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October 9, 2013
by Catherine Teegarden Center for Architecture Foundation
Tour of Beacon Hill with Boston by FootCredit: Catherine Teegarden
Boston Society of Architects BSA Space along Atlantic WharfCredit: Manny Juarez for AAO

For those who missed this year’s Association of Architecture Organizations’ annual conference in Boston, 09.26.13–09.28.13, here is an armchair tour of a few of the highlights. The theme of the conference, “Making and Measuring Impact,” focused on the importance of telling a clear, coherent, and engaging story about what we do and why we do it. “We” were a loose grouping of staff and volunteers from architecture centers throughout the U.S. and abroad, as well as students, architecture professors, designers, staff from art museums, tour companies, and other organizations interested in making architecture part of the public discourse.

Maxwell Anderson, director of the Dallas Museum of Art, kicked off the conference on Friday with a compelling story about how the museum had revitalized public engagement and involvement by making general membership and admission free, a sort of trickle-up approach, that had not only boosted the museum’s audience numbers without damaging the bottom line, but also spurred new partnerships with other arts organizations looking to follow their lead. On Saturday, Kent Martinussen from the Danish Architecture Centre wowed us all with a quick tour of their new OMA-designed building to be constructed on Copenhagen’s harbor, and their very humanistic approach to exhibitions, competitions, and events – including the wonderful public Build It Up competition produced in concert with Danish National Television to fund four re-design projects proposed by ordinary citizens nationwide. The televised announcement of the competition winners, including a group of earnest boys who had proposed a new skate park for their small town, were enough to remind all of us why public involvement in architecture is worthwhile.

Perhaps because we came from all over, and focused on different approaches to this common mission, the tone was one of collegiality and support, rather than competition. Speakers and attendees were very willing to share ideas and experiences that would be useful to others. Their successful projects, tools, and strategies provided concrete examples and ideas for all of us to better evaluate programs, expand outreach, prove ourselves to funders, and focus our efforts. Various speakers challenged us to think about who we are serving through our programs and exhibitions, and presented strategies and questions to ask ourselves about how we could expand to new audiences who we are not currently reaching. Many also reminded us of the optimism and energy the interested public, students, designers, artists, and our own Boards can provide to help us succeed.

Thanks to everyone at the BSA Space and AAO staff for orchestrating a well-choreographed series of events, including delightful post-conference neighborhood tours by Boston on Foot. Don’t miss next year’s conference 11.13–15.14 at the National Building Museum in Washington, DC. Both AAO members and non-members are welcome as all are sure to come away with new ideas and enthusiasm for their work.

Catherine Teegarden is the Director of Education for the Center for Architecture Foundation.

Event: Association of Architectural Organizations Annual Conference
Location: Boston, Massachusetts, 09.26.13-09.28.13
Speakers: Click here for a full list of speakers
Organizers: Association of Architectural Organizations

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