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Vectorworks Design Summit 2016—What Was Cool This Year

Architosh kicks off the first of a series of articles on what was shown and discussed at this year’s Vectorworks Design Summit.


Architosh will be publishing a series of in-depth interview driven articles from our coverage of this year’s Vectorworks Design Summit, held this year in Chicago. In this post, we’ll provide an over-view of the event, who was there, what seemed important, and try to parse out the signal from the noise.

Architectural Backdrop—Chicago

For the second annual summit, the Vectorworks folks chose Chicago, Illinois. One of the most essential and vibrant cities in the world, Chicago boasts a stunning architectural history and legacy. And it was against this backdrop that the company achieved a stunning turn-out, exceeding 600 attendees from around the globe. This was essentially a doubling of the attendees at last year’s inaugural event, where Architosh attended among a half-dozen industry press. The press corp this year, also doubled. So this brand new event is off to a stunning start based on its two year growth rate.

MORE: Design Summit: Vectorworks CEO Dr. Sarkar Reveals Technology Road Map

So let’s first parse this factoid. Last year it was noted that attendees liked the nice balance between summit activities. In Chicago, this setup largely remained the same. The three day event manages a deft balance between “nerdy” software oriented activities and more “artsy” design oriented fare. This year this included architectural tours of Chicago, a reason for why a specific venue for the event takes place. Many folks, for example, who flew considerable distances (say from Perth, Australia) came in early and left late and made what is in essence, a “vacation” of the trip with a conference located in the middle.

01 - Eva Franch i Gilbert gave the Design Keynote this year, offering an intense exploration practice themes in architecture and the work of the Storefront for Art and Architecture.

01 – Eva Franch i Gilabert gave the Design Keynote this year, offering an intense exploration practice themes in architecture and the work of the Storefront for Art and Architecture. (image:, All rights reserved.)

For the second year in a row a prominent art museum formed the back drop for night two’s “customer appreciation” dinner, held at the Art Institute of Chicago. Attendees I spoke to said they really enjoyed the range of activities, and locations like Chicago certainly help provide a context that is rich in further excursions related to what people are there for—being better architects, landscape architects and designers.

When I asked the company how they grew the attendance, they felt a mixture of factors were at play, including marketing the event itself, expanded media coverage, getting in engaging speakers for the sessions…and the attraction from last year’s event where word-of-mouth meant people would not just come back but tell others to attend.

Speaking of Speakers

For 2016 the Vectorworks Design Summit held two main keynotes, not three. One was the CEO keynote which focuses on showing never-before-seen “future” Vectorworks technology. And the second keynote was the Design Keynote—this year beautifully executed by the intense and engaging Eva Franch i Gilbert, Chief Curator and Executive Director, Storefront for Art and Architecture.

02 - Simonetta Cenci, of 5+1AA architects presenting her BIM talk in a session at Design Summit.

02 – Simonetta Cenci, of 5+1AA architects presenting her BIM talk in a session at Design Summit. (Image:, All rights reserved.)

This year the Vectorworks folks did a tremendous job managing media interviews, including last minute impromptu sessions. Because of this, we have no less than four major interview articles from the event coming very soon. To give readers a preview, we have an in-depth interview with Sean Flaherty coming up that focuses on his new strategic role with the Nemetschek Group. We of course have a technical product oriented discussion feature coming up with our talk with new CEO, Dr. Biplab Sarkar. Thirdly, we have an engaging conversation interview with Eva Franch i Gilabert about topics centering on architectural practice and the future of architectural practice. Finally, we spoke to Bluebeam and an award-winning Italian architectural practice about BIM and will have shorter articles around those themes.

And Speaking of BIM

This year the Vectorworks folks clearly hammered in the point at the Design Summit that Vectorworks Architect is a full and true BIM application, worthy of competing with and stealing market share away from chief rivals like Autodesk Revit and sister company ArchiCAD.

There were several BIM-oriented sessions (almost all of which were AIA CEU worthy) at the Design Summit this year but two that stood out were titled:

  • Architectural Competitions: From Sketches to BIM, by Simonetta Cenci, partner, 5+1AA of Italy and France. This European architectural practice does stunning work on both large and small scales, urban and rural, and they handle this now using BIM deliverables and with some noteworthy graphics.
  • Vectorworks Architect + IFC = BIM, by Brian Hores, AIA, LEED AP BD+C and Joe Marshall, AIA, both of Flansburgh Architects, a leading architectural practice in Boston. Their presentation showed impressive BIM workflows using Vectorworks Architect while dovetailing with engineers using Revit Structural, Revit MEP, et cetera. Showing a full range of steps and flushing out the complexities they have encountered taking large scale (brand new high schools) academic structures through end to end BIM workflows.

There were several other BIM focused sessions this year, scaling around smaller building types and practices and back up to large scale situations. While architects make up the largest group of attendees, a show of hands at a group event showed that there were large numbers of landscape professionals and entertainment design professionals, rounding out and reflecting the Landmark and Spotlight Vectorworks products the company also sells.


BIM was clearly important at this year’s event. So too was the focus on some of the new technology coming in future releases of Vectorworks. One stand-out area was VR (virtual reality) which Architosh has already singled out as a game-changer for the AEC industry in two years worth of AIA National coverage. The new VR technology tools in Vectorworks look very promising and give users lots of flexible optionality.

02 - An attendee trying on the VR cardboard headset to view the new Virtual Reality technology in future Vectorworks products.

03 – An attendee trying on the VR cardboard headset to view the new Virtual Reality technology in future Vectorworks products. (image: Vectorworks, Inc. all rights reserved)

Marionette is another item that shows that this company is as “designer focused” as they say they are, recognizing that algorithmic visual scripting is an important emerging domain within the field of AEC.

Bluebeam and the Nemetschek Group are also a key part of the “signal” story and do relate back to specific Vectorworks developments. These are items that will be further explored in more analysis articles coming up.

Finally, Eva’s design keynote is also a big thundering signal lurking under the surface within the architectural field. Our upcoming feature on her will dovetail nicely with a recent two part series on similar themes published recently.

MORE: Phil Bernstein on the Changing Role of the 21st Century Architect—The Interview (Part 2)

Stay tuned as Architosh shares more in-depth information from the recent Vectorworks Design Summit held in Chicago.


(disclosure: Vectorworks paid for hotel and most meals during the event.)

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