Our history

Advancing the architectural profession in the Commonwealth for over half a century.

A short history of the CAA

The Commonwealth Association of Architects has its origins in a meeting of representatives from Commonwealth architectural institutions which took place in London in 1963. The decisions taken were ratified the following year and the Commonwealth Association of Architects came into being. Its first fully fledged conference took place in Malta in June 1965.

During the subsequent CAA Conference held in Delhi in 1967, the six Asian institutes; India, Sri Lanka, Pakistan, Malaysia, Singapore and Hong Kong, considered there to be a growing need for a regional centre that would be focused on environmental design and greater collaboration. A proposal emerged for the development of a Centre for Environment and Technical Advancement (CETA) and for the establishment of an ARCASIA Formation Council. Thus was created the First Formation Council (1969-1974) which resolved in September 1970 that future assemblies of the National Institutes of the Asian region of the CAA and ARCASIA be formally called the Architects Regional Council Asia (ARCASIA)

Throughout its existence the CAA has been collaborative, outward looking and actively engaged with the issues of the day, particularly those related to its central purpose of maximising the impact by architects on the well-being of society.

The CAA has also been deeply engaged with the topic of architectural education and, through the Commonwealth Board of Architectural Education (CBAE), played an influential role in the development of the profession in a number of Commonwealth countries, a role which continues today in various forms including Validation.

In 1979, supported by the Department of Architecture at the University of Sydney, the CAA undertook the first known survey of schools of architecture in the Commonwealth. The survey was re-run in 1987 and the results provide a fascinating insight into the state of the architectural education at that time.

Members of the CAA returned to London in 2015 to celebrate its 50th anniversary, marked by a two-day International Conference on the theme of ‘Designing City Resilience’, hosted by the Royal Institute of British Architects, together with a General Assembly and a Gala Dinner hosted by the Worshipful Company of Chartered Architects (WCCA) in the City of London.

More recently, in 2018 and 2020 the CAA, working with its Commonwealth engineering, town planning and surveying colleagues, published a Survey of the Built Environment Professions in the Commonwealth which identified a critical lack of capacity among built environment professions in many of the Commonwealth countires which are urbanising most rapidly and are among the most vulnerable to climate change impacts.

The findings of the survey led to the CAA becoming one of the founding members of the Commonwealth Sustainable Cities Initiative (CSCI), together with the Association of Commonwealth Universitites (ACU), the Commonwealth Association of Planners (CAP) Universitites and the Commonwealth Local Government Forum (CLGF). The CSCI subsequently published a Call to Action on Sustainable Urbanisation across the Commonwealth in 2021, which was acknowledged when Heads of Government adopted the Declaration on Sustainable Urbanisation at the Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting that took place in Kigali, Rwanda in June 2022.

CAA Past Presdients

CAA General Assemblies

  • 1965, Valletta, (Malta)
  • 1967, New Delhi, (India)
  • 1969, Lagos , (Nigeria)
  • 1971, Canberra, (Australia)
  • 1973, Ottawa, (Canada)
  • 1976, York, (United Kingdom)
  • 1979, Hong Kong, (Hong Kong SAR)
  • 1981, Nairobi, (Kenya)
  • 1983, Sydney, (Australia)
  • 1985, Ochos Rios, (Jamaica)
  • 1987, Brighton, (United Kingdom)
  • 1989, Kuala Lumpur, (Malaysia)
  • 1991, Nicosia, (Cyprus)
  • 1994, Grande Baie , (Mauritius)
  • 1997, Goa, (India)
  • 2000, Wellington , (New Zealand)
  • 2003, Bloemfontein, (South Africa)
  • 2006, Melbourne, (Australia)
  • 2010, Columbo , (Sri Lanka)
  • 2013, Dhaka, (Bangladesh)
  • 2015, London, (United Kingdom)
  • 2019, Mombasa , (Kenya)
  • 2022, Port of Spain, (Trinidad & Tobago)

CAA Lifetime Achievement Award

CAA Insignia

In the 1950’s the RIBA gave a very handsome gold presidential medal to the Royal Architectural Institute of Canada (RAIC). In the late 1970’s the RAIC College of Fellows agreed, as a gesture of goodwill, to provide a similar Presidential medal to the CAA and there was to be a competition for the design open to students from all the Canadian Schools of Architecture. Only three designs were submitted, none of which were considered suitable by the jury.

The commission was subsequently awarded to a well-known designer, Dora de Pedery-Hunt of Toronto. The artist was asked to produce something suitable for all countries with no specific symbols which would relate to any particular country, ie no African elephants, Indian tigers, Canadian beavers, Australian kangaroos etc. the final medallion, gold on a red and white ribbon, depicted a mature tree of life whose roots represent the five member regions of the CAA; the strong trunk speaks of the members’ institutes gathered together to advance the cause of architecture; and the branches represent continuing growth of the membership, striving for continual improvement in their chosen profession.

The first medal was presented to President Ronald Gilling at a ceremony in the RIBA Headquarters building in London. Identical medals in silver on a blue silk ribbon are presented to past Presidents for them to keep, while the original gold medal is passed on to each President in turn, to be worn while in office. The Council decided to present a silver medal to Lady Matthew in recognition of the late Sir Robert Matthew’s outstanding contribution to the CAA, and to Dr Jai Rattan Bhalla as a former CAA President.

In 2023, the CAA undertook a refresh of its identity to better reflect its commitment to creating a better world for tomorrow. Today, the insignia is used for ceremonial purposes and as an embellishment to enrich special materials.

Original CAA insignia designed by Dora de Pedery-Hunt from Toronto, Canada