century.


Examples of AIA membership requirements:

       1872 membership procedures from bylaws

       1881 membership procedures from bylaws

       1889 membership procedures from bylaws

       1907 membership eligibility

       1917 membership requirements

       1925 membership requirements and proof of eligibility

       1943 information on membership

       1957 information for applicants

       1974 information for applicants

To learn more about AIA membership categories and requirements today, go to


The exhibits submitted with early membership applications, consisting of photos or drawings, were always returned to the applicant after the decision on membership was made. None of the exhibits were retained by the AIA.


Fellowship in the American Institute of Architects is a high honor, recognizing those architects who have made significant contributions to architecture and to society. In the nineteenth century, from its founding in 1857, AIA members might join as Fellows, or might be elevated to Fellowship later in their membership after achieving distinction in their careers. In 1889, the AIA merged with the Western Association of Architects (founded in 1884). The WAA had only one category of members, called Fellows. As a condition of the merger, the AIA also went to a one-category system, and all its regular members became Fellows in 1889. The AIA returned to two categories of membership in 1898, and Fellow once again became a special distinction from then on. Fellows may use the letters FAIA after their names.


Associate AIA is a category of membership that began in 1972 for those who had a professional degree in architecture but had not yet received their license. Members in this category may use Assoc. AIA after their names. (For more about the requirements of Associate membership today, see the AIA’s membership page.) The word “associate” was used in the 19th and early 20th century to mean a regular AIA member who was not a Fellow. It has also been used in the past to mean a chapter-only member. Chapter associates have at times been defined to include draftsmen (who might or might not be on a track toward becoming an architect). In the 1920s, a Junior member category was briefly established, similar to today’s Associate AIA. Junior membership is not yet reflected in the AIA Historical Directory of American Architects.


Emeritus AIA members are those who have retired from practice or are over a certain age, after a specified number of years as an AIA member. Emeritus status allows retired and older members to maintain their membership without paying dues.


Honorary membership has been part of the AIA since its founding in 1857. Today non-architects may be awarded Honorary Membership while architects from other countries may be awarded Honorary Fellowship in recognition of their distinguished achievements. In the 19th and early 20th centuries, there was also a category called Corresponding Member, for foreign architects or for former members who had left practice for other fields (such as teaching). Corresponding membership was not an honor; it was for anyone who wished to be informed about the AIA’s activities but was not eligible for membership. Honorary Members, Honorary Fellows, and Corresponding Members are not yet listed in the AIA Historical Directory of American Architects.


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