A Conversation With Amy Spike

Advocating for architects, good design.

Nearly four years ago, Amy Spike switched careers, moving into the nonprofit sector. It’s proven to be a successful career change personally and professionally. In April, the communication and programming coordinator for the American Institute of Architects, Iowa Chapter, was named Distinguished Association Staff Professional of the Year by the Iowa Society of Association Executives.

Spike oversees public relations, event planning, marketing, and the digital presence for AIA Iowa, and coordinates approximately 10 of its committees. The group’s membership is made up of some 900 licensed and unlicensed architects statewide.

“I’m so very honored,” Spike says of the recognition, which is particularly meaningful since it comes from peers in her industry. “It kind of rewards you for all the hard work you do. But it’s my job and I enjoy it. It’s kind of a given that you put your all into our career everyday.”

What brought you to AIA Iowa?

I was an intern at the Iowa Events Center, and immediately after college I began as a marketing coordinator there. It was a job that required long hours, as well working nights and weekends. When I got married, I knew we’d eventually be starting a family, so in order to spend more time with loved ones I moved to AIA Iowa in 2012.

How has the transition been?

Getting into the association industry was a great opportunity for me. It’s been a great fit, working with an association with designated members. I feel I have a better connection with my audience because I understand exactly who I’m communicating with versus the general consumer. We’re helping our membership express their needs and desires, keeping them up to date on best practices, and advocating for their profession through government affairs and the public. It’s very rewarding assisting our members, all of whom are volunteers who work full-time, in accomplishing their goals.

What’s new at AIA Iowa?

We held our inaugural “People’s Choice Award” this year and are very excited about it. We invited members to submit projects to our website, IowaArchitecture.org, which is a public site that our association built to showcase award-winning, juried, and published architecture in Iowa. There were 60 projects submitted for this year’s award, which drew 54,000 visitors to the website, with more than 37,000 votes cast. We recognized five different projects across the state. It was very successful, and we’re already talking about how we can make it better next year.

What was the thinking behind the “People’s Choice Award?”

Part of our mission is to advocate for good design and making architecture accessible to the public, which includes educating them on the valuable work architects do. So our public relations committee came up with the idea of letting people vote for their favorite project.

It’s a way for us to start the conversation about architecture—why it’s important and why you should invest in architects. Architects are typically reluctant to recognize their importance in the building process. We’re working hard to make sure their voices are heard because they are legally responsible for ensuring the health, safety, and wellness needs of the people who are going to live, eat, pray, and sleep in these buildings.

Is there a project you’ve been involved in that you’re particularly proud of?

Our website, IowaArchitecture.org, came to life through my journey here. It was an idea crafted by our public relations committee, and I worked with our web developer to put the pieces together, eventually getting it online about four years ago.

Every year, we have a design award competition in conjunction with our annual fall convention. We also have many works featured in Iowa Architect magazine. We had a database of projects that had won awards or been published in magazines that were being stored in our office on a general server.

We wanted a way to get this information out to the public so people could learn more about these projects and see pictures of them. We wanted to continue to promote these examples of high-quality architecture well beyond when they received an award or were featured in a publication.

It’s really a good starting point for us and is just the first phase of the project. It’s always a work in progress. We’re looking to evolve it as the technology evolves, making it more user-friendly.

What is AIA Iowa’s biggest strength?

Our membership. About 90 percent of licensed architects in Iowa are our members, which tells you that the profession believes in the importance of our association. We’re really grateful and very proud of that. Our chapter continues to flourish, with volunteer members thinking of ways to advance the profession. Our annual convention in Des Moines grows every year, with more than 1,000 attendees annually.

What volunteer work do you do?

I served on the ISAE board for two years as the communications chair, helping convert their newsletter to a digital format and making their social media sites a little more robust. I’m also an inaugural member of their young professional committee. The association industry, in general, is aging and they need to start to get younger individuals involved and excited about the profession because many of the executives within the field are going to be retiring.

Tell us about your personal life.

I live in Beaverdale with my husband, A.J. Spike, and our nine-month-old daughter, Kensington. I run, work out, and CrossFit during my spare time.