Seattle, Washington – November 14-17

Local Hosts – AIA Seattle, Design in Public, Seattle Architecture Foundation

The Design Matters Conference is the world’s only annual meeting dedicated to inspiring public interest in architecture and urbanism. To this end, the Conference brings not-for-profit professionals and volunteers charged with creating cultural programs (exhibitions, tours, lectures and symposia, festivals and films, youth outreach) into dialogue with top designers, journalists, and civic leaders.  


The 2018 Conference invites you to Seattle to explore key issues of social equity in the built environment. What does today’s society require of its architects, and what is the role of design organizations in promoting housing and public spaces that are more equitable, ethical, and socially just? 
Seattle itself is at the center of a growing crisis along the West Coast, where a booming economy coupled with decades of under-building have led to an historic shortage of affordable housing. We convene at a moment when many AAO members are addressing similar issues in their own programming, and we’ll look to Seattle’s challenges and successes as a jumping off point for our discussions.

Bullitt Center, Photo: Brad Kahn



Check back for updates. Details will continue to be added over the coming weeks.


Wednesday, November 14

Location: Center for Architecture & Design (1010 Western Avenue; 1 block walk from Loews Hotel)


A+DEN Pre-Conference Workshop at the Center for Architecture & Design

During this workshop, participants discuss common issues, audiences, and learning objectives that animate K-12 architecture education today. In keeping with the Conference theme, the featured plenary sees three veteran educators—90 years of combined experience!—reflecting on their careers and taking questions from both seasoned educators and young professionals just breaking into the field. Panelists include:
  • Kathleen Kupper, Summit School of Ahwatukee (Phoenix, AZ)
  • Alan Sandler, Architectural Foundation of San Francisco
  • Catherine Teegarden, Center for Architecture (New York) 


AAO Conference Opening Reception at the Center for Architecture & Design  

A chance to meet your fellow Conference attendees and take in the newly created Center for Architecture & Design! Drinks and plentiful hors d’oeuvres. We will enjoy remarks from:
  • Lisa Richmond, AIA Seattle/Design in Public 
  • Stacy Segal, Seattle Architecture Foundation
  • Seattle Mayor Jenny Durkan (invited)

Thursday, November 15

Location: Seattle Central Library  (1000 4th Avenue; 3 block walk from Loews Hotel)



Registration Opens at Seattle Central Library 



Can We Create an Equitable City? 

We start the day with an honest look at Seattle’s latest strategies for tackling key issues of equity and inclusive growth: affordable housing, climate change, making room for under-represented community voices.
  • Samuel Assefa, Director, Office of Planning and Community Development, City of Seattle
  • Lisa Richmond, AIA Seattle/Design in Public (interviewer)


Notes from the Field: Talking about Design 

A panel of AAO members present their latest efforts to invent new program formats that attract diverse audiences and community voices, with emphasis on conversations about equity/inclusion. 
  • Sarah Lann, Los Angeles Conservancy
  • Sara Zewde and Debra Webb, Design in Public 
  • Phineas Harper, The Architecture Foundation





(Re)Designing Los Angeles: A conversation with L.A.'s first Chief Design Officer, Christopher Hawthorne

After more than a dozen years as architecture critic for the Los Angeles Times, Christopher Hawthorne has moved to City Hall, accepting an offer from L.A. Mayor Eric Garcetti to fill the newly created position of Chief Design Officer for the city. Since starting the role this past April, he has been working to promote a more comprehensive design approach to a number of urban challenges, including homelessness and housing affordability, and to bring some coherence to L.A.’s significant investments in public infrastructure. This presentation will address both the need for concrete strategies to make our cities more equitable as well as the power architecture organizations hold in raising public confidence in that mission.  
  • Christopher Hawthorne, former critic, Los Angeles Times





Notes from the Field: Seeing our Invisible City

A panel of AAO members present their latest initiatives that call attention to the challenges and unique livelihoods of our city’s most vulnerable populations.
  • Andrew Brown, Van Alen Institute
  • Rosamond Fletcher, Design Trust for Public Space
  • Marten Kuijpers, Het Nieuwe Instituut
  • Brice Maryman, Landscape Architecture Foundation Fellow; Landscape Architect, MIG I SvR


Notes from the Field: Educating on Affordable Housing

A panel of AAO members present recent demonstration projects aimed at helping their local audiences appreciate the hazards of delivering affordable housing in their respective communities.
  • Klaus Mayer, Alaska Design Forum
  • Emily Schmidt, The Architectural League of New York









Guided Tour of the Bullitt Center

We take time to visit the world’s greenest building, and discuss the power of “pilgrimage sites” for advancing public education about the built environment.



Small Group Dine Arounds (optional)

This year, we’ve asked staff and board members from our Local Host organizations to take us to their favorite restaurants all around Seattle. Dutch treat. Hosts will provide several options that are within easy walking distance from the Bullitt Center, as well as some adventures out to far-flung corners of the city. [Note: A separate sign-up email will be sent to all Conference registrants nearer the event date.]  

Friday, November 16

Location: Impact Hub  (220 2nd Avenue South; 7 block walk from Loews Hotel)



Breakfast Session: AAO Members Meeting

Annual business meeting for members of the AAO Network, including nomination of incoming AAO Directors. 


Architecture Centers 2.0

In the past year, a number of new architecture centers have opened across the AAO Network. Though the sizes and particulars of each center varies, they all share one common attribute: each organization moved from an existing facility to a new, bespoke home. This session brings together a cross section of experienced leaders from across our field to discuss the expanding roles of their new architecture centers and how they are communicating that message to wider audiences.
  • Greg Brown, Architecture and Design Exchange (formerly Dallas Center for Architecture)
  • Kent Martinussen, Danish Architecture Centre
  • Lynn Osmond, Chicago Architecture Center (formerly Chicago Architecture Foundation)
  • Stacy Segal, Center for Architecture and Design (Seattle)


Open Forum: Take This Idea!

A series of rapid talks highlighting programs that are easily shared across the AAO Network. 
  • Krista Nightengale, Better Block
  • Chase Rynd, National Building Museum
  • Lucie Murray, New London Architecture
  • Jim Drinan, American Planning Association





Breakout Sessions: Round 1


CEO Exchange

In this breakout round, CEOs will pursue a separate track from other Conference participants.
  • Host: Lynn Osmond, Chair, AAO Board of Directors 

Facilitating Essential Conversations

Hear what training has been put in place at the National Building Musuem to support museum educators in facilitating conversations about equity and inclusion with local youth. 
  • Caitlin Miller, National Building Museum

Telling Your Organization’s Mission on Instagram 

On-the-ground strategies are discussed for raising your number of followers and ensuring your every post expresses something fundamental about your organization and ways your audience can further your organization's mission.
  • Krista Nightengale, Better Block


Breakout Sessions: Round 2


Extending Your Board’s Reach

A common challenge to operating effective design organizations is diversifying the types of directors serving on your board, especially moving beyond architects and built environment professionals. In this roundtable discussion, we hear from veteran CEOs on the novel methods they have employed to develop boards more reflective of the general make-up of their local communities. This session explores challenges and failures as well as success stories—the do’s and don’t’s of board building, if you will. 

Easy Tools to Improve Your Work

A fast-paced round-up of several tools and apps that can bolster the programs and institutional communications of the average design organization. These tips have come to AAO staff throughout the past year of engaging AAO members while preparing our monthly AAO e-newsletter. 
  • Mary Fichtner, Coordinator, AAO Member Outreach


Design Swarm

Design in Public Board Chair and former Microsoft executive Surya Vanka leads Conference participants in a constructive workshop on the evolution of our network of design organizations. As we break down Conference attendees into specific affinity groups to facilitate smaller group discussions, we ask two central questions: why are our members stronger when working together, and how might we achieve greater collaboration? Final share-outs to the group allow top executives, mid-career managers, and those new to the AAO Network the chance to consider one another’s perspectives and aspirations for the future of our field.
  • Survya Vanka, Board President, Design in Public; Founder and Principal, Authentic Design


Conference Closing Reception/Happy Hour (Location TBA) 

A final chance to meet and celebrate with your fellow Conference attendees. Drinks and plentiful hors d’oeuvres will be served. 

Saturday, November 17

Location: Loews Hotel 1000  (1001 1st Avenue)



Post-Conference Tour (optional)

Stay the weekend and enjoy a full day of networking with your peers while touring Seattle. We will be joined by expert guides and local designers, as we check-in on several new developments across the city (Amazon, Pike Place, Waterfront, and more), all while gaining an appreciation for the city’s natural beauty and bold planning that has made the city what it is today.