Just Architecture 2020 Practice + Design Conference
Day 1 Recap: “Just Design”



By Victor Gonzalez

The 2020 AIA Colorado Practice + Design Conference debuted Wednesday, October 14, and focused on the theme of “Just Design.” Five keynote speakers in the morning sessions showcased the scale of architecture that is currently taking place from the capital of Peru to the heart of Chicago’s south side to the districts of Los Angeles.

The designs of Lima, Peru, from Sandra Barclay, showcased “Just Intimacy” in relation to how design can downscale the vastness of our environment all by taking inspiration from local culture. The eight designs highlighted by Neil Denari incorporated “Just Urbanism,” and how the busy urban grid of Los Angeles can help inform design by designing with the urban grid rather than against it. “Just Design,” wrapped with the presentations of Tod Williams and Billie Tsien, highlighting the importance of creating a vibrant public space through storytelling, story making and how it can all adjust to the world. Day one was filled with many amazing stories and interpretations of design and how the current members of AIA Colorado continue to help shape the world around us.

Following morning keynote presentations, afternoons were filled with member engagement, featuring breakouts with each speaker, then a panel discussion with all, which resulted in high-level discussions on design alongside the humility of casual conversing with home as the backdrop for these world-renowned designers. Below are key takeaways and themes that emerged from the day’s events, which were documented by a live illustrator Ellen O’Neill (above).


Practice + Design Conference panel discussion capture by Ellen O’Neill



Sandra Barclay | Just Intimacy

  • Working in Peru has unique challenges, such as climate change and the relationship between shelter and culture.
  • She discussed intimacy within a further landscape.

Ingredients of architecture

  • Culture, Territory, Climate, Place, Program, Technology
  • All of these ingredients create the strategy for architecture.

For the territory climate: Lima, Peru

  • This geographical climate creates the current environmental conditions.
  • Peruvian climate is a mild climate, with lots of precipitation, storms, and winds.
  • All of these conditions demand shelter.

Pre-Columbian legacy and landscape

  • Downscaling obstruction

Puruchuco, Lima

  • Forms a micro-form of intimacy

Casa Vedoble

  • Defines an enclosure
  • Provides a frame to the ocean view
  • Houses that capture the sunlight
  • Provides interior spaces with vastness
  • Contained artificial beach with pools, all while still providing privacy intimacy

Paracas Museum

  • Modifies landscape
  • Thinking of an archeological museum
  • Providing a correct space that inhibits the desert
  • Working with the desert landscape
  • Fifth facade provides protection from the strong wind and from the sun.
  • The production methods provided rethinking on how we design.
  • The Paracas Museum provides almost a huge human vase.
  • Its porch acts as a threshold throughout the interior and exterior of the museum.
  • The museum provides natural ventilation to prevent the use of air conditioning.

The Hispanic Legacy and the City

  • Influences the relationship between the residents’ dwellings and the city
  • Creates life and intimacy where it can all take place at once.
  • Design a house in an intimate, but contemporary way.
  • Uses systems of bedrooms that can help create a sense of intimacy that is lifted above the street.
  • Space unfolds as interior and exterior through blurring the vaulted boundaries of house, garden, and pool.
  • There is a relationship between intimacy and closeness.
  • Creates community by connecting the interior spaces

Limana Restaurante

  • Demonstrate Lima’s greatness
  • The enclosure helps create a quiet place from the rest of the urban environment.
  • Inside the closure, the volume is organized to capture the sunlight and create a module that receives natural light and ventilation.
  • Creates a constant space of fluidity.
  • The space unfolds into a total exterior space.
  • The thresholds creates an enclosure of transition.

The Lessons from the Masters UDEP Academic Facilities

  • Uses cross-ventilation to cool the space.
  • Accept the simplicity and modesty of the space.
  • The building condenses the collective human experience.
  • Drawing foothills of the tropical soft forest.
  • “We start by extending the shade of the forest and the space of the building.”
  • The program grows from the rooftop to the ground.
  • The spaces are left.
  • The perimeter of the space acts as a protection.
  • South facade is focused on receiving the natural bridge.
  • The organization from east to west is in relation to the calendar of the sun.
  • Sun clocks meet.

Neil Denari | Just Urbanism

  • 8 Los Angeles projects
  • Modulated grids for L.A.
  • The grid respects ideas and logic of how Los Angeles is connected through its urbanism
  • The democratic idea of a city and country in creating neutrality and equality through how the country was to continue growing (Thomas Holme idea).

Kyoto City Grid

  • Is the importance of Chinese planning on how the palaces were off center and thinking about other strategies on how infrastructure to articulate geometry etc.
  • There is a challenge between working with and on the grid for architectural works.

“The Continuous Monument”

  • Near Superstudio created a grid that was empty.

Aldo Rossi

  • Gallaratese, 1972
  • Socialist idea of what it means to be an individual in a collective
  • Being an individual during this time was to be in an open space, and only haven individual space to create humanity.
  • Argues that architecture cannot predict well.
  • 8 projects showcased are all commercial projects.
  • All projects are informed through the zoning platform.
  • Goal is to give as much life as possible to a project, but to respect the zoning regulations.

Silver Lake 1

  • Politics evoked in the grid at all particular levels.
  • It is a two-story commercial building including:
    -Restaurant on the ground floor.
    -It takes up the place on the city.
    -It is filling the zoning envelope.
    -The site is a parallelogram.
    -Trying to resolve the vertical and horizontal through radius.

Half Court Housing

  • 100 feet deep with a parking lot.
  • 3-story, 8-unit housing project.
  • Cushioning of the exterior to the internal organization
  • Half court housing because it is filled half of courtyard space
  • Courtyard Hotel
  • Includes a portal with a courtyard that leaves space on the front with a restaurant in the front.
  • The portal is what leads to the courtyard and the rooms ring around that look into the courtyard and there is a formal stair that connects the spaces to the courtyard.

Beveled Office Building

  • 45 feet in height.
  • The corner of the building is notched.
  • The invisible infrastructure interacting and complementing the grid.
  • There are different methods applied to the exterior of the building to make it unique to how it interacts with the grid.
  • 221 Western Housing
  • Uses a hybrid between linear building and butterfly cantilevers that dramatizes the gridded nature of the building.

9000 Wilshire Office Building

  • Takes up its place in Beverly Hills tries to stand out in the way that it liberates the two floors and adds a garden in between.
  • There is tension on how the building takes up a place on the site while also giving it a sense of monumentality.
  • It is a modest project that adds urban infrastructure with a nice skin.

Santa Monica wellness Center

  • The building fills in the parking and the 45-height limit.
  • The volume is being sliced off to provide relief to the volume and how it fits on the grid.
  • It incorporates public space.

La Brea Hotel

  • It is a gateway to West Hollywood.
  • Putting a large building within the zoning envelope
  • It is located on a tight site, with a portal and large restaurant and kitchen.
  • The urbanity of the projects is what facilitates the project with the rooms pushing the parking back.
  • L-shaped building with rooms of privacy and views


Tod Williams and Billie Tsien | ADJUST

  • How to address huge issues on how the issues seem overpowering on how to seriously address what we need to understand is that we work within our own best way.
  • “We work to serve others.”
  • We need to rethink the problem on our terms and how to best address the projects 

The Barnes Foundation

  • Inspired to empower through education, Barnes kept this collection of art and African artifacts throughout a house.
  • Believed that all people could be taught and that every person deserves a chance with art.
  • The project is located on the site.
  • Barnes collection moved from the residency to the downtown city fabric of Philly
  • There was a larger idea between the Barnes collection which was that his art was for all people.
  • Gallery in a garden.
  • Garden in gallery.
  • Bringing light and life into the gallery.
  • Oftentimes the work would be enclosed in artificial light.
  • Wanted to include light and life into the collection.
  • Keeping the neoclassical plan but adding an adjustment.
  • The sense of a garden was still brought in.
  • The entrance portrays the idea of walking through the building.
  • The building focuses on using light and courtyard space from the interior of the building to the outside.
  • The galleries are behind the public space that is open to other users.
  • Included is a changing exhibits gallery and the existing collection.

Obama Presidential Center

  • Libraries were noble buildings of books.
  • Obama focused his legacy on ennoble and enable.
  • Storytelling and story making.
  • How do we change the present and future to make it better?
  • Establishing a landmark
  • Creating a campus, which makes other aspects to the building.
  • Site: south side of Chicago
  • There is a relationship between Obama’s homeland set throughout a park from Olmestead’s park.
  • The plan includes: forum, museum, plaza, library, PAAC.
  • Wanting to change the topography of the park.
  • Adjusting the flat use of the landscape.
  • The center focuses on political discussion and creating access to the library and the support systems for the center.
  • Young people from around the world will come to learn new skills to do a variety of activities.
  • This is home to many programs such as the Obama Foundation Scholars.
  • The tower is included to provide a space to the public that can house events and public space in general.
  • The use of sunscreen will protect the room at the top.
  • The screen will be words from his important speeches.