Unconventional Convention

So I was lingering at the AIA Austin office the other morning shooting the breeze with Sally and Kristina. We were discussing the fundamental question of “why come to the Texas Society of Architects Convention ?” when continuing education can be acquired for little-to-no cost by local vendors, AIA Austin programs and our own highly rated summer conference. As you can imagine, I have a few opinions about this, being the chair of the convention this year. I’m going to share with you a bit of both the sausage-making and the intent behind this convention that we hope will result in a slightly unconventional convention.

If you didn’t already know, there is a committee at TA called Convention Futures and its job is to assess past conventions and consider changes that will improve and maximize your experience at future ones. Sally and I sat on this committee last year which gave us the chance to start shaping this convention a year early. A few of the truths that we pinpointed about the convention are:

•    We can pull state-wide for the best programs, developed by the leading architects and experts in the field;
•    The Expo offers a compressed opportunity to “kick the tires” on hundreds of new products;
•    There is no substitution for the camaraderie of meeting up with old friends from around the state and of making new connections through shared interests; and
•    Finally, I think we all hunger to be inspired and reminded of why we chose to be architects- this I can promise in spades throughout the convention….not just with our stellar keynote speakers.

How do we think that we’re doing this? Well, the Continuing Education Committee, headed by Ted Kollaja, vetted hundreds of submissions and looked for the ideal balance of hard-core technical information, digestible accessibility programs, design-oriented offerings, and programs that appeal to firm leaders and/or budding interns. There are some major stars presenting this year. There is also a great ARE track for emerging professionals. However, while in the past we tried to cover all the bases, we are now focusing more on those programs that you can’t or don’t get in any other context.

Then there is my committee of Tommy Cowan, Jim Susman, Earl Swisher, Tim Cuppett, Susan Benz, Chris Noack and Sally Fly who worked on the events, tours, sponsorship, music (yes!) and the Austin vibe. We are determined that people coming to this convention go away knowing a bit more about why we love our city so much.

And then there’s the 20 x 20 posse of Herman Dyal, Mel Lawrence, Susan Gustovich, Stan Haas, and me who are staging a “powered by” Pecha Kucha event at the TA offices on Thursday night. Below the radar, you will be seeing amazing architects weave syncopated stories along with artisans, a musician, and some dynamite artists.

All this is made possible through collaboration with the unflagging, creative, up-for-anything staffs of AIA Austin and TA. They thought up some of the new stuff that I haven’t even told you about yet! If the fun we had concocting this convention is any indicator of its potential to amuse, enlighten and inspire you, I think that you are in for a treat. Let me know in a month if we succeeded in providing that unconventional convention.

Heather McKinney, FAIA

McKinney York Architects