The field of architecture has been an integral part of the Alaska design and construction industry for decades.
The innovation of architectural and drawing
craftspeople is memorialized across the state
thanks to the determination of artisans who
value their field and product and who are
critical to the Alaska economy and building
The American Institute of Architects
The number of architects in Alaska may not
be skyrocketing, but the profession is respected, and the need for qualified professionals in the trade remains strong statewide.
For high school or college students seeking
a profession that keeps them busy and employed, architecture is an excellent option.
Melissa Morse is an architect with Architects Alaska and the 2018 president for The
American Institute of Architects Alaska
Chapter. Morse says the organization’s 2018
membership is at 202 professionals and
climbing. The majority of members are architects who are licensed and live in Alaska.
“Architects are part of every public build-
ing and multi-family housing project in the
state, from man camps to churches, schools
to hospitals,” says Morse. She stresses the im-
portance of her profession to the economy,
citing the necessity for architectural firms in
Alaska to be comprehensive, mobile, and re-
silient, with multiple specialties.
Especially since Alaska’s climate is a defi-
nite variable in design calculations. A build-
ing-type in Nome is very different than in
Juneau. “We are forced to rethink the build-
ing envelope for each location and specific
microclimate, which other states may not
require as often,” Morse adds. “In addition
to the exterior of the building there are of-
ten vernacular or historic building types that
need to be considered, so we have our work
cut out for us statewide.”
Alaska architects research the locations
of their projects to determine how climate
and geology will affect the build and to en-
sure the facility suits the site and community.
“The high winds, drastic temperature range,
seismic activity, and varied landscape are inspirational to each project, creating a unique
building that represents its location,” she
says. “Architecture firms typically hire the
engineer team; working with the engineers
we are able to craft a building that is contoured to the owner and community needs.”
“Our industry is smaller in numbers than
other places because Alaska has a low population, so it’s relative. The majority of architecture offices are small businesses with
less than fifteen employees, but fortunately
Patient housing for the Alaska Native Tribal
Health Consortium in Anchorage.
© Kevin G. Smith
“Our industry is smaller in numbers than other places because
Alaska has a low population, so it’s relative. The majority
of architecture offices are small businesses with less than
fifteen employees, but fortunately they’re also sophisticated in
focus and niches so they can cover variables like region, soil,
temperature, and structural design.”
2018 President, The American Institute of Architects Alaska Chapter