Dispatch from the 2016 AIA National Convention: Phil-AIA-delphia

Scores of AIA New York Chapter members joined me at my first AIA National Convention in Philadelphia. We were well represented by our speakers, board members, committee chairs, and many other members who participated in networking, information exchange, high-level workshops, and upwards of 35 daily tours. AIANY was especially proud to see 18 members inducted to the AIA College of Fellows at the annual Investiture Ceremony at the University of Pennsylvania’s Irvine Auditorium.

Mayor James Kenney welcomed more than 20,000 architects, visitors, vendors, and friends to the opening session. Julia Louis-Dreyfus, representing made-for-TV government, followed him in a chatty interview with NPR’s Terry Gross. She addressed her travails as a comedian in her early years as a Saturday Night Live cast member, and later on Seinfeld, and, most recently, her experience working with an architect on a house in California. MIT’s Neri Oxman dazzled the audience with her biologically-inspired research and design projects. Harvard was also represented by Dean Mohsen Mostafavi interviewing professor and architect Rem Koolhaas.

And the Gold Medal goes to…Robert Venturi, FAIA, and Denise Scott Brown, Hon. FAIA.  Finally! With one standing ovation after another, Scott Brown was visibly emotional. She, in turn, acknowledged the AIA’s unprecedented act of awarding its highest honor to two collaborators who, through their partnership in work and marriage, up-ended long-held formalist orthodoxies in their seminal publications and practice.

The national convention is the high point of the AIA year. It is an opportunity for architects of all ages to reconnect and learn from each other. Think of it as a gigantic national family reunion: plenty of parties, some fun lectures, and visits to places new and exciting. All of us were thinking about how it will be in 2018, when the Big Apple will play host. The last time the AIA National Convention was in New York was in 1988….we’ve already started to strategize. Stay tuned!