The Design Matters Conference sessions will take place at a number of locations in and around downtown Chicago. Venue locations will be confirmed this summer, as the Chicago Architecture Biennial and all its local partner programs are finalized. For repeat attendees to our Conference, you are sure to recognize the venues, as they will include the Chicago Architecture Foundation, the Chicago Cultural Center, and other destinations within easy walking distance of our Conference hotel. 

Registering for the Design Matters Conference will also provide you credentialed access to Chicago Architecture Biennial preview events as well as EXPOChicago VIP programs. Announcements for those programs and sign-up procedures will be automatically forwarded to all Conference registrants as details become available later this summer. For more information, please see Accompanying Programs 


THURSDAY, September 14
Conference Day One


9:00am–10:00am: Opening Press Conference for the 2017 Chicago Architecture Biennial, Make New History

We kick-off the Design Matters Conference by joining members of the international press, Biennial participants, and VIP guests for a live press conference with architects Sharon Johnston and Mark Lee, curators of the 2017 Chicago Architecture Biennial, Make New History

10:00am–10:30am: Welcome to the Biennial

The Chicago Architecture Foundation (CAF) serves as the signature education partner to the Chicago Architecture Biennial. Join CAF's Director of Research and Interpretation Jennifer Masengarb, author of the Biennial's Gallery Guide, as she reviews key installations and themes on view in the Biennial's main exhibition hall.

10:30am–12:30pm: Free Time to Explore the Biennial Exhibition

Tour the Biennial's main exhibition hall before it opens for public view and take notes on your favorite pieces. It's a fun and exclusive time to walk the floor, as Biennial participants and reporters abound. And don't worry, you'll have time for a return visit or two during your Conference stay! 


12:30pm–2:30pm: Conference Breakouts

Session 1: Where's the Money At? Current Fundraising Trends and Strategies

Join fundraising consultant Cassandra Di Prizio, consultant at The Alford Group, as she orients you to the big picture in philanthropy. What sectors are attracting the most investment and from what sources? Which old school fundraising strategies still work, and which approaches need rethinking? Bring your fundraising, governance, and organizational strategy questions to this session.

Session 2: Twenty-Five Do's and Don'ts of Volunteer Management 

AAO member Hallie Rosen has built volunteer programs from the ground up and she's expanded and overhauled existing programs, too. Along the way she's developed an eye for spotting the makings and habits of quality volunteers. Pick up a trove of simple everyday tips for getting your organization's volunteer corps headed in the right direction. 

Session 3: There's No Such Thing as the General Public: Audience Development in the Age of Social Media

CAF's Patrick Miner has a knack for understanding the cultural consumer. Having racked up countless hours researching, tracking, and refining search terms and posting strategies, he's helped build up more than 300,000 followers of CAF and earned $600,000 in free media from Google Adwords. Get an inside glimpse at the messaging strategies he deploys over several different social media platforms commonly used by most every AAO member organization.

Each session is 35 minutes long.


2:45pm–3:45pm: Afternoon Plenary: The Hive

This summer Studio Gang joins forces with the National Building Museum to create a large site-specific installation bound to deliver a memorable experience for all Museum visitors. In this Conference session, we investigate the motivations for architect and architecture organization, testing where this designer-client relationship soars and where it strains. It’s an exploration that brings adventure and risk to everyone involved. How do ephemeral projects like this advance an architectural practice? In what ways does the journey benefit the Museum? A perfect conversation for Biennial participant and Biennial visitor alike.

Cathy Crane Frankel, National Building Museum
Jamee Telford, National Building Museum
Studio Gang (representative to be determined)
Moderator: Chase Rynd, Executive Director, National Building Museum


5:15pm–7:00pm: AAO Happy Hour & Welcome Reception

AAO hosts a cocktail reception for all Conference attendees at an exclusive, to-be-announced Open House Chicago site.

RSVP Requested.


7:00pm: Optional Small Group Dine Arounds

You're coming to Chicago meet people, right? Enjoy dinner out on the town with fellow Conference attendees. We remove the hassle of splitting the bill at the restaurant by asking you to pre-pay for your local dinner outing. Participants will choose from several restaurant options published closer to the event date. Cost: $45/person.

Registration required. 



FRIDAY, September 15
Conference Day Two


7:30am–8:15am: Registration Opens/Moring Coffee Hour


8:15am–9:15am: Conference Keynote, "Disruptive Forces Changing Cities" with Amy Liu, Brookings Institution

For this year’s keynote address, we are pleased to welcome Amy Liu. A national expert on cities and metropolitan areas, Liu directs the Brookings Institution’s Metropolitan Policy program, where she works to translate in-depth research into actionable on-the-ground strategies. Her Conference address investigates ideas for cities to achieve broader, more inclusive economic development in the face of large scale changes in urbanization, globalization, technology, and demographics. 


10:00am–12:45pm: Morning Plenary: Catalyzing Civic Participation

In this year’s round-up of inspiring programs and methodologies, we focus on initiatives that work to deepen public engagement. Over three vignettes, we investigate effective approaches for (1) distributing information to citizens, for (2) amplifying the voice of design professionals, and (3) closing the civic education gap. Speakers include:

(Session 1):
Karin Brandt, coUrbanize
Gabriel Metcalf, San Francisco Bay Area Planning and Urban Research Association
(Session 2)
Martin Felsen, UrbanLab
Eva Franch i Gilaberti, Storefront for Art and Architecture
(Session 3)
Shirl Buss, University of California-Berkeley Center for Cities+Schools
Christine Gaspar, Center for Urban Pedagogy
Juulia Kauste, Museum of Finnish Architecture



12:45pm–2:00pm: Lunch Break 

Networking time for Conference attendees. Lunch provided on-site at Conference venue.


2:00pm–3:00pm: Breakout Session (General Track)
Service Design: The Next Frontier of Civic Participation?

What if the design of the physical world was just one part of what designers did, with physical buildings representing just the one step in a larger relationship with clients and communities? In this live interview, Architect magazine editor-in-chief Ned Cramer unpacks the Minnesota Design Center’s current investments in human-centered service design with the Center’s director Thomas Fisher. Hear the latest thinking on how designers can find work (and create impact) by addressing the badly designed systems, infrastructures, and policies that affect us all.


3:00pm–4:30pm: Breakout (Educator Track)
Building K-12 Pipeline Diversity 

Veteran design educators from across the AAO Network link up with leaders from collegiate and graduate design schools and with practicing architects, planners, and designers for an advanced discussion about the cross-sector partnerships and student supports that will be required to achieve greater diversity in the allied design fields. Potential strategic alliances abound between all of our panelists, as we take a moment to hear what they believe are the most critical service gaps and what steps can taken to address them.

Kelly Lyons, Cranbrook Art Museum
Association of Collegiate Schools of Architecture (representative to be determined)
Oswaldo Ortega, National Organization of Minority Architects


4:30pm–6:00pm: AAO Happy Hour and Closing Reception

A final networking time expressly for AAO Conference attendees, Conference speakers, and invited guests.


6:15pm–: Chicago Architecture Biennial VIP Preview Party

Be a part of the much-anticipated preview party for 2017 Chicago Architecture Biennial. Participating architects, VIP visitors, and the local design community come out in full force to experience the Biennial’s main exhibition before it opens for public view. 



SATURDAY, September 16
Post-Conference Day

Curated List of Biennial Activities

Stay the weekend! Nearer the Conference date, we will highlight a number of recommended shows and lectures to take in while in Chicago. There will be some very big names, interesting local venues, and a several exhibitions you won't want to miss!

Chicago Architecture Center Tours

Conference attendees can sign up for a handful of specially selected tours led by CAF's most-requested docents.