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AIA Convention Draws Record Numbers

The hot sun and bright lights were at times bewildering, but over 24,000 architects made their way to the Mandalay Bay Hotel and Casino in Las Vegas in late May for a successful American Institute of Architects convention.

The total count of attendees was 24,500, 10% more than the previous convention in Chicago, and a new record for the event, now in its 137th year. The AIA expo, meanwhile, featured 860 exhibiting companies, also a record, although only slightly above last year’s number, due to an effort to ensure that the event wasn’t too overwhelming. In an atmosphere like Las Vegas, where neon signs blaze, life-size recreations of world monuments loom, and slot machine sirens blare, this was a tall order. Especially with unseasonable temperatures reaching up to 105 degrees. Nonetheless, the rapidly-growing city confidently took the spotlight, as architects explored highlights of the strip, like the sleek new Wynn Casino along with many new condo projects, and points beyond, with tours extending as far as the Grand Canyon and Hoover Dam.


The convention, which spanned from May 18 to May 21, featured well-known speakers like 2005 AIA Gold Medalist Santiago Calatrava, FAIA, recent Pritzker Prize winner Thom Mayne, FAIA, and Las Vegas megadeveloper Steve Wynn, for whom the Wynn is (not humbly) named. Over 100 educational seminars included a conversation with World Trade Center Memorial designer Michael Arad, and touched on topics ranging from improving communication, navigating design-build, and establishing risk-management practices.

Delegates elected Gensler principal RK Stewart, FAIA, as the 2007 AIA president, and passed resolutions targeting increased awareness of sustainability and the declining number of new architects completing registration.

The convention will meet next year in Los Angeles, where gambling and spectacle will be replaced by Hollywood and sprawl.

Sam Lubell