Thought Leadership Forum Series

The contemporary moment is a critical one for cultural heritage.

Many of our nation’s cultural and historic resources are at risk. Preservation positions and funding are being cut while the needs of built structures and collections grow. At the American Architectural Foundation, we are engaging leaders in the field from across various sectors through the Thought Leadership Forum Series to assess how to proceed in this current reality. At each forum, attendees discuss contemporary issues in design and preservation and how to best promote awareness of design and cultural heritage to the public.

We intend for this series to inspire solutions of how to commit America to the preservation of our history and its buildings, places, documents, and artistic inheritance.

Thought Leadership Forum Series

Thought Leadership Forum I: A 21st Century Dialogue about the Role of Craftsmen in Design, Preservation, and Sustainability, December 15, 2014

Thought Leadership Forum II: Storytelling, Design, and the Cultural Heritage in the 21st Century, July 20, 2015

Thought Leadership Forum III: The Politics and Policy of Preservation: Changing Civic Practice in the 21st Century, July 15, 2016


To learn more about future installments of this series, please contact Thom Minner at

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Posted in: Center for Design & Cultural Heritage, Thought Leadership Forums

The American Architectural Foundation has been dedicated to advancing the role of architecture and design in American society since its founding in 1943 by the American Institute of Architects.

In its 75 years in existence the Foundation’s work has taken many forms — from educational programming and exhibitions in its early years to large-scale design initiatives and programs —all of which serve to create a rich legacy.

As the managing partner of the Mayors’ Institute on City Design for twenty years, in partnership with the National Endowment for the Arts and the United States Conference of Mayors, the Foundation helped move the needle on design and cities. And, through its other signature programs like Save America’s Treasures in partnership with National Parks Service, the Sustainable Cities Design Academy, and Design for Learning, the Foundation has provided critical design leadership training and technical assistance to hundreds of elected officials, education leaders, business leaders, and other key decision makers in the design process.

In recent years, cities and civic leaders have embraced design and design thinking in a way that could not have been imagined when the Foundation begin its work back in 1943 — and AAF’s role in this transformation is a source of great pride for the Foundation. With this increased interest in the role of design in shaping our cities came a proliferation of new organizations to support and facilitate this cultural shift. These advances in the role of design in American society and changes in the nonprofit design sector, coupled with the departure of the organization’s longest-serving CEO, prompted the Foundation’s Board to embark on an intensive and lengthy process to examine the ongoing role and work of the Foundation.

As the Board of Regents reflected on the positive changes of the cultural value of design, the accomplishments of the Foundation, and how the legacy of the Foundation’s work is being carried out by its former staff in new roles and organizations across the country, they reached the conclusion that the American Architectural Foundation had accomplished what it set out to do. As a result, the Foundation began to complete its remaining programs and wind down its operations in the Summer of 2018 and the organization’s endowments have been distributed to allied organizations. The Foundation’s research and reports will remain available on its website as a resource to the field.

The Foundation’s work would not have been possible without the incredible talents of its many staff over the decades, the generous support of its funders, and the tireless dedication of its civic & design partners across the country. The Board remains deeply proud of the significant contributions Foundation has made in its 75-year history and would like to acknowledge that this would not have been possible without the efforts, dedication, and support from so many of you.