2021 Design Matters Conference

Throughout the tumult of the past year, many architecture organizations distinguished themselves as critical resources for binding their local communities and advancing efforts to make the field of architecture more equitable. At this year's virtual meeting, we celebrate this progress by investigating the work of designers and organizations who are launching new initiatives, conceiving new partnerships, and, in the process, advocating for new thinking.

At the same time, the newly expanded outlook of architecture organizations and the still unfolding processes of re-opening cities and identifying top priorities to support civic life has conjured more questions than answers. In the aim to better connect our institutions, we invite all prospective attendees to respond to an Open Call to identify the topical inquiries and time-sensitive discussions of most importance to sustain you, your organizations, and our rapidly evolving state of practice.


Featured Plenary Sessions

The complete conference schedule will be released in early fall. At this time, we are pleased to announce the featured plenary session that will begin each day of the conference.

Day One Plenary: Keynote Address from Germane Barnes

Designer and Educator exploring the intersections of architecture and identity
This Miami-based designer has a history of working with architecture organizations to bring fresh insights into overlooked and under-appreciated connections in the built environment. Animating his work is a frank examination of the architect's role (conscious or not) in conceiving non-inclusive spaces.

"The past year has shown the world that marginalized communities offer more than a cursory look, but a thorough excavation of their contributions and legacies...To be selected as the winner of this year's Wheelwright Prize provides credibility that Blackness is a viable and critical discourse."

- Germane Barnes, upon receipt of the 2021 Harvard GSD Wheelwright Prize

Pop-Up Porch
Germane Barnes
MoMA Reconstructions


Day Two Plenary: New Directors/New Directions

Aric Chen, General & Artistic Director, Het Nieuwe Instituut
Fabrizio Gallanti, Director, Arc en Rêve
Jia Yi Gu, Director, MAK Center

New director appointments continue to arise at notable architecture organizations around the globe. In this panel session, we explore the new visions and next challenges that cut across a variety of organization types. The level of architectural acumen and embrace of community engagement continues to rise.

Atelier Structure & Objet
Arc en Rêve
Poetic Structure
MAK Center
Speculative Design Archive
Het Nieuwe Instituut


At-A-Glance Schedule: Mark Your Calendar

To help you reserve time in your personal calendar, we are sharing the basic conference schedule below. Additional details and session topics to come!


Day 1, Thursday, December 2 (all times listed EST)

12:00pm-12:30pm: Welcome and Introduction
12:30pm-1:45pm: Plenary Session
1:45pm-2:15pm: BREAK
2:15pm-3:30pm: Breakout Sessions
3:30pm-4:45pm Open Networking / 4:00pm: Optional Table Topics (Targeted Small Group Discussions)
7:00pm-8:00pm: Social Hour (Details TBD/RSVP Will Be Required)


Day 2, Friday, December 3 (all times listed EST)

9:00am-10:00am: Social Hour (Details TBD/RSVP Will Be Required)
10:15am-11:30am: Plenary Session
11:30am-1:00pm: Break / 12:00pm: Affinity Meetings (e.g., Emerging Leaders, A+DEN)
1:00pm-2:15pm: Breakout Sessions
2:15pm-2:45pm: AAO Annual Meeting
2:45pm-3:30pm: Open Networking / 2:50pm: Optional Table Topics (Targeted Small Group Discussions)
3:30pm-3:45pm: Wrap-Up


Registration Rates

The conference is designed to benefit staff at all levels. Take advantage of the group discount and attend with your colleagues!

AAO Member Single Ticket             $75
Non-Member Single Ticket              $90
AAO Member 2-Ticket Package    $130
Non-Member 2-Ticket Package     $170
AAO Member 5-Ticket Package    $310
Non-Member 5-Ticket Package     $390