Profiles

I Create Birmingham: Rhea Williams

“Arts need to be a priority in schools and not always be the first line item that is cut in the budget. We as parents, business owners, teachers, and community leaders need to promote the value of arts and culture in our schools.”

Name: Rhea Williams
Occupation: Executive Director of AIA Birmingham
Creative Industry: Design
1. How did you get involved with the design community? 

I was looking for a client that was environmentally conscious and made a positive impact on the environment, a friend suggested American Institute of Architects Birmingham (AIA). They were looking to hire a new executive director. I had no idea what AIA was or did. I did a little research and realized architects can make the biggest difference in our environment by designing sustainable designs, less waste on construction sites, using energy efficient and eco-friendly building materials, and site planning. I have learned the value of design and that design can enrich our day to day life. Think about the communities you love to visit or what makes your favorite chair so comfy or why you always use a certain kitchen tool – DESIGN makes our life better.

2. How has that changed your understanding of design?
I wish everyone could drink the design kool-aid. Once you understand what an architect or designer brings to the table, you will always hire an architect/designer for any size project. Architects and designers are problem solvers. They have the education and training experience to see more than four walls and a roof. They look at things differently than the rest of us. I have been around architects and designers for over 10 years and now I find myself looking at design in a different way. I am much more appreciative of what they go thru to make all of us have a better quality of life thru DESIGN.

3. How can people get access to design services?
There is a professional organization for each design discipline. That is the best place to begin the search and also learn how to work with designers. Why is that important? It is so important to consult with an architect or designer sooner than later. If they are brought in early on a project, they can save you money and make the design process a much more pleasant experience for you. Architects and designers help us not only see our vision, but also create it for us, and make it our reality.

4. The AIA Awards are coming up. What do you look for when choosing winners?
Oh! We do not choose the winners, we take the projects to another state and have a jury of peers who look at each project and decide if it meets the criteria and if the architect did anything in the overall design that was unusual to meet the client needs.

5. How can Birmingham help foster Design Education at a young age (k-12)?
Arts need to be a priority in schools and not always be the first line item that is cut in the budget. We as parents, business owners, teachers, and community leaders need to promote the value of arts and culture in our schools. Again, most of the professional design organizations are a great resource even for schools. Professional organizations have volunteers who are happy to give presentations to schools for career days. I know The Alabama Center for Architecture and AIA Birmingham both have architects who volunteer on a regular basis for school presentations.