Thursday marked day two of the annual national convention of the American Institute of Architects, and so far, Atlanta has been a hit with these throngs of discerning visitors. The day started just as early as Wednesday, with tours rolling out of the Georgia World Congress Center to sites across the city. We tagged along for a walking tour of downtown Atlanta with a guide versed in the history of the city. The main event of the day, however, was the morning keynote by former President Bill Clinton. While he didn't bring his saxophone, he did bring the audience to their feet more than once ...
Before Clinton took the stage, the packed house of more than 15,000 was witness to the awarding of the AIA Gold Medal to Moshe Safdie, who has been practicing architecture for more than 50 years. In his remarks following the award, he elicited applause for stating that "glass towers in the desert are no more meant to be than igloos in the tropics," referring to the lack of contextualization of buildings to their environments today.
After Safdie spoke, Clinton spent more than a half an hour addressing the role of architects in shaping the physical world that affects the lives of pretty much everyone. He focused on the push for sustainability and how architecture can be a vehicle for equality. Following the keynote, the exposition hall was thrown open to the masses. Featuring more than 800 vendors, it was an architectural free-for-all. A tour of the Falcons Stadium filled up the afternoon and early evening before the real fun started.
While architects may say they come to the convention for classes to maintain their licences through required continuing education, a happy byproduct is the evenings spent partying. The drinks started flowing on the expo floor in the late afternoon, with some of the booths serving up cocktails, beers and even wine from fancy little machines.
After the expo closed at 6 p.m., we dropped in on a few events where vendors wined and dined architects with fare from some of the swankiest spots in town. Let's just say we weren't disappointed in the evening, and it capped off a great day of conventioning.