2013 AIA Convention Special: Rhetorically Speaking: Please Come to Denver

The 2013 AIA Convention took place last week in Denver with almost 17,000 architects, designers, and vendors convening to elect new leadership, learn new skills, and build new bonds of fellowship. This “top twenty” pecha kucha style narrative of Convention highlights is personalized by what photos were most in focus and which memories most vivid after a few days back in New York. (The slideshow is above; click the arrows.)

1. Cross-cultural exchange of ideas between the presidents of the various international associations of architects was vibrant and a significant sub-theme of the Convention. Given the AIANY’s 2013 presidential theme of “Global City / Global Practice,” the discussions with colleagues from Hong Kong, Seoul, Shanghai, Singapore and Tokyo were quite important. Shown here is Jill N. Lerner, FAIA, (center) with (l-r) 2013 AIA President Mickey Jacob, FAIA; 2013 AIA Hong Kong; President Christine Bruckner, FAIA; Mr. Takanobu Ota, Hon. FAIA with Mrs. Ota; 2012 AIA President Jeffry Potter, FAIA; and 2014 AIA Hong Kong President Christian Low, AIA.

2. Remembered from the 2001 AIA Convention was the 16th Street pedestrian mall and free tram connecting the Denver Art Museum to LoDo and its burgeoning arts scene. A vibrant street scene was augmented by a musical festival, new restaurants and ramblas-like inserts of chess tables and donut stands.

3. Hybrid-fueled public transit made the trajectory from the Denver Convention Center to other locations in the tourist zone quite easy. But many present commented on how walkable Denver had become.

4. One early morning walk, organized by the AIA Young Architects Forum, headed to Union Station where scaffolding sheathed the facade restoration underway and rustic comfort food was available on the street.

5. A more urbane offering were the superb cupcakes that made ingestion a vaguely spiritual experience on the cusp of the summer solstice. Bike cart delivery to the Convention Center conveyed a vicarious aura of fitness.

6. Also in the shadow of the Convention Center’s Blue Bear, scavenger hunters searched for items on a list, including natives of New York. Photos of badges confirmed the continuing edification credit.

7. Denver’s corollary to the month-old blue Citi Bikes here in New York were cheap, popular, and equally clunky-cute red “B” cycles. Locations were clustered in the areas frequented by Convention-goers and culture-tourists, but outlying bike locations were also in evidence.

8. Near a red-bike stand in LoDo were members of one of the 7:00 AM walking groups organized by Virginia Marquardt, AIA, and the AIA Young Architecture Forum.

9. Talks on Active Design and a more “Fit Nation” involved physicians including Richard Jackson, MD, MPH, and Ray Pentecost III, DrPH, FAIA, ACHA, LEED AP, along with architects including Russell Davidson, AIA, and David Burney, FAIA.

10. As the Town Hall gathering place on the Expo floor, architects, including Jill N. Lerner, FAIA, and Lance Brown, FAIA, learned of the archiCULTURE documentary roll-out from filmmaker Ian Harris.

11. A different type of cultural exchange took place at the Brown Palace Hotel, where the annual New York party brought together convention-goers from around the world. With IBEX Construction as the principal sponsor and organizer, the event benefited as well from the generosity of The Architect’s Newspaper, Swisspearl and Mark Moran Solutions. David Richter won the Swisspearl-donated door-prize of a trip to Switzerland announced by Edmond Katongale. AIANY Board Members Jane Smith, AIA, IIDA, and Lance Jay Brown, FAIA, were premiated, herewith, as the evening’s best dancers.

12. Thirteen new AIANY Fellows were celebrated at the 2013 AIA Convention Fellows Investiture on 06.21.13. (l-r) Peter Schubert, FAIA; Terrence E. O’Neal, FAIA; Margaret Newman, FAIA; Raymond C. Bordwell, FAIA; Heidi L. Blau; FAIA; Kenneth D. Levien, FAIA; Israel Berger, FAIA; Carlos Brillembourg, FAIA; Carol Loewenson, FAIA; Richard Metsky, FAIA (not pictured: Susan A. Chin, FAIA; Judith DiMaio, FAIA; and Claire Weisz, FAIA)

13. AIANY was well-represented, as always, at an Investiture made special also by its location in the Ellie Caulkins Opera House. The celebration immediately thereafter brought many of the new Fellows, included Center for Architecture Foundation Vice-President Carol Lowenson, together with Institute leaders including 2013 AIANY President Jill N. Lerner, FAIA.

14. Similarly, Sue Chin, FAIA, of WCS/Bronx Zoo fame, is here pictured with Susan Chin, FAIA, Executive Director of the Design Trust for Public Space and 2013-2014 AIA Vice President. Note that both have an “F” now – will their email crossovers get even worse?

15. At the Investiture and subsequent reception, FXFOWLE and friends were well represented by Bruce and Marcia Fowle, along with Managing Principal Guy Geier, FAIA, Mark Strauss, FAIA, Jaye Medalia and Tami Hausman.

16. Also celebrating were Francoise and Tom Vonier, FAIA, the morning after his election as a Vice President on the AIA National Board of Directors. Tom created the AIA Europe Chapter and has championed the AIA’s international strategy.

17. Later during the afternoon of Saturday, 6.22.13 the results of the run-off election for 2015 AIA President were announced, and Elizabeth Chu Richter, FAIA, with her husband David Richter, FAIA, NCARB, greeted well-wishers.

18. Jill N. Lerner, FAIA, invited newly-named First Vice-President-elect Richter to speak at one of the “Practical Utopias” programs scheduled to take place at the Center for Architecture after the exhibition opens on 10.01.13.

19. The conference ended with a rousing plenary from retired General Colin Powell who spoke about leadership along with his roots in Jamaica and New York. The statue of Columbus in Columbus Park, pointing simultaneously towards 16th Street and Colfax Avenue, seemed to indicate the diversity of Denver and beyond.

20, 21, 22. Also gesturing in several aesthetic directions is the juxtaposition of the Denver Art Museum’s new wing by Studio Daniel Libeskind and the recently opened Clyfford Still Museum by Allied Works Architecture.

23. At Denver’s Municipal Office Building, the quotation carved over the entrance reads “Divine Nature Made the Country / Human Art Built the Cities.” The last day of the Convention was made controversial not by Repositioning ripostes or basketball playoff rivalries, but rather by two invocations that highlighted the degree to which traditional forms of discourse can cause divisiveness and discord. At the College of Fellows luncheon and at the Convocation dinner, many AIANY members present – along with others from afar – vehemently objected to the “divine nature” of the program introduction in what was clearly a secular setting. Is it country vs. cities, or a generational divide? Should we impede or impeach invocations? Or can we keep the poetry without the spiritual hand-holding? Please do let me know your thoughts on this dichotomy.