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AIA New York State 2015 Conference Summary

Written by Courtney Creenan-Chorley, Assoc. AIA:

The last couple New York State AIA conferences I’ve attended have followed a new revamped format from years prior, with a focus on more discourse related to architectural practice and design than on stale seminars.  And I like it… much more than sitting through another lunch-and-learn.  Here are some of my notes of inspiration:

“Some of the most difficult projects are in your own backyard.”  The highlight of the conference for me was listening to Andrew Freear, Director of Rural Studio, a design/build-focused undergraduate architecture program at Auburn University.  In school, we often heard of great projects being designed and built by  students at other schools, and to a degree, we were able to achieve this ourselves at The University at Buffalo.  But Freear’s studio sets a standard for zeal and accomplishment.  His presentation was one of the most passionate, humorous, and down-to-earth talks I’ve seen in a long time.  Oozing with excitement over the work the students accomplish, he was pragmatically realistic of their impact.   Auburn University has made a commitment to serve and invest in the communities of western Alabama, rather than sending students abroad.  Entrenched in the Black Belt, the center of the Civil Rights Movement, the school looks to make beautiful and impactful differences in the lives of these communities still struggling economically and socially.  The resulting buildings, parks, structures, pavilions, and plans are executed with such care, contextual consideration, and admirable efficiency, it’s easy to see why anyone would want to have one for themselves or their neighborhood.  This architecture-for-humanity instills in students the virtue that good design should be a right, but the program tempers the notion that architecture can save the world by itself.  However, by exposing architecture students to wider problems than are usually tackled in a single, insular design project, they are given the chance to develop design strategies and solutions to combat these larger societal problems.

One way to finish a construction project is to find out the Pope is coming.  At another thrilling talk, the consultant team who took on the conservation of St. Patrick’s Cathedral in New York City shared their experiences in delivering a massive project under an exceptionally condensed construction schedule.  The cathedral had long needed a major capital improvement project and, as such, the design team took approximately two years to meticulously document every aspect of the cathedral, a dream in many an architect’s book.  By taking the time upfront to survey and document, and by working with contractors to create mock-ups prior to full blown construction, the collective team (consultants, owner, contractors) could better understand the implications and results of their design.  Using BIM360 during documentation and construction, they were able to reduce delivery time and streamline the bureaucratic system of construction administration, keeping all parties up to date in real-time.  Ultimately, the construction schedule was shortened from five to three years, and nearly all aspects were complete in time for Pope Francis’ visit in September 2015.

#littlearchitects.  As a board member of the Buffalo Architecture Foundation, I was thrilled to hear our current Vice President and leader of our Architecture and Education program, Linsey Graff, was spreading the good word (cue the ecclesiastical references/puns) to the rest of New York State.  It was great to pop into her session and see grown, adult, professional architects making structures with marshmallows and coffee stirrers.  Through the program children are introduced to the profession of architecture, local practicing professionals, and the distinctive way of viewing the world and tackling problems through architecture as the tool.  The program won the 2013 American Institute of Architects National Diversity Recognition Program Award for promoting and supporting diversity in the profession of architecture.  Now, if those kids would just graduate from college already…

Courtney Creenan-Chorley, Assoc. AIA is a project coordinator and architectural planner at Flynn Battaglia.  She is a board member of the Buffalo Architecture Foundation and passionately studies how architecture and the built environment impact the user.  She has been with the company for five years as an intern and full time employee.  

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