July 6, 2022Reading Time: 4 minutes
Article and Photos By Christy DiBartolo, AIA
This year’s AIA National Convention was held in Chicago, IL between June 21 and 25th. I was honored to attend this conference along with many other AIA NJ members. I’d like to take this opportunity to thank the members of AIANS for sending me and to provide a summary of my experience.
Anyone who hasn’t attended a National Convention should try to go. It’s well worth the cost. It’s a whirlwind of events but also completely empowering. They offer intriguing and eye-opening seminars and highlight some of the best products on the market. Not only does this help to run a better practice, but it also enlightens AIA leaders on new ways to better run our components.
For example, one seminar I attended was related to Accessory Dwelling Units (ADUs). The City of Seattle put forth an effort to revise the Zoning Ordinance to promote diversity and inclusion among its citizens. By changing the laws to allow ADUs, those who may not be able to afford to live in such neighborhoods are awarded the opportunity to do so. The panelists presented their comprehensive research that clearly shows the issue that was created generations ago with segregation, how the law enabled it to happen, and how, moving ahead, we can start to solve the problem and move closer to integration.
Each and every day there are dozens of such seminars taking place; you have your choice with a wide variety of topics.
On the Expo floor, thousands of vendors are eager to talk to you about their products and services. It awards you the opportunity to learn what innovation has hit the market to improve your projects. It also allows you to put faces and names with brands; I now have a good buddy at Viewrail, which I’m sure will be my go-to stair vendor moving ahead.
Chicago, needless to say, is a hub of Architecture. The AIA, with the Center of Architecture, organized a multitude of tours for us. I happened to see Wright’s Robie House, Mies’s Crown Hall, the new Riverwalk, along with the skyscrapers for which Chicago is known. Their work is inspiring and tells a story of the architect’s intellect.
The keynote speaker this year was former President of the United States, Barack Obama. He was interviewed by Dan Hart, FAIA, the 2022 AIA National President. Turns out Mr. Obama had an interest in architecture growing up, so he can see how architecture can impact segregation and unification, and how it can impact our climate and the public’s everyday activity. He encouraged architects to design with affordable materials, and low maintenance costs; he mentioned that we incorrectly associate quality with cost. He also stressed the importance of listening to others and getting to know end-users; that like our democracy, the building industry can’t work unless we all agree to some ground rules. We can certainly divert on specifics, but the playing field must be level so as to respect each other and come to a conclusion that both sides feel is mutually beneficial. And this goes for all parties, whether political or otherwise.
The conference is also a fantastic opportunity to expand your horizons, meet new people, further bond with those you do know, and hear how others tackle similar problems that we have here. For example, I met a woman from Bozeman, MT who said her single-family residential cost/SF near her is over $600. They have major material access problems, which significantly impact the cost of living there. Just interesting to hear other perspectives.
Of course, the relationships that exist locally were front and center. Often the “in-between” of the busyness is where these relationships are nourished and ideas start to grow. Many thanks to Andrew Thompson, Erica Spayd, John Cwikla, Bill Martin and his wife Jackie, John Fallon, Elizabeth Pacheco, Mike Hanrahan, Dave Del Vecchio, Verity Frizzell, and countless others, who made it all memorable.
It’s definitely a busy few days, but well worth the feeling that I am a part of something so much bigger than myself. I didn’t sleep much. But who needs sleep when there’s such a flurry of exciting activity?
Architects are creative professionals, educated, trained, and experienced in the art and science of building design, and licensed to practice architecture. Their designs respond to client needs, wants and vision, protect public safety, provide economic value, are innovative, inspire and contribute positively to the community and the environment.