The Design Matters Conference sessions will take place at a number of locations in and around downtown Chicago. 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


8:00am: Registration and Coffee Hour

Location: Chicago Architecture Foundation (CAF), 224 S Michigan Avenue


8:45am–9:30am: 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.

Location: Chicago Architecture Foundation (CAF), 224 S Michigan Avenue


9:45am–11:15pm: 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! 

Location: Chicago Cultural Center, 78 E Washington Street


11:15am–11:45am: Opening Press Conference for the 2017 Chicago Architecture Biennial, Make New History

We kick-off the Design Matters Conference by joining Mayor Rahm Emanuel, 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

Location: Chicago Cultural Center, 78 E Washington Street


1:00pm–4:00pm: Conference Shorts (Toolkit Sessions)


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 Kerstin Adams has a knack for understanding the cultural consumer, having racked up countless hours researching,managing, and refining social media strategies. Dive into messaging tactics for speaking to and expanding your audience on the social media platforms most commonly used by AAO member organizations. 

Session 4: Pitching to the Architecture Media

ArchDaily’s Head of Content, Becky Quintal, and European Editor-at-Large, James Taylor-Foster, provide insight into the kinds of stories, events, and initiatives that attract the attention of the media. Framing the discussion with a selection of real-world case studies, Becky and James will draw on their experience producing the world’s most visited architecture website, and will reflect on the challenges, as well as the important, successful efforts of delivering critical messages to a global readership of architects, urbanists, designers, clients, and architecture-lovers.

Lunch will be provided. Each session is 40 minutes long. Location: CAF Lecture Hall, 224 S Michigan Avenue 


4:00-5:00pm: Afternoon Plenary: The Rising Importance of Architecture Centers

The work of architecture centers, while often local in practice, connects directly to a shared set of global challenges. This session brings together a cross section of experienced leaders from across our field to discuss the role of architecture centers in communicating the development of cities to a wider audience. Join us as we investigate the active role that these organizations can and should play in the growth of urban centers.

Ned Cramer, Architect Magazine (moderator)
Rusty Bienvenue, Architecture Center Houston
Lynn Osmond, Chicago Architecture Foundation
Lisa Richmond, Seattle Center for Architecture & Design
Catherine Staniland, New London Architecture Centre
Location: CAF Lecture Hall, 224 S Michigan Avenue


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

AAO hosts a cocktail reception for all Conference attendees at the offices of CallisonRTKL, overlooking Michigan Avenue and Lake Michigan.

Location: 200 S Michigan Avenue, Suite 1800


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


7:15am–8:00am: Registration Opens/Morning Coffee Hour

Location: Council on Global Affairs Conference Center, 130 E Randolph Drive


8:00am–9:00am: 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. Remarks give way to an onstage interview with Niamh King, Vice President, Chicago Council on Global Affairs. 

Location: Council on Global Affairs Conference Center, 130 E Randolph Drive


9:30am–12:30pm: 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): State of the Community Meeting
Karin Brandt, coUrbanize
Gabriel Metcalf, San Francisco Bay Area Planning and Urban Research Association
(Session 2): Engaging the Profession
Martin Felsen, UrbanLab
Eva Franch i Gilabert, Storefront for Art and Architecture
(Session 3): Getting Youth into the Act
Shirl Buss, University of California-Berkeley Center for Cities+Schools
Christine Gaspar, Center for Urban Pedagogy
Juulia Kauste, Museum of Finnish Architecture
Gabrielle Lyon, Chicago Architecture Foundation (moderator)

Coffee and refreshments provided. Each session is 50 minutes long.
Location: Council on Global Affairs Conference Center, 130 E Randolph Drive


12:30pm–2:00pm: Lunch Break 

Lunch on your own; networking time for Conference attendees.


1:15pm–2:00pm: Gallery Walk & Talk: The Landscape Architecture Legacy of Dan Kiley / Tour of Art Institute of Chicago's South Garden

Over his career, Dan Kiley completed more than 1,000 projects worldwide, making him one of the most influential Modernist landscape architects of the 20th century. Developed under the direction of The Cultural Landscape Foundation (TCLF), this photo exhibit features images of some of Kiley’s most famous public work, such as the National Gallery of Art’s pedestrian plaza in Washington DC and the campus of the US Air Force Academy in Colorado Springs, CO.

Join consulting historian, preservationist, and urban planner Julia S. Bachrach for a brief exhibition overview followed by a special walking tour of one of Kiley’s most well-preserved designs from the mid-1960s, the Art Institute’s South Garden, which features a grid of concrete squares, a rectangular pool and a spectacular canopy of Hawthorn trees. Conference attendees can sign up on-site for this event.

Location: Lecture Hall Gallery, 224 S Michigan Avenue


2:00pm–3:00pm: Making Architecture Fun: Large-Scale Activations

This summer Studio Gang joins forces with the National Building Museum to create "The Hive," 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.

Chase Rynd, National Building Museum (moderator)
Cathy Crane Frankel, National Building Museum
Jamee Telford, National Building Museum
Weston Walker, Studio Gang

Location: CAF Lecture Hall, 224 S Michigan Avenue

3:15pm–5:00pm: Urban Design & Explorations: Chicago Riverwalk with Architect Carol Ross Barney (General Track)

The city of Chicago's Riverwalk is finally complete, stretching from Lake Michigan to Lake Street. Join us on a walk through this linear park, a magnet for outdoor recreation and fun that some are calling Chicago's new "coastline." Conference attendees can sign up on-site for this specially selected tour led by the River Walk's chief designer, architect Carol Ross Barney.

Meet: CAF Lecture Hall, 224 S Michigan Avenue (Tour Component to take place on the Riverwalk, between Wabash Avenue and State Street)

3:45pm–5:00pm: Inclusion in Architecture: Getting Beyond Pipeline Development (Educator Track)

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 be taken to address them.

Steven Lewis, ThinkingLeadership and City of Detroit Planning and Development (moderator)
Cynthia Bowen, Rundell Ernstberger Associates / APA Board President
Kareem Cousar, National Organization of Minority Architects
Michael Ford, Urban Arts Collective and Hip Hop Architecture Camp
Kelly Lyons, Cranbrook Art Museum
Michael Monti, Association of Collegiate Schools of Architecture
Sharon E. Sutton, University of Washington, Department of Architecture

Location: American Planning Association, 205 N Michigan Avenue, Suite 1200


5:00pm–6:30pm: AAO Happy Hour and Closing Reception

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

Location: American Planning Association, 205 N. Michigan Ave., Suite 1200


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. 

Location: Chicago Cultural Center, 78 E Washington Street



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 on-site for a handful of specially selected tours led by CAF's most-requested docents.
Historic Skyscrapers
Chicago is home to some of the world's earliest skyscrapers and innovations required to make a tall building. On this tour, take a step back in time to the late 19th century to see and experience these world-famous early tall buildings that transformed a city devastated by fire into a center of skyscraper design and engineering.
Meet: CAF Shop and Tour Center, 224 S. Michigan Avenue
Art Deco Skyscrapers: Downtown
Art Deco was a popular, modern style whose lavish materials and geometric ornament epitomized the prosperity and optimism of the Roaring 20s. See how the style enriches the soaring exteriors and opulent interiors of some of the city's most beautiful skyscrapers. Learn the origins of Art Deco and discover the popular motifs that are its hallmarks around the world while admiring such landmark buildings as the Chicago Board of Trade Building, One LaSalle St. Building and Field Building (now the Bank of America Building).
Meet: CAF Shop and Tour Center, 224 S. Michigan Avenue
Historic Treasures of Culture and Commerce
Learn about the great late 19th— and early 20th—century architectural landmarks of Michigan Ave. and State St., ranging from museums to department stores, skyscrapers to concert halls, including the Reliance Building, the Sullivan Center and the Chicago Cultural Center. Highlights include interiors of dazzling beauty and startling originality.
Meet: CAF Shop and Tour Center, 224 S. Michigan Avenue
Must-See Chicago
Must-See Chicago is a fast-paced, 90-minute tour introducing Chicago and many of its most famous buildings, including the Art Institute of Chicago, Sears (Willis) Tower, Wrigley Building, Chicago Theatre and John Hancock Center. As you explore downtown, you’ll hop on and off the city’s signature “L” trains (stairs are required). The tour begins at the Chicago Architecture Foundation and wraps up at the intersection of Michigan and Chicago Avenues, the heart of the Magnificent Mile.
Meet: CAF Shop and Tour Center, 224 S. Michigan Avenue
Evolution of the Skyscraper
Chicago is known for building some of the world’s first skyscrapers, but how have their designs and technologies changed over time? Explore everything from classic buildings to super-tall highrises to discover how each one is representative of major developments in architectural technology and design from 1872 to the present.
Meet: CAF Shop and Tour Center, 224 S. Michigan Avenue
Sign up at AAO Thursday morning registration. Tours are $20 per person.