Some Thoughts on AIA

As is the case most years, I attended the American Institute of Architects’ Annual Convention, in New Orleans two weeks ago, and saw a number of trends, some good and some worrisome. Specifically:

AIA 2011 was an amalgamation of companies from many diverse industries

1.  The number of practicing architects seemed significantly lower than in previous years. Our stand, which is listed under our sister publication the Architect’s Guide to Glass magazine, was visited by many in the “architecture” field—students, professors, academicians, suppliers and consultants, but not very many pen-to-paper architects.

 The economy has something to do with this, for sure, (because if you have no projects to design you have no money to spend on travel), but I think there are other factors at work. The show’s attendance is generally perceived to have been going down steadily for the past few years. And holding hoards of seminars during the show may work fine in boom times, but it doesn’t right now. More must be done to get the architects in the seminars to visit the show.
The choice of locations probably needs to be reviewed too as New Orleans is not an inexpensive city in which to fly or stay.

 The lines between this show and Greenbuild have also become blurred. You see many of the same exhibitors at both, and both are marketing aggressively to architects. At this point in the game, a lot of companies have products that are truly green. And every company has products that they market as green.

 If it were up to me, I’d try and get the shows together. Do AIA/Greenbuild in the Spring in either the East or the West and Greenbuild/AIA in the Fall in the other, or alternate years altogether. It would be a great marriage.

 2.      The products shown at AIA (and Greenbuild for that matter) have become so diversified that by being all things to everyone might put the show in danger of being not being anything to anyone. A bit more grouping by specialty, even general specialties,  would be helpful.

 3.      Our editors work hard to cover all the information that intersects the professions of our readers. We try and attend the seminars that involve glass, windows, doors and/or window film. Usually there are a few, but that number has also decreased over the years. And this year, except for a few general energy seminars, there were none directly on point. So how do we expect architects to learn more about glass when we aren’t even on the program? 

Don’t get me wrong. A number of worthwhile companies showed a lot of great products. You can see some of them here from our report on Thursday and Friday during the show and learn about what attendees were interested in during our monthly newscast last Wednesday

 The AIA is a worthwhile meeting, but when the most universal thing people talk about is Architect Barbie* (yes we have a great  video on Barbie too), it’s probably time for some readjustment.


Architect Barnie was the hit of the AIA Conference

* PS Okay, now all you Barbie lovers and Dads of Barbie lovers, don’t come after me, because I am one of you. Love Barbie, always have. We were born within a few months of each other. Got my first one when I had my tonsils out. Had a mother who made beautiful Barbie dresses, even evening gowns. Had a Ken doll too, but felt his main job was to be around to do whatever Barbie wanted to do (yes I know this was probably exploiting good ole Ken in a sexist way, but I did it anyway). 

In fact, I thought it was so important that Ken be there for Barbie that I gave him a job where he could be around all the time—even in the days before working at home was popular.

 What was that job? Street-namer. Yup, at the ripe old age of six I thought it was the perfect job for him. Every few days, the town would send over a map to the house with the new streets on it and Ken would look at the squiggle on the map and say “Hey, that looks like Maple Street to me,” and he’d tell the town to name that street Maple. The town would send him a big check, which he then proceeded to use to take Barbie out to dinner in one of her evening gowns, of course.

Architect Barbie was a hit at AIA

In fact, and I’ve never admitted this before, one of my uncles actually gave me Barbie clothes for my 16th birthday (he was single at the time so I give him room). I remember that  I couldn’t decide which was sadder, that he had given me this for my sweet 16 or that I actually couldn’t wait for everyone to leave so I could  dress her up in them.

Anyway, no Barbie hater here.