Practicing ArchitecturePracticing Architecture
Take Five: Choosing Architecture, Again
By Robert Ivy, FAIA
We architects have a wellspring of inspiration in the architecture that surrounds us. From time to time, we leave our routine surroundings and seek it out, as a way of recharging our batteries and reminding us why we chose the profession. Happily, our AIA is often the vehicle leading us back to the sources of our vocation. Architecture and the AIA fulfilled this need for architects who gathered across the Atlantic this past month. Our experiences overseas can serve as idea-generators for you and your own chapter at home. No secret: The key there, and here, is architecture.
On April 19-21, in Lyon, France, AIA Continental Europe provided a rich offering of architectural inspiration that drew an audience of devotees, who gathered to enjoy each other’s company from as far afield as Hawaii and Istanbul. Francoise Vonier, who happens to be the wife of International regional director Thomas Vonier, FAIA, organized a Gallic tour and tour-de-force, allowing us to encounter several of the continent’s most substantive and enriching projects together with the architects responsible for them. These living classrooms (because that’s what they were) also counted for continuing education credit. President Mickey Jacob, FAIA, and I, racked them up.
As an example, the group welcomed Paul Vincent, the Paris-based architectural partner of AIA Gold Medalist Renzo Piano, who spent a half-day discussing and explicating one of Europe’s largest and most impressive mixed-use developments, the Cite International. Throughout the course of a full morning, he described the planning, context, and decision making for the overall project, then led the group of assembled architects on an exhaustive tour of the facilities, demonstrating how large plans had been resolved, down to the level of the smallest detail. Had you wished, you could not have enjoyed a more comprehensive architectural demonstration for any amount of money. And the architects, (this one included), loved it.
President Jacob and I subsequently traveled to London, where we met members with AIA UK, and experienced a very different dynamic. This established organization operates more like a traditional chapter, its presence augmented in importance by its international locale for U.S.-connected AIA architects. Mickey and I were gratified by the level of interest in the AIA Repositioning initiative. Our wide-ranging conversation proved how a relevant 21st century AIA is a necessity everywhere AIA members gather. Later, we joined a crowd for a reception at the offices of KPF, and then participated in their annual design awards. Imagine the sight: a milling throng, youngish, tie-less, that settled in as the sun set around the UK’s largest metropolis, atop a refreshing example of contemporary architecture—London City Hall, designed by AIA Gold Medalist Lord Norman Foster. Sir Nicholas Grimshaw, unstuffy and a great designer, did the honors as head juror, in a relaxed way.
In addition to the protocol of welcoming, discussing, and learning from European leaders, architects, and planners, which President Jacobs did each day, we held working sessions with the Royal Institute of British Architects, including with their current (Angela Brady, Hon. AIA) and incoming president, as well as their CEO. Through it all, we acted as you would--drinking in the architecture, from the Renaissance riches of Lyon to British hi-tech wonders. We love architecture; it consistently energizes us, and, like you, reaffirms why we choose it every day. In settings like our European chapters, or in the Midwestern United States, our AIA directs us toward each other and to architecture’s inspirational best, whether constructed on this continent or across the pond.