Five years ago designer and architect Jeremiah Eck, owner of Eck/MacNeely Architects, in Boston, met with two of his peers, Duo Dickinson and Dennis Wedlick, to discuss their feeling that the American Institute of Architects (AIA) was not meeting the needs of residential design.

Together, they founded the Congress of Residential Architecture (CORA) to provide a forum for residential architecture.

Once CORA was formed, says Dickinson, of Duo Dickinson Architect, in Madison, Conn., the AIA offered its support. The original CORA members met at the AIA headquarters in Washington, D.C., and disseminated materials about CORA’s goals and standards through e-mail trees to people who might be interested.

CORA now has 2,000 members nationwide, with membership open to anyone who is interested in residential architecture, including home­owners, remodelers, real estate agents, architects, brokers, and designers. Qualifications or degrees are not necessary; the only requirement is a passion for houses. Chapters are based on either geographic location or subject. Topics include: cape and islands, real estate, and production housing.

Making Connections

Four years ago, John DeForest of DeForest Architects, in Seattle, formed a CORA chapter with five other architects. CORA NW meets monthly for roundtable discussions.

“When the city was considering changes to various codes, they asked to come speak with us. We’ve been active in advocating code changes that would affect design in Seattle,” DeForest says.

CORA NW also sponsored talks at the local library. “It just shows that there is a need for architects and building designers to show people what they do and what value they can add to the process,” DeForest says, noting that being a CORA member has made him a better architect by connecting him to a larger world.

CORA member Dale Mulfinger of SALA Architects, in Minneapolis, thinks of CORA as a sounding board. “[CORA is] trying to form a bond between people who are focused on residential architecture,” he says. Because there is a very active AIA branch in his area, Mulfinger says, CORA has not been as popular there. But, he adds, for him, joining CORA and seeing how others practice has made him a smarter businessman.

CORA is unique not only for its grass-roots origins, Eck explains, but also for the questions its discussions raise. “It is ironic that the one issue that architects have not paid attention to in the past three decades — the American house — is the issue that [recently] brought us all down,” Eck says. “So you can blame the bankers, but I also blame us for not paying close attention ... for not saying to people, ‘If you’re buying these houses, think about what they mean.’”

Molly Cohen, Remodeling editorial intern.