Event Report: DesignDC

31 Jul, 2006 By: AIA ,H. Edward Goldberg

AIA presents an excellent local convention for architects from Washington D.C., Maryland and Northern Virginia

Local architecture conventions are beginning to pop up all over the United States. This is perhaps because the annual AIA (American Institute of Architects) National Convention often can be too far away for many to travel, or because localized events can be more specific and informative for attendees. These events also are beginning to offer an opportunity to earn educational learning credits that are now mandated by most states and the AIA itself.

On July 19-21, the Washington D.C. and Potomac Valley (Maryland) chapters of AIA presented their second annual DesignDC conference at the impressive Ronald Reagan Building and International Trade Center in downtown Washington. Two blocks from the White House, the building was designed by Pei Cobb Freed and Partners Architects and is the first federal building designed for both government and private use.

The Ronald Reagan Building and International Trade Center, located two blocks from the White House, was dedicated in 1998.

The atrium in the Ronald Reagan Building, designed by Pei Cobb Freed and Partners.

DesignDC has become an important event because Washington D.C. has the largest percentage of architects per capita of any city in the United States. Most major U.S. architectural firms have offices in the city. More than 700 professionals attended the event, which included more than 50 exhibitors and featured 50 seminars on subjects from Green Roof Design (which sold out) to The Third Century Mall: Planning the Future of the Nation's Capital. Several seminars, including one that I led, discussed technology and BIM (building information modeling) and its impact on the profession. All the seminars were packed, some with standing room only.

On opening night, Moshe Safdie, world-renowned architect, lectured on his career, starting with Habitat '67 in Montreal. Safdie displayed sketch drawings and models of many of his international projects, including the Vancouver (British Columbia) Public Library (1995), the Khalsa Heritage Memorial in Punjab, India (under construction), the National Gallery of Canada in Ottawa, Ontario (1988), and the Yad Vashem Holocaust Museum in Jerusalem, Israel (2005). Safdie has recently designed a major federal building on New York Avenue near the Lincoln Memorial in Washington, D.C., currently under construction and slated to be the headquarters of the United States Institute for Peace. Sofdie's work stands out, not only for its consideration of the environment and its creativity, but also for it emotional impact.

A model of Moshe Safdie's new Federal Building in Washington D.C. The building is now under construction.

Autodesk, Nemetschek and Graphisoft were present at the event. Bentley Systems was not represented, particularly surprising given the company's usual strong presence related to the public sector. Architects from many top architectural firms attended, giving me the opportunity to ask which software systems they were using. Autodesk Revit was the product name I heard repeatedly from members of companies such as Little Diversified Architectural Consulting, Pei Cobb Freed Partners, Perkins and Wills, and Moshe Safdie and Associates and the Onyx Group. From my poll at the event, it seems that Revit is really beginning to take hold in the Washington, Maryland and Northern Virginia region.

Not only was DesignDC an informative event, but it was very professionally produced. With this success, I think it's inevitable that DesignDC will become a standard on the Washington calendar. Kudos to the members of AIA's Washington Chapter and my own group, the Potomac Valley (Maryland) Chapter, for a great event.

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