2020 Design Matters Conference

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2020 Design Matters Conference: RADICAL TRANSFORMATION
December 3-4, 2020


This year has been a time of great rupture and change. While society at large wrestles with a new normal, cultural institutions are in a fight to stay afloat. Architecture organizations are needing to respond to massive internal and external pressures, and, through it all, still drive critical community impact--whether that means staying the course or radically rethinking one's mission.

The Design Matters Conference - the only annual gathering specifically for organizations devoted to inspiring public dialogue about architecture and urbanism - gives attendees an expanded set of ideas and professional contacts in order to better contextualize their work in this new world.

View the Conference Schedule here.


Dear Friends and Colleagues:

Thank you very much for joining us last week for the virtual Design Matters Conference. This was our largest gathering to date, drawing 250 registrants from dozens of US States and 10 countries. As I mentioned at the meeting, it was particularly encouraging to see attendees joining the discussion from positions throughout their organizations, entry-level to executives. Under difficult circumstances we came together to inspire one another and to share insights. Of course, the learning should not stop; for those who attended, your wrap-up email contains links to a video archive of all conference sessions.

At the Conference wrap-up session, we spoke about 2021, and issued a call for interested members to join one of several new committees and initiatives. We will, of course, continue to convene our long-standing affinity groups by discipline, but we are now also putting together a Program Committee to steer a year-round schedule of public discussions and events. Please see this Google Form for more details and to express your interest—whether you are early in your career or a leading voice in our field, there are several opportunities to get involved. All efforts will include members at large as well as current representatives of the AAO Board of Directors. (And, if you’re not a member, please learn more.)

In terms of more immediate actions, AAO encourages all organizations who routinely produce broad reaching print or digital communications to consider taking up the Say it With MEdia challenge this coming year; and consider bringing Say it LOUD to your community, too. There is nothing stopping you.

Finally, and by no means last, thank you to the good people at the Graham Foundation and the National Endowment for the Arts for their support of this convening, and to the speakers and attendees who brought us all together. Happy Holidays, everyone, and see you soon. Stay safe!

- Michael Wood, AAO Executive Director