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May 12, 2009
by Rick Bell FAIA Executive Director AIA New York

Approximately 22,500 architects convened in San Francisco for the 2009 AIA Convention.

Jessica Sheridan

The most remarkable aspect of the 2009 AIA Convention in San Francisco was that despite near-record attendance, many AIA members were able to participate in the plenary sessions and continuing education seminars from home. From the podium at the Moscone Center, AIA President Marvin Malecha, FAIA, spoke of a symposium where 14 people were in the room, while over 14,000 participated electronically. Questions were asked online and through Twitter, and the Tweet sounds of pluralist participation, at 140 characters max, kept the grandstanding and pontificating to the minimum, except at Saturday’s Business Session. While overall attendance surpassed 20,000 people, and the product exhibition space was sold out, revenue was down, and many who were in Boston could not afford to attend because of the state of the economy and the liquidity of their firms.

The almost-full plenary sessions belied the fall-off since last year’s convention, and spirits were high as many New Yorkers were honored for design awards and distinguished service. Honor awards were won by NY-based firms including FXFOWLE Architects, Thomas Phifer & Partners, Lyn Rice Architect, Diller Scofidio + Renfro, Cristoff:Finio, TEN Arquitectos, and STUDIOS Architecture.

Matthew Bremer, AIA, notably, won one of the eight Young Architect Awards. Bremer was recognized as co-chair of the AIANY New Practices Committee and as a “young architect who combines recognized and celebrated talent with a willingness to support the profession and provide mentorship for others.” His design talent and attention to detail were also noted in the AIA National commendation. Bremer, along with co-chair Marc Clemenceau Bailly, AIA, curated and installed the New Practices New York exhibition at AIA San Francisco’s Center for Architecture + Design; the exhibition opened with the concurrent announcement of the New Practices San Francisco winning firms.

Venesa Alicea, Assoc. AIA, LEED AP, received the AIA Associates Award. First presented in 2008, it is the highest honor given to individual Associate AIA members based on their demonstrated and unparalleled commitment to their component or region’s membership, in the community, in professional organizations, and in the design and construction industries. Alicea was commended for her unwavering commitment, her abilities in practice, and her outreach encouraging others to pursue IDP and licensure.

Marcy Stanley, Hon. AIA, received her Honorary Membership in the AIA, where she was applauded for her service to the Institute, AIANY, and the Washington DC Metro Chapter.

One of the highest AIA honors, the Edward C. Kemper Award for Service to the Profession, was bestowed on Barbara Nadel, FAIA. Nadel’s commendation by President Malecha noted the worldwide impact of her security design work. Her remarks credited the many collaborators and colleagues, both in her writings and consultations. She was described by AIA President-elect George Miller, FAIA, as “a proven leader, a dedicated mentor to emerging professionals, and an advocate for the AIA and the issues that are critical for the future of the profession.”

The Whitney Young award, a very moving ceremony in which Clyde Porter, FAIA, a Dallas-based architect and facilities administrator, was honored, also included a tribute to J. Max Bond, Jr., FAIA. Bond had been scheduled to speak at the convention, and his untimely death leaves an immeasurable gap in the architectural fabric of our city and the world. The tribute, organized by AIA National’s historian and poet Ray Rhinehart, used interview footage seen at the 2005 Heritage Ball when Bond was honored with the AIANY President’s Award. A memorial will take place Tuesday, 05.12.09, at 3:00pm at the Great Hall of Cooper Union, followed by the opening at 6:00pm that evening of “The Life and Work of Max Bond, 1935-2009,” an exhibition at the Center for Architecture.

This year the Fellowship investiture took place at Grace Cathedral, a grand space atop Nob Hill where the invocation of distinguished achievement was spiritual, and the architecture itself awe-inspiring. Among the 112 architects elevated to Fellow were nine AIANY members, including Ken Drucker, FAIA; Belmont Freeman, FAIA; Christopher Grabé, FAIA; John Grady, FAIA; Robert Heintges, FAIA; Frank Lupo, FAIA; Joanna Pestka, FAIA; Annabelle Selldorf, FAIA; and Sylvia Smith, FAIA. Among the nine Honorary FAIA awards conferred, one name in particular stands out — that of Manfredi Nicoletti, Hon. FAIA. Nicoletti visited the Center for Architecture on 05.04.09 and delivered an impassioned oration on technology and growth after an introduction by his friend and sponsor, John Johansen, FAIA. The celebratory dinner included many others from NY, there to honor friends and colleagues. The new Fellows were honored, as well, at the social highlight of the Convention, the AIA New York State party organized and sponsored by Ibex Construction and its president, Andy Frankl. It was held at the City Club, the city’s best Art Deco interior graced by a Diego Rivera mural.

The election results for AIA National office have been announced through various other communications. Our Chapter’s congratulations go out to 2010 President-elect Clark Manus, FAIA, of San Francisco, Vice Presidents Peter Kuttner, FAIA, of Boston, and Mickey Jacob, FAIA, of Tampa, along with John Rogers, AIA, of Ohio, elected as Treasurer. The merits of these and the other eminently qualified candidates were discussed at an AIA New York State caucus marked by candor and passionate debate.

Speaking of impassioned debate, the business session of the convention was held on Saturday, 05.02.09. Three reasonable and necessary amendments to the AIA National Bylaws were defeated. Our Chapter voted in favor of all of them:
1. Changing the term International Associate to AIA International,
2. Allowing Associate members to serve as Regional Directors, and,
3. Creating a new category of “Public Membership” in the AIA.

The fact they did not receive the necessary 2/3-delegate vote was seen by many as an abnegation of the future — a slap in the face to the associate membership, a denial of international outreach, and a reinforcement of the traditional insularity of many of the voting delegates. The various AIA list serves have been hot and heavy with statements of principle on both sides of all three issues. Over the next weeks and months strategies for compromise and consensus will emerge. In the aftermath of these three nay votes, however, one thing is certain: better communications and better outreach is needed to reaffirm the core principles of the AIA of the future: inclusiveness, participation, and growth. On these topics, I clearly left my heart, and say hey votes, in San Francisco.


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