We the people

Niki May Young
Friday 16 May 2008

AIA Boston National Convention and Design Exposition 2008 kicks off

AIA hit Boston yesterday for their first visit to the East Coast in almost nine years, and their first trip to Boston in 16 years with the AIA Boston National Convention and Design Exposition. More than 800 exhibitors will be showcasing work and products over four days to an expected 25,000 architects with their families and friends adding to a 40,000 total expected attendance.

Boston was chosen for its blend of historical and modern American architecture and academic innovation in design. Remarkable Boston builds include Cambridge and Harvard and the MIT building. The convention is hosted by the Boston Society for Architects who are actively involved in the conference agenda and have worked to ensure that local design is a key feature.

This year’s theme is ‘We the People’ which will explore the essential role that architects play in society. AIA President Marshall Purnell, who set the theme, said: “We are the people we serve and we live in the communities we have designed. We are the stewards of the safety and health of our children and our elderly in their places of care.”

Speakers including Ambassador Andrew Young, founding principal of GoodWorks International, an organisation that fosters economic development in the Caribbean and Africa and Millard Fuller, who is the founder of Habitat for Humanity and the Fuller Center for Housing, will discuss issues of sustainability and urban security among other topics.

Habitat for Humanity is an organisation set up in 1976 with the purpose of eliminating ‘poverty housing’ - housing which is often very unsafe, offers little protection and enables disease to spread. Over thirty years the organisation has built 225,000 homes across 92 countries in partnership with the people who are most in need of simple but decent housing.

Green issues will also be high on the agenda with the conference itself working to increase carbon efficiency. Recycled paper has been used for the brochures and a legacy project is being created to ensure that green issues are tackled in Boston in the future. Local children will be involved in a street art exhibition drawing the carbon footprint at a ceremony outside Boston’s Children’s Museum awarding “Boston’s Greenest” buildings.

Despite the serious agenda, the convention will follow a relaxed programme. Last night convention-goers were invited to the Opening Night Party to get down to some serious socialising and to enjoy ‘wicked good, complimentary Bostonian eats and entertainment’. Gensler has also designed a chillout ‘BSA Store and Lounge’ where people who made the most of the night before can indulge themselves with a massage from ‘local artistes’, spend their hard-earner cash on design wares and check their emails. A 20-ft light tower hangs in the lounge where many “green,” recyclable or reusable elements are also used, including cork flooring that will be donated to Habitat for Humanity after the convention.

Yesterday visitors attended a ‘Late Night Movies’ session showing architecturally-themed films with an open bar until midnight. Today’s party will be the Host City Celebration at the Boston Public Library, considered one of the most beautiful buildings in the city. An open bar, food, and live music will add to the party atmosphere.

Visitors will not be stuck in the conference center, they are offered 85 unique tours throughout Boston and New England which will allow architects a detailed look at some of Boston’s landmark designs. These tours include ‘Breakfast in the Ballpark’ - a look at the design and construction of Fenway Park, developed by design consultant Janet Marie Smith; walking tours of the Seaport District and the new Rose Kennedy Greenway; a bike tour of Olmsted’s Emerald Necklace and tours of Boston’s neighborhoods including Beacon Hill, Dorchester, East Boston and Roxbury helping to show why Boston was the perfect choice for an architects convention.

Niki May Young
News Editor

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