By Avik Guha, AIA, Roth Sheppard Architects
The A’18 Conference in New York City comes at a remarkable time of change in the Big Apple, 30 years since the previous time the city hosted AIA’s largest conference. I.M. Pei’s recently renovated Javits Center served as the main conference venue, bringing together over 25,000 design-related professionals.
For those who have never attended the AIA National conference, it is an event on a grand scale with something for everyone. From the product expo floor, educational sessions and inspiring keynotes to amazing building tours, social events and happy hours, everyone’s conference experience can be customized to their interests.
Registration costs can be rather steep; if you are interested in attending a future conference and cost is the primary set-back there are several ways that could make it feasible. First, it may be worth checking if your firm may sponsor you; if not, I highly recommend applying for one of several AIA Colorado professional development scholarships, which are given annually (applications open every January). If you are a full-time student in an undergraduate or graduate architect program, registration is reduced to only $25! If you have recently joined as an AIA member (including as an Associate), the base conference registration is free during your first year- if this applies to you, do not let that opportunity slip away! For those under the age of 35, there is also a young professionals discount on the base registration. More about discounts can be found here on the AIA conference website.
My personal goal when attending conference is to attend once-in-a-lifetime tours and sessions that would not be available anytime else. To those who find this route appealing, I highly suggest registering as soon as possible during the Early Bird window to ensure you have the maximum opportunity to select these special sessions before they fill up. Tours typically have an additional cost, but I have found them to be the highlight of my conference experience. Beyond this main objective, my other interests are to reconnect with friends and colleagues from around the country, explore the show floor and visit the host city’s architecture.
Coming off the year as the NCARB Think Tank Chair and as the AIA Colorado Licensing Advisor, I was asked to join Kristine A. Harding, FAIA (NCARB 2017 President and NCARB Futures Task Force Chair) and Nicole Dosso, FAIA (NCARB Future Task Force member) for a panel discussion at the Architect Live stage regarding the Future of Licensure. The panel provided me an exciting experience to interact with these two well-accomplished Fellows. NCARB CEO Michael Armstrong questioned us about our perspectives of the process- reflecting on the past of licensure, the amount of change happening within the last five years, prognosticating on what’s to come, and how emerging professionals will change the future of the profession. It was an honor to represent emerging professionals and Colorado in this session, especially as NCARB currently celebrates its centennial anniversary.
This year I was fortunate to attend three once-in-a-lifetime educational tours that could not happen any other time or place than at A’18. The first tour was a hard hat tour of Terminal 5 at JFK, better known as the TWA Terminal by Eero Saarinen. Once on the edge of demolition, this long vacant architectural icon is getting restored to its original 1962 design, with some much needed upgrades. A new hotel made of two curved buildings will be centered behind the terminal, which will house hotel check-in and swanky lounges/restaurants that allow hotel guests and other visitors to explore the space. The old terminal is being painstakingly renovated with its sculptural surfaces and unique speckled tile. Many of the 500+ hotel rooms face and will provide fantastic views of the historic terminal. Seeing Saarinen’s masterpiece in person and witnessing the painstaking details to bring it back to life was an eye-opening and inspiring sight to see. The hotel and original terminal are scheduled to open in 2019- to learn more visit the TWA Hotel website.
The second tour was of the Javits center and its new seven-acre green roof. Completed in 2013, the more transparent curtain wall/skylight systems, new grey terrazzo floor and light gray paint on the space frame have dramatically transformed the main public spaces, while the green roof and mechanical upgrades have reduced the energy consumption of the building by 26%. Many animals have been enjoying the new rooftop space—so far, 26 bird species, 5 bat species and thousands of honey bees call the green roof home. The birds and their city-based flight patterns are being studied by the Audubon society while small amounts of honey are being harvested on the roof. The popularity of visiting this space was not a design consideration and tours are via the freight elevator in the back-of-house. This innovative renovation project has made the Javits a New York City jewel again, saving it from being deconstructed and moved to Queens. If you have interest in visiting the green roof, limited visits are available through the Javits Center website.
The third tour was the most awe-inspiring and was a small private tour of the massive Hudson Yards site in the Hell’s Kitchen and Chelsea neighborhoods on Manhattan’s west side. The last open blocks in Manhattan, this 28-acre site sits on an active rail yard, integral to the city that could not be minimally disrupted during construction. Through the use of 300 caissons and incredible structural engineering, a new concrete ground plane has been created above the rail yard with a thickness that varies between approximately 1’-6” and 7’-0”. The mixed-use project will create a city within a city, with 50% of the area as open public space, 16 skyscrapers and other buildings across two phases. Located south of the Javits Center and directly off of the famous High Line, the site is one of the largest and most complex in the world.
When entering the 10 Hudson Yards building, everyone was seated in a room with seven director’s chairs up front and professional video-cameras recording. Principal designers for many of the Hudson Yards buildings under construction joined for a panel discussion regarding the project, including Elizabeth Diller of Diller Scofidio + Renfro (15 Hudson Yards and the Shed), Thomas Heatherwick of Heatherwick Studios (Vessel), David Rockwell of Rockwell Group (15 Hudson Yards), David Manfredi of Elkus Manfredi (the Shops/Restaurants of Hudson Yards), William Pedersen of Kohn Pedersen Fox (Master Plan, 10, 30 Hudson Yards), Ken Lewis of SOM (35 Hudson Yards), Thomas Woltz of Nelson Byrd Woltz (Landscape Design), with moderator Joseph Giovannini. Being only the second time these parties were together in the same room, the star-powered panel had a warm and eye-opening discussion about the incredible complexities of the project and how their sections of the project are in dialogue with each-other.
After the panel discussion, the tour group was led through the Hudson Yards office, with room-size scale models of the project site and buildings, and full-size apartment mockups for several of the residential towers. The group then donned safety gear and walked through the future Hudson Yards Shops/Restaurants building and around the Vessel and Shed. The Vessel, by Heatherwick Studios, is a unique public landmark comprised of 154 intricately interconnecting flights of stairs (1 mile of pathways, 80 landings and almost 2,500 stairs!). Vessel will allow visitors to engage with New York in a way like never before—while standing below it! I found the scale of such an object absolutely awe-inspiring. The Shed, by Diller Scofidio + Renfro is New York’s first multi-arts center designed to commission, produce and present all types of performing and visual arts. The almost instantaneous changeability of the stages and building to suit all types of performances is an engineering feat most visibly expressed by the telescoping outer shell that deploys over an adjacent plaza to provide a 120-foot-high, temperature-controlled hall. The building will expand and contract using equivalent power similar to that of a Prius engine! It was a panel discussion and tour unlike any other that I will never forget! To learn more, visit the Hudson Yards website or click here to learn about the vessel, shed and high line.
In addition to all this, keynotes from David Adjaye and Sheila Søgaard at Radio City Music Hall served as inspiring ways to end both days of the conference. The evenings were filled with revelry and reconnecting with colleagues at the emerging professionals party and The Party. A’18 was an incredible experience and I highly recommend attending future AIA conferences.