Review – This Year’s AIA Conference was amazing.  Here are highlights from A’23

Last month, I attended the Conference on Architecture hosted by the American Institute of Architects.  This year the conference was held in San Francisco.  I was fortunate enough to attend the conference with two of my dear friends and colleagues Olivia L’Heureux and Michael Beauregard.

In addition to all the great events we attended at the conference this year, Olivia and I benefited greatly from Michael’s familiarity with San Francisco.  Together, we enjoyed some amazing restaurants and a wonderful magic show (huge shout out to Jay Alexander at the Marrakech Theater.  He is simply Amazing!!)

Technology in Architecture Practice Symposium

My time at the conference began with the Technology in Architecture Practice Symposium.  This event kicked off with a great keynote address from Shane Burger from Woods Baggot who shared some of the amazing tools and technology that he is developing for his firm.

The symposium continued with 3 panel discussions addressing the impact of technology on the practice of Architecture.  A big recurring topic was the effect of Artificial Intelligence on the profession.  We concluded the symposium with a roundtable discussion on how Architecture education needed to evolve to support the new direction and advent of technology.

The Phipps Center for Sustainable Landscapes

During Day 2 I was introduced to The Phipps Center for Sustainable Landscapes.  The President and CEO of the Phipps Conservatory Richard Piacentini shared some of the lessons learned from operating the building which opened in 2012.  The Center for Sustainable Landscapes is the first building to have been designated a Living Building and has the distinction of holding 7 separate building certifications including being the first WELL Platinum building, it was the first to receive SITES Platinum certification, and is a LEED platinum building.  Besides being a wonderfully efficient and healthy building, the Center for Sustainable Landscapes is also an excellent example of the use of Integrative Design methods which was demonstrated by the Architect Chris Minnerly.

Project Delivery Knowledge Community

On day 3 I had my own 15 minutes of fame where I along with my colleagues on the Project Delivery Knowledge Community Rona Rothenberg, Laura Wake-Ramos, and Kyle Gray held an open forum where we fielded questions and received feedback from the broader Architecture community on the use and application of delivery models.

Jacinda Ardern the former Prime Minister of New Zealand

The conference closed with a keynote address from Jacinda Ardern former Prime Minister of New Zealand who famously resigned from office at the height of her popularity.  Ardern shared her philosophy behind that decision, citing that she felt an obligation to cede the reigns of power recognizing that after effectively dealing with effects of COVID and the Christchurch mass shootings, she lacked the “reserves” needed to tackle whatever challenges came next.  


For me, the trend of the conference was an acknowledgement and recognition that the practice of Architecture is changing.  Antiquated notions of the Master Builder and attempts at single handedly designing a building are no longer viable.

The practice of Architecture has evolved.  It has as many specializations and disciplines as we see in construction.  Design teams must be staffed to address the complexity and diversity of our modern buildings.  It’s no longer enough to have one Architect a hand full of Engineers.  Modern projects include dozens of new technologies and just as many design specialists.  BIM technology, Biophilic design, lighting concepts, passive heating and cooling, day lighting, delivery models, and building accreditations are just a few of the specializations in Architecture Today.  Each of these specializations are complex topics on to themselves that demand expert understanding.  As we enter the 4th industrial revolution, Artificial Intelligence will redefine how these principles are applied.  Those who refuse to acknowledge this will get left behind, but those who embrace the future will flourish.

What do you think?  How will AI change Architecture?  Are you embracing this change or will you resist it?  Tell me your stories.

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