After the American Institute of Architects (AIA) officially canceled the 2020 edition of its Conference on Architecture in Los Angeles due to the spread of COVID, they had, at the time, turned their efforts toward the 2021 conference in Philadelphia. Now, the AIA has announced that the 2021 Conference on Architecture will be online-only.
The Conference on Architecture is the AIA’s largest annual event and typically draws about 20,000 attendees to the rotating selection of host cities. Keynotes from prominent architects on major projects and their professional experiences, heads of the AIA, technical panels, and chances to network are all on offer for the four-day festival.
On April 5, however, the AIA announced via its standalone conference website a shift to an entirely digital format for this year, with a novel format. Instead of a linear festival, the 2021 Conference would be broken into four nonconsecutive days that span the entire summer, although one ticket will allow attendees to access all of the content. The new dates are: June 17, July 8, July 29, and August 19, with the conference being live-streamed each day and content available for on-demand consumption for 30 days after its original airing.
The full event schedule has been released online for prospective purchasers, and despite the change of venue, it seems the AIA is still trying to foster community and networking. All four days will open with half-hour blocks of mentor meetups where experienced architects can help guide new attendees, live product demos, chances to learn about new materials, and architecture-related short films. Each night will also be bookended by events from local AIA chapters, though those have yet to be announced.
Otherwise, the programming looks pretty similar to what you would experience at the in-person conference. James Beard Award-winning Spanish chef José Andrés will open the first day with a keynote speech on “our shared obligation to each other” (Virgil Abloh was supposed to have been last year’s keynote). After that, architects can attend panels on everything from crowdsourcing community input, to using the blockchain, to high-density design, to firm-specific panels (including Moody Nolan and Marlon Blackwell Architects).
Of course, for the professional-minded, all of the panels and speeches will provide continuing education Learning Units credits, with some also providing Health, Safety and Welfare credits.