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May 12, 2009
by Scott Phillips AIA LEED AP

After attending six sessions and finding them all to be informative and heavily attended, I offer my thoughts on the convention overall. In the “High Performance Schools: Design Strategies, Tools and Resources,” Deane Evans, Jr., FAIA, of New Jersey Institute of Technology, and Charles Eley, FAIA, the executive director of CHPS (The Collaborative for High Performance Schools) for California, laid out the design standards, strategies, incentives, and resources that they have made available to school designers in their respective states. When the third presenter, Lisa Gelfand, AIA, of Gelfand Partners Architects in San Francisco, took the stage and presented built examples of schools that she had designed to meet (and help create) the CHPS standards, the architects in the room audience was clearly lifted by visual evidence of the successful implementation of sustainable building theory.

The architects’ hunger to hear from each other was inadvertently brought to a crescendo at the end of a session the next day: “IDEO Smart Space: Design for Community.” To demonstrate the Silicon Valley group’s design methodology, attendees divided into small work groups to create concepts and communicate ideas. The topic was none other than the AIA convention itself and how it could be improved. The findings were consistent — architects want to meet and hear from each other. Future conventions could do more to facilitate this. A sampling of ideas were offered: provide gathering places outside the sessions (with chairs!) for smaller groups to identify with (there was a Student Lounge, so how about one for architects of different regions, or of specific building types, or of age groups); find a technology to allow architects to scan each other’s badges or project each other’s work onto white boards; provide pre-convention blogs to start an intra-architect network; offer more architect-led sessions; and serve more martinis.

Other architects shared a similar sentiment outside of the sessions. In passing, one architect said the best session he attended was a talk given by Stephen Kieran, FAIA, and James Timberlake, FAIA, that brought their design methodology to life.

It goes without saying that the small groupings offsite, such as the AIA New York State party at the City Club were well worth the trip.


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