Wednesday, May 6, 2009

President’s Message – May 2009

Moscone Convention Center - Photo by Jenna McKnight

I’ve just returned from San Francisco, having attended the 2009 AIA National Convention. I’m grateful to AIA-SWO for the opportunity to represent the chapter at this important event. It’s a responsibility that is accompanied by many benefits, not the least of which is networking with remarkable colleagues from around the country.

AIA-SWO was well-represented in San Francisco. The members from our chapter and other attendees with chapter-area ties included:
  • Greg Brokaw
  • Frances Bronet
  • Scott Clarke
  • Michael Fifield
  • Don Kahle
  • Alison Kwok
  • Joel Osborn
  • Otto Poticha
  • Bill Seider
  • Frank Thaxter
  • Christine Theodoropoulos

. . . and me (I believe Geoff Kirsten and Cy Stadsvold were also there but I didn't cross paths with them).

I’m sure that I’m forgetting someone; my apologies to whomever I may have left off the list. Overall, attendance was down this year compared to last year’s convention in Boston, not totally unexpected given the state of the economy. Predictably, much of the buzz overheard during breaks between the educational sessions was about business prospects and the lack thereof. It’s clear that this recession has adversely impacted large and small firms alike nationwide. The Institute itself has not been immune. The national office will instigate two week-long furloughs of its staff this summer in order to mitigate budget shortfalls attributable to lower dues revenues associated with non-renewed memberships.

Despite the sobering economic realities we are confronting, the convention itself was terrific. This year’s theme – The Power of Diversity: Practice in a Complex World – was amply supported by a wide range of sessions devoted to issues of diversity in the profession. Particular attention was paid to generational variety, as two of the convention’s three general presentations featured some of the brightest young minds in architecture. Sustainability was another overarching topic, underscored by the many offerings furnishing SD learning units.

One of the new young lions, Cameron Sinclair (co-founder of Architecture for Humanity), noted that it is during those times when systems begin to break down that architecture becomes political. If the 2009 AIA Convention is evidence, it’s true that our current financial and environmental crises are awakening us from a stupor of complacency and spurred many in our profession to action. Teddy Cruz (principal of Estudio Teddy Cruz) challenged us to design the political and economic process with as much care and passion as we apply to our architecture. Gavin Newsom, the mayor of the City and County of San Francisco, asserted that diversity builds a stronger society, that tolerance advances democracy, and that compassion is essential to a better world. He regards design as the ultimate sustainable resource.

There’s more that I can report about the convention than I can fit here within this President’s Message. I hope to post further thoughts on my blog, so look for them soon.

Randy Nishimura, AIA
2009 President, AIA-Southwestern Oregon

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