An Ambassador for AIASF, Daniel Perez, AIA, on His Journey to Be an Architect, the Importance of Knowledge Communities and More

Photo: Valentina Saidul Photography

AIA San Francisco recently opened its new headquarters, an exciting center that brings together architect and community; it’s an opportune time to learn about the organization’s 2023 President, Daniel Perez, AIA. In this “In Plain View” column, Perez shares a first-person account that includes his story of becoming an architect; why he views Knowledge Communities as essential; “strengthening relationships with the public;” and how he juggles practice and service.

“In Plain View” is a series of profiles and stories of inspiration from colleagues, friends, Chapters, programs, and partner firms who have worked hard over the years to quietly make a difference through architecture.

I was born and raised in a small town called Rupert, Idaho. I knew I wanted to be an architect when I was seven years old. When I was ten, I visited the John Deere Headquarters in Moline, Illinois. I didn’t know who Eero Saarinen was at the time, but I knew this was architecture. It was settled; I would become an architect.

My parents placed great importance on education. I attended Arizona State University and completed a Bachelor of Science in Design in Architecture degree. After graduation, I moved to New York City and made the commitment to work for three years before graduate school. I completed my Master of Architecture degree from UC Berkeley in 1993. I was the first person in my family to achieve a graduate degree.

Daniel Perez, AIA, at AIA San Francisco’s opening of its Center for Architecture + Design. Photo: courtesy AIA San Francisco.

I worked for small and medium-size firms in New York City and the Bay Area. This gave me the opportunity to wear a lot of different hats and the confidence to start my office. I started my firm Studio Perez in 2005. My work includes public education, multi-family housing, and a diverse range of commercial projects.

I joined AIA San Francisco to promote my architectural profession and community and have realized the importance of activism and advocacy. I became active with the AIA SF Mentorship Committee in 2009 and Latinx in Architecture Committee in 2016. I started serving on AIA SF’s Board of Directors in 2016. This year I am the President.

Perez manages his responsibilities to AIA San Francisco by treating it like project work. Speaking of which, he completed 1005 Powell while serving as AIASF’s president. Photo: Albert Ho Photography

I manage my involvement with AIA by treating it as one of the projects that I have in my office. While the work is voluntary, it requires time and commitment to meet goals, milestones, and outcomes. I view myself as an ambassador for AIASF and the architectural profession, and as a representative for members and staff. AIA meetings and events are scheduled to coordinate with client and project-related obligations. There are occasional conflicts in my schedule but time management and flexibility in my schedule as a small business owner help me navigate being fully present and meeting commitments and obligations. 

One of the priorities I have had as AIASF President is to strengthen connections with our Knowledge Communities, members, and the public. This is very much a work in progress. My desire has been and is to be the people’s president. I view our Knowledge Communities as the direct conduit to our members. When I started AIASF Board Service in 2016 I introduced the idea of having board liaisons for our KCs. This started out as a voluntary request of board members but is now required that each board member liaise with a KC of their preference. This helps the board keep a pulse on the work the KCs are doing, and it helps ensure KCs are getting the support they need and communicates that their efforts are valued. AIASF staff have been instrumental in helping organize and connect board members to KC Co-chairs. 

AIA California Past President Rona Rothenberg, FAIA, visits Perez and the new AIA San Francisco offices.

The other ongoing priority is to strengthen connection with the public. Our new Center for Architecture + Design is the public-facing organization that will communicate all things architecture and design with a wide range of programming, tours, events, and exhibitions. This is an opportunity to explain and demonstrate the value of the work architects, our allied professionals, and the AEC community create to the public at large. Of course, I can’t take credit for this work solely. There has been a long line of AIASF presidents, board members, staff, and members who have contributed to making our C A+D a reality. I am so very fortunate to be AIASF President at a time when we have realized a dream and vision that has been in the making since 2005. 

We hosted the AIA Conference on Architecture earlier this summer, and our new headquarters on the ground level of the historic Hallidie Building opened last week. It is a very exciting time for our Chapter. There is so much work to be done, and I am here to do my part.

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