All times are EASTERN STANDARD TIME (GMT -05:00) 

December 3, 2020



Welcome to AAO: New Attendees Networking

If you are new to the field or this is your first time attending this conference, we encourage you to join early and meet some of our long-time members and board leaders. This is a great opportunity to get oriented and ready to make the most of the conference.


Welcome and Opening Remarks



Day One Plenary


The Public's Changing Relationship to Cultural Organizations

Speaker: Arthur Cohen, LaPlaca Cohen / Culture Track

For nearly 20 years now, arts/culture consultant Arthur Cohen has been administering major surveys of audience behaviors, attitudes, motivations, and barriers to cultural participation. The research project is called Culture Track and it is in the process of delivering two special editions entitled Culture + Community in a Time of Crisis. In this address, Arthur shares findings that indicate potential avenues for cultural organizations to address the hopes, fears, and needs of audiences during and following the COVID-19 pandemic. The most recent survey, administered just this fall, delves into issues of social justice including racial representation, technology, attitudes toward re-entry, and social and behavioral attitudes in reopened arts/culture spaces.

Our Changing Relationship to Public Space

Speaker: Helle Lis Søholt, Gehl Architects

In a complementary presentation, Helle Lis Søholt unpacks her own firm’s (Gehl Architects) direct on-the-ground observations at the re-populating, re-use, and re-invention of urban public space amid the pandemic. Sixty surveyors were dispatched to four Danish cities to capture what behavior changes and adaptability might be missed or under-appreciated by high-level surveys and global studies. Like Culture Track, Gehl also produced two rounds of research, last spring and this fall. As architecture organizations are largely in the business of in-person programming, Helle provides insights to the very basic but necessary questions: Will things ever go back to the way they were? And what of today’s experience will become our “new normal?”

Audience Reflection/Q&A: 

What radical transformations will be forced upon our architecture organizations, and what changes will we levy upon ourselves? All conference attendees will join small groups (randomly assigned) to discuss and debate the implications and opportunities put forward in the day’s two keynote addresses.






Networking: Connect with Colleagues

Choose from structured networking arranged by topic, schedule a one-on-one appointment with a fellow conference attendee, or elect to host a small group meet-up.


Notes from the Field: BlackSpace with Alicia Ajayi

Throughout the conference we have welcomed introductory remarks from representatives of young and emerging organizations that are bringing a fresh voice to the field.

Notes from the Field

Alicia Ajayi, BlackSpace

Based in New York City, BlackSpace is challenging all architects, planners, urban designers, artists, and curators of built spaces to unlearn traditional values, so we may realize a present and future where Black people, Black spaces, and Black culture matter and thrive.



Breakout Sessions: Round 1

Attend one of 5 concurrent sessions. (Note: Recordings and/or written recaps of all sessions will be available for registrants after the Conference.)

Glimpsing the 22nd Century Museum

Gregory Wessner, National Academy of Design
Hunter Tura, Syndicate X Design

Spend time with acclaimed design strategy consultant Hunter Tura (former CEO, Bruce Mau Design), as he searches for keys to a risk-taking future for cultural organizations by first examining the radical story of the making of London’s Victoria & Albert Museum—not just the world’s largest repository for designed objects and the applied arts but perhaps the world’s first museum earnestly conceived to serve the needs of a working class audience. Programming innovations abound in the museum’s early years and form an inviting worldview and philosophy that could inspire architecture organizations in the immediate times ahead. The brief V&A case study is a means to an open conversation with session attendees on the demands of organizational leadership and community stewardship.

Crafting Your Docent Modernization Plan

Samantha Nelson, Boston by Foot
Ellen Soloff, Mural Arts Philadelphia

If your organization is critically dependent upon volunteers for handling core parts of its daily operations or programming, and you interact with the volunteers on a regular basis, this session is for you. We will be looking at the challenges faced by architecture tour operators whose docents must be brought into larger organization-wide commitments for strengthening diversity and inclusion and cultural humility. Any quality process of education and training will take time, and we will start here by sharing several helpful resources for identifying best practices. At this session, you will get better connected to your peers from other architecture tour departments and work with AAO staff and members to begin building a support system for information sharing and professional development.

Innovative Fundraising: Proven Success Strategies during COVID

Kristin LaBuz, Open House New York
Jesse Lazar, AIANY/Center for Architecture
Hallie Rosen, Chicago Architecture Center
Lynne Neiman, Chicago Architecture Center
Elyssa Kane, Community Design Collaborative


Organized as a rapid-fire share-out of quick presentations, we will spotlight fundraising successes with transferable lessons for all architecture organizations. Come learn about everything from special events that generate fun to tips for meaningful donor cultivation to successful annual fund messaging—all with the stressful removal of in-person contact from the fundraiser’s toolkit.

Decolonizing Design and Architecture

Shalini Agrawal, California College of the Arts 
Juan Carlos Rodriguez Rivera, California College of the Arts 

What does it mean to decolonize the practices of architecture? As a profession with an inherent relationship to the land, how might we reflect on the legacies of colonization as it relates to its unreconciled impacts today? To begin to dismantle our mindsets, we build an understanding of what “decolonization” entails from the point of view of the land and indigenous communities; introduce indigenous-led practices such as rematriation; identify biases that have maintained systems of dominance over underrepresented and marginalized populations; and explore personal self-reflective practices and strategies to confront untold histories and truths.

Making the Front Door Wider

Kent Martinussen, Danish Architecture Center
Line Nørskov Eriksen, Utzon Center
Marieke de Veer, Tinker Imagineers

Typical visitors to architecture centers delight in studying drawings, models, and the nuances of design. But if an organization's goal is to welcome a wider segment of the population, then we also need to think differently about how we create worlds of wonder through more experiential learning and even 1:1 scale installations. In 2020, the Danish Architecture Center in Copenhagen and the Utzon Center in Aalborg, Denmark each opened new exhibitions with the express goal of welcoming first time visitors. Targeting children, families, and a very broad cultural public, these two exhibits explore themes of everyday life in Denmark: how we live, how we interact with nature, how we raise children, how we move around the city, and, therefore, how architecture is relevant for us all. Hear about the new direction for these institutions from DAC and Utzon Center leadership, along with DAC exhibition design partner, Tinker Imagineers from Utrecht, Holland.



Notes from the Field: Wonne Ickx

Throughout the conference we have welcomed introductory remarks from representatives of young and emerging organizations that are bringing a fresh voice to the field. 

Notes from the Field


LIGA, Space for Architecture is an independent platform founded in Mexico City in 2011 that promotes Latin American architecture through exhibitions, conferences, and workshops. Established by several partners with the design studio PRODUCTORA, LIGA strives to add to the architectural disciplinary debate with a gaze looking towards the South.



Breakout Sessions: Round 2

Attend one of 5 concurrent sessions. (Note: Recordings and/or written recaps of all sessions will be available for registrants after the Conference.)

Get Outside: Adventures in Open-Air Programming

Host: Warren James, Art Omi Architecture

Zoom, GoToMeeting, MS Teams, YouTube, Vimeo, Twitch… the ubiquity of ready-made tools made the switch to online programming all rather straightforward, even if far from perfect. As we battle back from the pandemic in 2021, when will outdoor activities and events take root and what might they look like? Here we assemble a few AAO members for whom outdoor programming is business as usual, and ask them to share their observations about visitor needs and habits and the practical considerations (including budgets) for making outdoor programs work. Attendees are encouraged to come prepared to discuss their own opportunities and concerns.

Navigating Change

Ann Yoachim, Albert and Tina Small Center for Collaborative Design, Tulane University School of Architecture
Anne-Marie Lubenau, Rudy Bruner Award for Urban Excellence
Ceara O'Leary, Detroit Collaborative Design Center

From re-assessing mission and priorities to worrying about meeting operations costs, design organizations across the globe are being asked to react and pivot in real time to address the convergence of a global pandemic, a divisive US presidential election cycle, racial reckoning, and rising nationalism. This session uses brief case studies of the evolution of three design organizations as a jumping off point for a conversation on the power of incremental change as a means for institutional transformation and as an opportunity to network with others focused on the role of design in catalyzing societal change.

The Year of the Virtual Architecture Tour

Michael Wood, Association of Architecture Organizations
Michael Kimmelman, The New York Times

If it has been difficult for you to find encouragement during this tumultuous year, the rising interest and experimentation in virtual tours has been one bright spot in our field. Within weeks of the shelter in place orders, several architecture organizations began to fight the boredom by developing walk-along architecture tours pieced together with mobile phones, stabilizing selfie-sticks, and zoom. In a related effort, New York Times architecture critic Michael Kimmelman published several memorable “city walks” in his column, revisiting iconic stretches of the cityscape and comparing notes with local architects. At this session, come hear about the making of Kimmelman’s column, the reader feedback, and the incredible photography that accompanies the articles. An open discussion follows on the topic of virtual tours and attendees’ plans to improve their offerings in the year ahead.

Using Placemaking to Bring People Together

Michael Monti, Association of Collegiate Schools of Architecture
Michaele Pride, University of New Mexico
Elgin Cleckley, University of Virginia / _mpathic design

Because built and natural environments sit at the intersection of personal identity, history, politics, and numerous other factors, architecture and design organizations have the opportunity to use public programs to bring diverse communities together and heal divisions. This session features two designers experienced in engaging people in design, planning, and change processes. They will discuss strategies for presenting sensitive or divisive issues that use empathy, storytelling, and other design thinking approaches. AAO members working on exhibits, charrettes, webinars, and education programs can find ways to increase their relevance to current and prospective audiences.

Partnering with Architecture Media

Cindy Olnick, Communications Consultant
Anne Surak, Exhibit Columbus
Erin Cullerton, Design Agency Co

The suspension of in-person gatherings during the pandemic in favor of virtual platforms means your next audience member could be located most anywhere. Competing for attention from major architecture media outlets has never been more possible—or more competitive. In this session, we review effective strategies for pursuing partnerships with architecture and design publications as viewed from the perspective of a curator and a communications consultant. Dialogue with the session attendees will follows the opening remarks and case studies, so bring your ideas and questions for some immediate feedback and workshopping.


***Special Bonus Session for Design Educators***

Architecture + Design Education Network (A+DEN) Workshop

Connecting with the Field

Host: Kelly Lyons, Cranbrook Art Museum

John Martoni, Hayward Unified School District
Linda Keane,
Rosa Weinberg, Designer and Educator

Compilation of brief presentations from design educators highlighting their most successful program accomplishment or meaningful impact on students/teachers in this unusual and stressful year. Prefer to make a more personal reflection? That is always welcomed, too! If you are a career educator or new to the field, don’t miss this session—it will keep you inspired for many weeks to come. (Note: Presentations will be organized as a rapid-fire share-out of 7-minute presentations. If you wish to be a presenter, please use this short form. Please direct any questions to



December 4, 2020


Networking: Connect with Colleagues

Choose from structured networking arranged by topic, schedule a one-on-one appointment with a fellow conference attendee, or elect to host a small group meet-up. Receptions currently include:

Career Development and Fellowships

Host: Beth Miller, Loeb Fellow ‘20

Professional development and career advancement in our field can be hard to come by. Ask anyone who's been fortunate enough to experience the Loeb Fellowship at Harvard and you quickly understand why it’s such a special opportunity and a trajectory changer. This information session with long-time AAO member and Loeb Fellow (Class of 2020) Beth Miller is a chance for early and mid-career candidates to learn more about the program and what it takes to be a competitive applicant. 

Design Educators’ Networking Hour

Hosts: John Comazzi, University of Virginia and Kelly Lyons, Cranbrook Art Museum; Architecture + Design Education Network (A+DEN) Co-Chairs

If you’re a veteran of the A+DEN meetings or joining us for the first time, this casual meet-up is your chance to catch up with old friends and make new ones. There’s no agenda for this meeting, just networking and conversation.


Open Networking



Breakout Sessions: Round 3

Attend one of 5 concurrent sessions. (Note: Recordings and/or written recaps of all sessions will be available for registrants after the Conference.)

Curating a Climate Agenda

Ben Prosky, AIA New York / Center for Architecture
Beatrice Galilee, The World Around

Is there a leadership team at an architecture organization anywhere that doesn’t feel they could be doing more to push forward this most critical agenda? Enter curator Beatrice Galilee and the online platform, The World Around, which burst onto the scene last year by celebrating some of the most exciting and creative designers, artists, and thinkers addressing climate and ecology from a mix of perspectives, scales, and media. Here Beatrice shares some insights into her process and penchant for experimentation as the start of an open discussion about risk-taking and quickening the pace of organizational change.

Architectural Tourism Outlook 2021

Lynn Osmond, Chicago Architecture Center
David Whitaker, Choose Chicago

The pandemic has been acutely painful for those architecture organizations reliant on the discretionary income of tourists and cultural consumers. In this session, we review the latest forecasts for domestic and international travel, as well as the overriding concerns of consumers and what can be done about it as we work to re-open our cities. The more information you know about the road ahead, the better you can plan, of course, and in guest speaker David Whitaker we have one of the tourism industry’s most respected executives having held extensive CVB leadership positions from Miami to Toronto to Chicago.

Defining Outcomes in Architecture Exhibitions

Richard McCoy, Exhibit Columbus
Rebecca Johnson, Philadelphia Center for Architecture + Design
Julian Arrington, SmithGroup
Dayton Schroeter, SmithGroup

In an era of major cultural shifts and financial belt tightening, architecture exhibitions are under greater scrutiny to achieve a demonstrable impact. This conversation will explore how architectural exhibition programs are able to shift to respond to these challenges. Panelists will briefly explain their recent work to engage their local communities, followed by an open discussion about the roles for architecture at the moment and in the near future, with an emphasis on equity and climate change.

Partnering for Impact

Nathan Dennies, Baltimore Architecture Foundation
Benjamin O'Connor, New London Architecture
Grace Simmonds, New London Architecture
Stacey Anderson, Van Alen Institute
Katherine Sacco, Urban Design Forum

For some architecture organizations the pandemic brought about the perfect conditions to pursue partnerships they had never before imagined. In this round-up of ideas from the field, we look at partnerships that brought about newfound relevance, newfound community reach, and/or newfound revenue.

A Virtual Summer of Learning by Design

Alan Sandler, Architectural Foundation of San Francisco 
Will Fowler, Architectural Foundation of San Francisco 

Ryan Lee, Architectural Foundation of San Francisco 

With the coming of the pandemic, the Architectural Foundation of San Francisco moved its high school education programs completely online, using standard online meetings software to make the virtual learning possible. The results were gratifying. AFSF administered three different student sections online, in which over 80 youth from across the nation received individual instruction from a credentialed teacher, then worked collaboratively in teams using professional design tools to solve a variety of real world challenges—one project called for the redesign of the city’s prominent Civic Plaza while taking into account allowances for social protest, community ownership, and social distancing. Each of the three programs finished with the young people presenting their ideas to a panel of adult professionals for a critique in a virtual meeting space to great acclaim. This session will explore lessons learned from the summer, including the transferability of project-based learning to a virtual classroom, along with practical observations on ways to incorporate design software in parallel with more analog design thinking exercises.


Day Two Plenary

Design as Politics

Wouter Vanstiphout, Crimson Historians & Urbanists

Once described as a “historian of the present,” critic, designer, and academic Wouter Vanstiphout traces global society’s street protest movement from the 1960s to present. In doing so, he calls our attention not just to the clear lines connecting urban development and citizen discontent, but to the political value ascribed to design by us all, including the makers of architecture culture itself. Ultimately, Wouter helps us consider headlong the role, responsibility, and liability of architects and the forces that shape our cities.

Designing Platforms for Inclusion

Pascale Sablan, Beyond the Built Environment / S9Architecture

Recently named President-Elect for the National Organization of Minority Architects, Pascale Sablan is the 315th living Black female architect in the US to attain her professional license. Across a number of platforms and professional positions, she works to strengthen the role of architects in community life, combating elitism and racism with an infectious gift for inclusion through empowerment. In this talk, Pascale advances several pragmatic and effective opportunities for architecture organizations to address erasure and bolster diverse representation in the architecture field.

Audience Reflection/Q&A

What radical transformations must architecture organizations help to secure for society, and how? All conference attendees will join small groups (randomly assigned) to discuss and debate the implications and opportunities put forward in the day’s two keynote addresses.





Afternoon Workshop Sessions

Attend one of 2 concurrent sessions. (Note: Recordings and/or written recaps of all sessions will be available for registrants after the Conference.)

Building a Global Platform for the 2021 Chicago Architecture Biennial

Rachel Kaplan, Chicago Architecture Biennial Interim Director
David Brown, University of Illinois at Chicago / 
2021 Chicago Architecture Biennial Artistic Director

The concept and title for the 2021 Chicago Architecture Biennial, "The Available City," will consider the impact collective space can have in cities today. Through a reinvented and responsive global platform, the Biennial will create opportunities for conversations about the intersection of architecture and design and such critical issues as health, sustainability, equity, and racial justice. This fourth edition of the Biennial (opening September 2021) will feature free public programming at sites in neighborhoods across Chicago and on digital platforms. At this workshop, learn more about the research project underpinning the 2021 Biennial, as well as potential opportunities for architecture organizations to contribute to the program.

Reimagine America’s Schools: Designing a Learning Community

Ron Bogle, National Design Alliance / Reimagine America's Schools 
Emily Czarnecki, JCJ Architecture
Joshua Lee, Carnegie Mellon University
Sarah Weissman Dirsa, KG+D Architects
Kerry Leonard, Reimagine America’s Schools

The pandemic is changing the future of public education and therefore the way we design the places we learn.  Reimagine Americas’ Schools has been looking at four issues that will drive change and how that will affect the future of learning and design. Those drivers are equity, technology, active learning, and crisis preparedness.

We’ve looked at real world application of these drivers and organized an initiative to guide 16 organizations and agencies in western Pennsylvania in the design of a variety of small budget learning environments that support community-based learning centers, including STEM, STEAM, Maker Learning, and other active learning initiatives. Also underscored with this initiative is the importance of the connection between educators, students, and designers in creating spaces for today’s learners. We celebrate these achievements and look for the lessons to be learned from these active and engaging learning spaces on a limited budget.



Event Wrap-Up: AAO & You in the Year Ahead

Join us for this final opportunity to connect with colleagues and reflect on insights gathered during our two days together. We'll also take a look ahead at the structure for AAO's 2021 public events, webinar series, and mentorship program, highlighting ways you or your organization can get involved in the planning of these collaborative programs, promote your own programming, and make the most of the AAO Network in the coming year.


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