Most architectural firms are small practices with fewer than 20 employees, which according to Joshua Zinder, AIA — managing partner of JZA+D, the 14-person integrated design firm he founded in 2006 — puts them in a position to produce important innovation and bring value and growth to their communities.

Now Zinder will have additional opportunities to support the work of startups and emerging firms, having been appointed as New Jersey’s representative to the American Institute of Architects Small Firm Exchange. Each year, the SFx selects practitioners from across the country to advance the mutual interests of architects with small firms. According to AIA, SFx representatives are integral to AIA communications, connecting small firm leaders in their local and state components to the national organization.

Having served as president of AIA-New Jersey for the 2021 calendar year, Zinder brings to the Exchange a deeply personal view of the role of the small architectural practice in enhancing communities and spurring sustainable economic growth. Boasting a global portfolio of residential, commercial, hospitality and academic design work, JZA+D has weathered two economic downturns and become a pillar of the Princeton, New Jersey, community where it is headquartered and where much of its work is focused.

“Starting one’s own firm is stressful and requires a lot of time doing things other than architecture, but there are rewards for our partners, our staff and the communities we serve,” Zinder said. “I wouldn’t change a thing.” He added that he hopes to work within the Exchange to elevate the perception of emerging firms and to encourage practice leaders to focus on mentorship, networking and responsive design.

Zinder has also been appointed to serve on the SFx Executive Board in the role of All-Call Workgroup Chair, placing him in a key position overseeing collaborative efforts among representatives to the Exchange.

The selection to represent the Garden State with AIA SFx follows Zinder’s recent presentation at the virtually-held AIA Tri-State Small Firms Symposium. Titled “Progress Through Storytelling: How to Win Approval for Innovative Design,” the session focused on communication strategies for competing with larger firms when presenting to approval-granting agencies and authorities. This June in San Francisco at the 2023 Conference on Architecture, Zinder presented the session in-person alongside architect and engineer Charles F. Bloszies — who operates his own small firm in the Bay Area — and land-use expert John McDonough.