The 2018 AIA Colorado Practice + Design Conference (P+DC) theme is “A State of Growth” and is focused on the rapidly changing environment and state of architecture here in Colorado. While this construction boom is fairly familiar to most living here, this issue is not unique to Denver or even the state of Colorado.

_DSC9857Since coming out of the recession, many cities, both large and small, have seen rapid change. The last five or so years have seen shifts in priorities for architects, engineers, developers, contractors, and planners. As the focus for these groups continues to evolve here in Colorado, it’s important to look to cities near and far in order to learn from them and keep a perspective on the ever evolving landscape for architecture.

The following was written by Rebekah Bellum, AIA of the Albuquerque, New Mexico firm Cherry/See/Reames Architects, PC.

Architecture is a profession that constantly evolves to meet the ever-changing needs, demands and social and cultural expectations of our world. As an architect in a small firm in Albuquerque, primarily working on publicly-funded architecture, my perspective on the profession continues to be shaped by the way I see architects work in New Mexico.

In the past several years, there has been a marked move to revitalize the downtown, imbuing it with new life. This renewal has consisted of new construction, but also the renovation of historic and other existing buildings. Because I specialize in historic preservation, I am interested in what is involved in making a historic building functional for modern uses, and in the ways the integrity of a historic building can be maintained and celebrated while current building and accessibility codes are met. It is evident that the reuse of existing buildings, historic or otherwise, has contributed to a denser, more heavily populated urban fabric, not only during the typical working hours of the business week, but all the time. These changes have created a more vibrant and lived-in downtown area. My understanding of the way that architecture can benefit the City and its population continues to develop as I see the reuse of existing urban fabric in creating more fine-grained and diverse zones of development that contain businesses, cultural attractions, restaurants, and residential zones.

New Mexico is a poor state and funding is limited for public projects.  As an architect, I am constantly searching for those materials and systems that will serve our clients well. The buildings that were once built to last for more than one hundred years have transitioned over time to last for fifty years, then thirty, then twenty. In response to several factors, including funding, and environmental responsibility, the representatives of public agencies are becoming more careful once again in regards to the longevity of the built environment. This means that they are looking for buildings, systems, and materials that last, as well as those systems and materials that require essentially no maintenance.

Finally, I have seen a growing awareness in our clients of the ways that the buildings they fund can provide safety for their users. I see it as a shift of viewing buildings as purely shelter, or to serve a programmatic function, to thinking about their responsibility of creating buildings for user safety. This shift is particularly prevalent in the design of public spaces for public agencies. The concerns of site specificity, proper daylighting, comfortable interior and exterior spaces, and budgetary and environmentally responsible design have not been forgotten and still shape architectural design practices. Currently, however, I find myself asking, how does the architecture I design respond to increasing threats in a volatile world?

My perspective on the profession of architecture, on what architecture is and must be, continues to deepen and broaden the longer I practice. I am excited to learn from my colleagues, mentors, clients, and from the way architecture is being developed regionally in New Mexico.