2018 AIA Conference on Architecture

AUTHOR: Lori Gerety, Senior Project Architect
The Location

Recently, I attended the 2018 AIA Conference on Architecture at the Javits Center in NYC. This was the largest AIA Conference to date with 26,000 registrants. The newly revitalized Javits Center was the perfect place for this conference. The roof is considered the fifth façade and contains a 7-acre green roof, which has reduced the heat island effect by 1.9 degrees Fahrenheit. Also, did you know many large buildings are bird killers? That’s right. Birds fly in the night and can’t see many types of glass. This has had a huge impact on our ecosystems and now many jurisdictions require new buildings to have bird-safe glass, meaning it is visible to birds. This is done by carefully selecting the reflectivity and adding a pattern or etching to the glazing. Learn more about bird-safe glass.

The ‘Post 9/11 Transportation in Lower Manhattan’ tour blew my socks off. Both tour guides are architects who were instrumental in rebuilding the World Trade Center site and are survivors of 9/11. Their stories of how they navigated this monumental task held a depth and weight that will stay with me forever. After the tragedy, their first task was to get the train systems up and running as fast as possible. Understanding this area was now a gravesite, they needed to provide space for everyone to grieve. Many years later, the now completed site is absolutely breathtaking. Not only was the train system rebuilt, but the project also integrated adjacent neighborhoods. It was the catalyst that transformed the previously disheveled transit system. Well worth the miles of steps it took to tour the new site!

Blueprint for Better Cities and the Business of Architecture

In the interest of keeping this brief, I won’t bore you with the AIA seminars on contracts and legal issues architects face. However, the Friday night keynote speakers are more than worth mentioning. The theme of this conference was “Blueprint for Better Cities”. One of the opening speakers started his talk with “I was hiking Sopris one day….” Sopris?! Here I am sitting in Radio City Hall in NYC and the speaker just mentioned hiking in the state of my beautiful home, down the road from our office. Needless to say, he had my attention.

This was Roy Spence talking about The Purpose Institute, which he founded a few years ago after a hike on Sopris Mountain (Carbondale, CO). An architects purpose is to make things better. We take what isn’t working and creatively transform it into “better.” Roy expressed how we are uniquely qualified to have a seat at the table in the larger discussion of moving our country toward “better.”

The main keynote speaker at the AIA Conference was Sheela Sgaard, CEO and Partner at BIG. She spoke about the business of architecture and how the creative design team cannot also run the business side. Hat tip to our very own Sheela, Jen Olson. After hilarious stories about how she transformed the business side of her firm over the past 10 years, she ended on the idea of a purpose-driven culture – do good and then you will do well. Interestingly enough, Steev Wilson founded this company on that principle many moons ago.