Featured Member - Nathaniel Hudson, AIA
An advocate for architecture across all aspects of the profession, Nathaniel Hudson strives to make a difference.
Nathaniel Hudson, AIA, is a native Northern Nevadan striving to make a difference in his community and advocate for the practice of architecture. Hudson’s career has spanned academia, art, and practice. He currently works to provide dignified affordable housing in Reno and hopes to take advantage of the unique landscape of Northern Nevada to develop region-specific architecture. With the help of AIA, he seeks to expand the architect’s role in local government and state legislative agendas while leading emerging professionals in fundraising efforts for ArchiPAC and helping push forward the National Design Services Act (NDSA). His mission to create positive change is evident in the many roles he plays as architect, advocate, educator, husband, and father.
When someone taps you on the shoulder, it can become a tremendous opportunity. That’s why I initially became involved with advocacy. I witnessed firsthand what could be done when my mentor, the late Ric Licata, FAIA, invited me to work alongside him on projects and legislative actions early in my career.
Considering myself an advocate of architecture, I’ve always tried to define it as broadly as possible. Architects bring unique values and skills to society, so I don’t view advocacy as something purely political. I’ve worked to address issues relevant to architects, designers, and artists at various levels of government, but also within my communities directly.
One of the beauties of living in a smaller US city is that people remember you. A handshake really does mean something. Those of us that are passionate about something are afforded many opportunities. As a member of AIA Northern Nevada, I helped to establish their first Advocacy Committee, and our first big task is working in Reno to establish an architectural review committee within the local city government. It will be a legitimate governmental body that impacts the architectural possibilities in this community. I’ve also assisted the cities of Reno and Sparks with rezoning and master plan development, and I believe it’s a substantial honor to have architects participating in that work.
"Advocacy is the primary conduit to expand what we can do."
At the state level, AIA Nevada is adamant about using opportunities to meet with legislators on Capitol Hill about our issues. We have a good track record of success when it comes to introducing white papers and bills to our representatives, some of whom have sponsored legislation we recommended. That’s a powerful thing, and I get a lot of charge from seeing a manifestation or result of those acts.
On the national scale, I recognize and deeply value the mission of ArchiPAC. The PAC is a very important component to our overall legislative capacity as an organization. You can have a bunch of legislative items and governmental advocacy committees can set priorities and targets, but if you don’t have a PAC, you can’t really get into the conversation. I am a founding member of the ArchiPAC Emerging Professionals Committee and this past year acted as co-captain of the EP WolfPAC team in the Race for the ArchiCUP. The EP community across the institute is very strong. We started by asking a few questions: Since EPs are the least likely group in the Institute to have disposable income for donations, can our large numbers and network make the difference? Can we actually be really good at this?
In 2017, that story resonated so well with other AIA members that senior leaders and even people who were already associated with other ArchiCUP teams began donating in our name. We won the competition for number of donors easily, but we also raised the largest amount — over $20,000. We connected with others in the organization in a way that hasn’t been done in ArchiPAC before. There is something about EPs coming into this territory that shows we can do some amazing things if we demonstrate the value of our differences. I intend to spread this message to future AIA leaders, who can build on our momentum and continue breaking ground in architectural advocacy.
Politics and policy infiltrate every aspect of our lives, so I look at advocacy issues generally. I’m most concerned and will always support anything that adds value to our profession, specifically in the eyes of non-architects. Architects understand each other’s value, but our skills are constantly judged by neighboring professions, society at large, governmental agencies, academia, and the incoming generation. I will always jump behind any political or policy-driven issue that helps provide value to our profession in any way. Advocacy is the primary conduit to expand what we can do. It’s not necessarily just building a building then moving on to the next one, it’s recognizing that we’re the only profession that gets to design the physical interface through which mankind interacts with this world.
"If I’m not an active member in society and in life, then I don’t feel as though I’m doing what I need to be."
The concept of advocate is more commonly viewed as a noun, but advocate is an action. It’s something that you have to do. You can’t be a passive advocate, you must be an active one. I believe that collaboration, advocacy and wanting to positively contribute —to the community that I call home and where I’m raising my children, the community that they will take from my wife and me at some point — that’s my guiding principal. If I’m not an active member in society and in life, then I don’t feel as though I’m doing what I need to be. -As told to Kathleen M. O’Donnell