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

All times listed in Eastern Standard Time.


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

Welcome and Introduction


Plenary Session: Keynote Address from Germane Barnes

Speaker: 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



Breakout Sessions


Who Tells the Story of Architecture?

Marwa El Mubark, Co-founder, Afterparti
Molly Fulghum Heintz, School of Visual Arts; Editor in Chief, Oculus
Mariana Mogilevich, Editor in Chief, Urban Omnibus
Quilian Riano, Assistant Dean, Pratt School of Architecture
Mimi Zeiger, 
Critic, editor, curator and instigator

The near extinction of the architecture critic from major dailies and the constant winnowing of column inches on city issues does not make the work of advancing public dialogue any easier. Several organizations are now responding by establishing new fellowships and programs for cultivating diverse voices in architectural journalism. From writing to videography, public policy to real estate matters, this panel of leaders is showing the power we have to support emerging talents and, at the same, energize public understanding about the value of design. This is a topic of pressing interest for all interpretive organizations.


Using Place-Based Learning to Reframe Historical Legacies

Presenter: Alexis Mason, Instructional Coach Charlottesville High School

Since long before its official dedication ceremony in April 2021, the Memorial to Enslaved Laborers (MEL) at the University of Virginia has acted as a physical embodiment of the University's wider efforts to center the lives and contributions of the enslaved community who largely built and operated the University from its founding in 1819 through emancipation, and beyond. In addition to honoring the excellence and intelligences of this most underrepresented community, the design elements and physical features of the MEL offer numerous opportunities to engage visitors in an active and participatory form of place-based education.  
In this session, Alexis Mason will describe the process for developing educational materials for use by K-12 educators, students, and the general public when engaging with the MEL in person or through online formats. With an emphasis on a collaborative and interdisciplinary approach to curricular development, a set of Educator Guides were developed as part of an undergraduate course taught at the University of Virginia (led by AAO member John Comazzi) in which university students partnered with local K-12 educators and the MEL's Community Engagement Committee, which includes Descendants of the original enslaved community. Aimed at programmers and educators alike, this session will focus on the rich opportunities afforded by our designed environments to actively engage visitors through participatory educational programming that addresses the history and legacy of underrepresented communities whose lives have significantly impacted the cultural development of any local context. 


Open Networking and Optional Table Topics (Targeted Small Group Discussions)

During Open Networking time the virtual ballroom is the place where for you can table hop and meet with fellow attendees. If you would prefer more structured networking, select AAO members have signed up to host small group discussions and share outs on the following topics.

The Future of Virtual Tours

This past year, many tour providers in the AAO network developed a new set of skills and invested in new technologies to support the creation of a virtual tour program. While time-consuming and somewhat involved to produce, they can provide benefits in terms of dropping certain accessibility barriers and promising broader audience reach. Now that we are able to return to our traditional in-person tour programming, what place will virtual tours have in your overall programming menu? Let’s discuss ideas and opportunities.

What’s Working for You? Volunteer Management 

Participants at this Table Topic are invited to share strategies and fulfilling work opportunities they have found for engaging volunteers virtually, as well as any plans or successful attempts to provide volunteer training and onboarding in an online setting. We’ll collect our ideas into a shareable toolkit.

In-Person/Virtual/Livestream: How are You Positioning Your Programs?

As we begin returning to in-person programming, there’s suddenly a new menu of options for serving multiple audiences across different settings. How are you valuing live in-person programming versus other online experiences? We will discuss program formats, marketing and communicating the same event to multiple audiences, pricing, and more.

Examining Your Organization’s Carbon Footprint

With all the talk of global climate commitments and big picture thinking, let’s take a moment to investigate the small steps your organization can take to start making a difference (and changing your internal culture). From zero waste catering to resetting guidelines for work travel, there’s a lot that can be done with little to no budget impact. If you are already doing this work or wanting ideas on where to start, come join the conversation.



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


Plenary Session: 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.




Optional Table Topics and Hosted Affinity Group Meetings

During this hour, several different networking options are available to you. First, AAO Staff and Board will be hosting two concurrent Affinity Group meetings to help specific cohorts get more acquainted and involved with AAO. Second, select AAO members have agreed to facilitate small group Table Topics for those who wish to exchange ideas in a casual but structured setting. Finally, if you crave a little free time to just catch up with friends and colleagues, the virtual ballroom will support Open Networking, so table hop as you wish.

New Directors Round Table

RSVP Requested (please inquire at
If you have taken up an executive director position at a design organization within the past 24 months, please take this opportunity to meet a cohort of fellow new directors. AAO can be an invaluable hub for sharing challenges and success stories with your peers. As always, all CEO Network convenings encourage open conversation and follow Chatham House Rules.

Emerging Leaders Network

RSVP Requested (please inquire at
AAO seeks to identify and support young talent from across the field by establishing a regular venue for focused professional development and debate. Our efforts will be aimed at those who are less than 10 years into their career or aged between 25-40. At this meeting, we will discuss a proposed framework for engagement suited to the needs of this specific group. If you think young voices should be meaningful contributors in shaping the future of our field, and you wish to have sustained access to your immediate peers from other cities as well as today’s top leaders, here’s your chance to help us refine this important future AAO program.

Outside Four Walls: New Adventures in Digital Exhibitions

As architecture centers re-open to a public eager to return to in-person gallery spaces, what role do digital exhibitions have in your longer-term exhibition plans? Join this Table Topic to engage in a conversation around the new landscape of online exhibition-making. We invite participants to share (and learn about) different types of digital exhibitions that they have created or consumed—from web-based content to curated apps to 3D simulations of gallery spaces.

What’s Working for You? Ice Breakers for Students on Zoom

Participants at this Table Topic are invited to share their successful virtual community-building activities, as well as any ideas for how educators and facilitators can continue using technology to help encourage student participation in-person. We’ll collect our ideas into a shareable toolkit.

Diversity and Inclusion Commitments

If your organization has adopted a framework or strategic plan for addressing diversity and inclusion in your staffing, programming, audiences, or volunteer bases, come share your ideas with us. We’re curious to know where you’ve been having success and where you’ve been most challenged. We will collect any resources you have developed or have been using to guide your work.

Post-Pandemic Fundraising

At this Table Topic, come exchange tips and recent experiences on what to expect from fundraising events and other in-person cultivation opportunities. What trends do you see continuing into the foreseeable future? What have you noticed is most appreciated by donors today?


Breakout Sessions


Design Education Beyond Four Walls

Presenter: Maya Bird-Murphy, Chicago Mobile Makers

From a custom outfitted delivery truck, Chicago Mobile Makers (CMM) organizes pop-up design workshops and school visits across the Chicago area. Their curriculum offers first-step introductions as well as more advanced classes on topics as varied as community safety, wellbeing, and design fundamentals—all with a larger aim to increase the variety of people entering the field of architecture. And now CMM is poised to unveil its first permanent education space on the city’s West Side. In this session, Maya shares the unique opportunities and everyday procedures needed to effectively market and deliver placed-based youth programming on-the-go. We also explore the partnership possibilities for like-minded architecture organizations to work with groups like CMM.


Finding Excellence in Latin & South America

Dirk Denison, MCHAP Director IIT College of Architecture

Florencia Rodriguez, Founder and Director, Lots of Architecture –publishers and -NESS Magazine
Architecture in the Americas is alive and well. There is a plethora of new and innovative ideas being explored in all corners of the Americas, but especially in Latin and South American regions. However, the importance is not focusing on a specific region, but rather looking at the bigger picture of international cross-cultural dialogue between northern cities and architectural cultures and South America.

In this session, we will consider the state of this global exchange by highlighting some of the most innovative practices working today and investigating the interests of an emerging generation of younger architects. Perfect for public programmers and anyone looking to expand the boundaries of their architectural knowledge.


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