AIA New Jersey Hosts First Tri-States Design Conference

AIATraditionalism versus modernity.” That was the theme at the first-ever American Institute of Architects (AIA) Tri State Conference, which was recently hosted by the AIA-New Jersey chapter, in conjunction with the AIA New York State and AIA Pennsylvania chapters, in Atlantic City, N.J. With more than 300 attendees, including world-famous architects Richard Meier and Stanley Tigerman, who were the keynote speakers, the conference united members of the architectural profession and explored topics ranging from energy efficiency to public infrastructure to Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) designations.

“This conference was the product of many years of collaboration between the state chapters,” said Michael Hanrahan, president of AIA-NJ. “The first-class caliber of our keynote speakers reflects the quality of the conference.“  The conference offered a great opportunity for architects of all levels of experience to learn collectively about the important trends and updates in architecture today, said Hanrahan.

Keynote speakers Meier and Tigerman offered anecdotal information from their respective practices – Meier, with more of a modernist approach; and Tigerman, with more of a traditionalist approach.

Meier, who was born in Newark, N.J., talked about a handful of his projects, while showcasing them through a slide show. “Architecture is the mother of the arts,” Meier said. “I like to believe that architecture connects the present with the past and the tangible with the intangible. I believe that architecture has the power inspire, to elevate the spirit to feed both the mind and the body. For me, it’s the most public of the arts.” Meier went on to explain his infamous stark white building designs. “White is the most wonderful color because within it you can see all the colors of the rainbow,” he said. “The whiteness of white is never just white; it is almost always transformed by light and that which is changing — the sky, the clouds, the sun and moon.”

Tigerman’s also showed examples of his work and historical precedents. His remarks focused around his lifelong search for meaning in his work, and spoke of the plans for his buildings — not the walls, but the void contained within. “In many cases these spaces became sacred, like the sacred space of a monastic cloister,” he said. “In form and elevation, the fabric of buildings appears to be torn apart, revealing the space within.” It was an acceptance of transience, or “Wabi Sabi,” as he put it, that compelled him; a search for the ineffable. “Nothing lasts,” said Tigerman. “Nothing is perfect. Nothing lasts forever. I don’t know the answers, I am seeking that too.”  And, when questioned as to how one could put these thoughts into practical terms on other projects, Tigerman replied, “First you have to believe in what you are doing before you have any hope of being able to convince others.”

The conference also featured the Tri-States Design Awards, for which each state chapter selected state winners that were submitted for the tri-state design competition. There were 24 winners in the categories of Special Initiatives, Residential Architecture, Non-Residential Architecture, Regional and Urban Design, Interior Architecture, Historic Preservation and Unbuilt. “The conference attracted the best from all over the region, and through the design awards the best work from the past year was showcased for all to see,” Hanrahan said.

The New Jersey design winners included Minervini Vandermark Architecture of Hoboken, N.J., who won a merit award in the Residential category for its 33 Willow Terrace project in Hoboken, N.J.; Payette Architect of Boston, Mass., in collaboration with the design architecture firm Hopkins Architects of London, England, who won an honor award in the Non-Residential category for its Frick Chemistry Lab project in Princeton, N.J.; Kohn Pederson Fox Associates of New York, N.Y., who won a merit award in the Non-Residential category for its Centra at Metropark project in Iselin, N.J.; and Wallace Roberts & Todd LLC of Philadelphia, who won a merit award for its Roosevelt Plaza project in Camden, N.J.

The conference offered event-goers a choice of over 25 courses, all of which counted toward continuing education credits. Attendees were able to obtain 12 of these credits during the conference. The subject matter of the courses fell within the theme of the conference, and the courses catered to all levels of the profession.

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