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AIA2018: Notes from AIA National Convention and Expo

Our first notes from this year’s AIA National in New York City.


This year’s AIA National Convention and Expo were at the Javits Center in New York City. Well, that’s not entirely true. This year’s AIA National was all over New York City. That—in a nutshell—was the gripe among some show attendees this year as sessions and even the keynotes were bus rides or long walks away. Other than that, this year’s event was excellent by any other measure and vendors repeatedly told me they didn’t have a moment to rest on the show floor. In fact, the software and technology pavilion area was particularly busy.

AIA Needs Big Convention Halls

The issue isn’t just isolated to the Javits Center. The story I was told was that the AIA is having to face the reality that the AIA National Conference and Expo have become so big that the organization has fewer cities available with convention facilities large enough to host it. It has been 30 years since the national conference for architects has been in New York City so this was quite the reunion in the making.

01 – This year’s AIA National seemed to have a lot of traffic at the huge expo on two separate floors.

To find the available space for sessions The New School and various hotels were utilized for sessions while Music City Hall was used for the keynotes. In general, it all worked out okay.

Architosh’s Coverage

The principal business of Architosh attending AIA is to cover information technologies in the field of architecture. Naturally, this centers on the exhibitors and their news.

02 – 3D printed urban design models at the booth for Ultimaker.

We also attend sessions of relevance to both information technologies but to areas about the future of practice and the discipline itself. As usual, senior associate editor, Pete Evans, and I split apart multiple times to cover a wide range of items.

Here’s what’s coming up (in order)

  • Expo Show Floor Reports and Galleries
  • Notes and Themes from Sessions and Keynotes
  • Architosh BEST of SHOW Awards
  • BEST of SHOW Perspective Feature

Architosh will be generating multiple reports all this week covering this year’s event. If you are new to Architosh and are not familiar with our AIA coverage reports and BEST of SHOW winners write-ups than here is a good place to start. You will also find past winners here.

Themes and Ethos of #AIAcon2018

Architect and 2018 AIA Gold Medal winner, James Polshek, FAIA, said during his acceptance speech that architecture “is a healing profession.” Architecture has the power to heal not just the individual but society itself. We can do this through building resilience into our cities and communities, by providing for diversity, equity, and inclusion—in our profession and in our various communities.

03 – Sheela Sogaard, CEO, of BIG–Bjarke Ingels Group—was the Day 2 Keynote highlight speaker. Don’t let the empty chairs fool you, we were in the overflow space because the talk was sold out.

Robert Ivy, FAIA, on Day 2 at the keynote, led an impassioned call to arms for the AIA and its members to think about affordability in our cities, where the bulk of humanity will live by 2050. He noted that he himself could not afford to move back into his old NYC neighborhood today. And he introduced the charismatic advertising leader Roy Spence, who in 2018 founded the Promiseland Project to, as he said, “transform our nation into a ‘us culture.’ ”

The Promisedland Project website is here and begins with the question: “Do you believe in Purpose over politics?”

And the highlight of the Day 2 keynote was Sheela Søgaard, CEO of BIG—Bjark Ingels Group. Her talk focused on how she was courted by, hired, and has transformed and led the world’s most ambitious, radical, and transformative architecture firm. We will share our notes from her talk in particular in full.




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