One of downtown Vancouver's multimodal streets (photos by me).
This is the second of two posts about the 2013 American Institute of Architects Northwest & Pacific Region Conference, which took place this past October 23-26 in Vancouver, British Columbia.
A number of AIA-Southwestern Oregon members made the trek north to attend the 2013 AIA Northwest & Pacific Region conference in Vancouver. Of course, as one of the Region directors, Bill Seider, FAIA did much to ensure its success. AIA-SWO president Will Dixon and president-elect Scott Clarke represented the chapter as voting delegates at the Region board and general meetings. Jonathan Stafford, Paul Dustrud, Jyoti Naik, and Jim Robertson were among the others rounding out the AIA-SWO entourage.
Outside of the convention center, spectacular October weather ensured everyone’s visit to Vancouver was exceedingly pleasant and kept my explorations of the city by foot dry and comfortable. I do make a point of taking stock of the latest developments every time I’m in the city. I found plenty of construction activity on the downtown peninsula, including more of the tall, glassy condominium towers for which Vancouver has become synonymous.
I’ve said it before: Vancouver is a living case study for high-density, transit-oriented urban design. Vancouver is North America’s poster child in this regard, albeit the continent’s least affordable city to live in. Worldwide, only Hong Kong surpasses Vancouver when it comes to the cost of housing. Regardless, the tower-plus-podium morphology that is characteristic of Vancouver has proven an effective instrument for achieving compact city development.
My parents live in the Buchanan tower atop the Madison Centre shopping mall in the Vancouver suburb of Burnaby, B.C.
Speaking of housing and transit-oriented development, my aging parents recently sold their house in Vancouver to take up residency in one of those tall condo towers. Their new home is actually located in the Vancouver suburb of Burnaby, right on top of the Madison Centre shopping mall and just a block away from the Brentwood Skytrain station. Skytrain is the Vancouver area’s heavily used rapid transit system, part of an extensive multimodal public transit network. More than once during my stay, my father made the short journey by elevator to the Sav-On-Foods supermarket downstairs to pick up groceries. Sure beats driving to do one’s shopping.
I used Skytrain to commute to and from the Convention Centre on the downtown waterfront (I spent nights during my stay on my parents’ living room couch), much more quickly and at less cost than if I had traveled by car. It’s noteworthy that Vancouver’s investment in public transit and emphasis upon densification has resulted in a 10% decrease in vehicle trips and a 4% reduction in greenhouse gas emissions despite a 22% increase in population since 1990.
I had the pleasure of speaking with numerous AIBC members who said how much they welcomed the opportunity to interact with their AIA counterparts. They expressed the hope we could enjoy further joint conferences in the future. Ironically, this first joint AIBC/AIA-NW&PR conference may also be the last.
While I haven’t been a member of the NW&PR board since 2010, I attended both the Region board meeting and the general member meeting while in Vancouver. The Region has assumed primary responsibility for producing future NW&PR conferences, assisting local components who alone would find the burden overwhelming. Southwest Washington was scheduled to host the 2014 Region Conference in Tacoma, but the Region board elected to not proceed with a flow-blown event next year (there may be a reduced-scope leadership conference instead). Indeed, whether there is another NW&PR conference along the lines of those we’re familiar with in following years is an open question.
Additionally, I was surprised to learn that AIA Washington Council will no longer handle administrative duties for the Region, a role it held for many years. The board discussed options for delivery of Region services but left the conference with no definitive plan in place. My understanding is the decision to part ways was a mutual one, considered to be in the best interest of both the Washington Council and the Region.
Bill Seider and his fellow Region Director Greg Kessler, FAIA, did provide us with an update on AIA’s “repositioning,” the changes to the Institute’s overall governance structure. The Region director positions will remain but the directors will no longer hold fiduciary responsibilities. Those duties will fall to the members of the Institute board, who will be elected at large nationally. The new structure is analogous to the bicameral organization of the U.S. congress.
The members in attendance at the Region Business Meeting did elect a new College of Fellows Region Representative (Butch Reifert, FAIA), and also a new Region Director (Donald King, FAIA, who will succeed Greg Kessler). Bill and Greg announced the new Young Architects Fellow (Shannon Peterson, AIA) and the new Region Associate Director (Lucas Gray, Assoc. AIA).
Surrey City Centre Library, by Bing Thom Architects
* * * * * *I attend conferences because they’re energizing. This year, it was the AIA Northwest & Pacific Region Conference in Vancouver; next year, it may be the Oregon Design Conference at Salishan, the AIA National Convention in Chicago or CSI’s CONSTRUCT in Baltimore. It’s more than just continuing education and collegiality that draws me to these gatherings; it’s also the opportunities to address issues larger than those I regularly encounter in everyday practice. It’s the ability to see the big picture that sets architects apart, and it’s at conferences where that picture comes into focus.