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Experiences: A Chapter Vice-President Discusses How an Architecture Festival Can Change the Perception of a City

About David Burkett, AIA: Mr. Burkett is the Modesto International Architecture Festival, Festival Director and is a Board member of the Modesto Art Museum. Mr. Burkett has appeared in media channels to promote the festival, including, The Modesto Bee, and a Spirit of Space visual promotion about the festival.

Mr. Burkett is the AIA Sierra Valley Vice-President, and is one of the AIA’s Repositioning Ambassadors.

What inspired you to become involved with the Modesto International Architecture Festival?

I became involved with it six years ago for two primary reasons. First, it interested me as an architect. It was originally a one-day film festival, and the films shown were those you would see at architecture schools.

Also, during that time Forbes Magazine listed Modesto as the #1 Least Livable City. As this was where I lived and worked, I was inspired to respond in the way I knew how as an architect.

Barret Lipomi, AIA, and I decided to take on the festival to heighten public awareness of the value of architecture and to change the perception of Modesto.

What changes have you seen in the Modesto community as a result of the festival?

We enlightened some residents of Modesto who have lived here their whole lives. For instance, we have building tours such as “Modernism in Modesto” which covers buildings from 1937-1972. One attendee on the tour said, “You have a building on your pamphlet, and that building does not exist.” That building was our next building, and he said, “I can’t believe that building is here.”

We also created two guides for the festival: the Modernism guide and we have an Architecture Pathway guides for the festival.

Could you speak to how the community becomes involved in the festival?

We have been approached by organizations and individuals in the community such as poets, painters and business owners – all excited to participate in the festival. Other community involvement includes participation in worldwide PARK(ing) Day and a children’s architecture and design workshop.

What are other ways does the festival engages the community?

We teamed up with the Modesto Art Museum and created a restoration project of an old gas station. Bob Barzan, Executive Director of the Museum, suggested a wonderful 1950’s Art Deco building. I thought that the project could be more than painting a building, and we let the final restoration product be the art. We decided to get the community involved. Local contractors donated time and materials, the public helped paint the building and we engaged the local design community by soliciting paint schemes through a competition. Prior the restoration, it was tagged with graffiti, but since we’ve cleaned it up and painted it – no one has touched it.

Please describe a couple of the festival’s programs?

The festival has taken over parking spaces. We feed the meters and reuse the parking spaces for the day as a green space.

Once we created a 10’ x 20’ space in front of a café. The owner said that day was the highlight of the year, and it was his best day for business. That type of feedback gets you thinking about different ways of using the space.

Another program is the Architecture Café which is modeled after a Philosophy Café. There is a keynote speaker who talks for about 15 minutes and then it becomes a bit of a roundtable. There will also be workshops provided by Lori Garcia, an award winning architectural historian and another with noted architecture photographer and writer, Russell Abraham. Attendees are encouraged to grab a cup of coffee and become part of the conversation.

What are some ways that the AIA Sierra Valley has become involved?

Being a member of AIA Sierra Valley has helped tremendously as well as being involved with AIA California Council. We are a small and unstaffed chapter, and we inspired and supported each other.

The AIA Sierra Valley will display our design awards during the festival. The design awards will be shown during the time of the monthly Modesto art walk. A new feature of this festival is that we are including a new design awards category. It will be a people’s choice award designed to engage the viewer about what they are seeing and why they like it.



Modesto International
Architecture Festival
September 14-22, 2013

The mission of the Modesto
International Architecture
Festival is to celebrate
architecture and the
architectural profession as both
an art and a science, and to
heighten public awareness of
architecture and the value of

Modesto International Architecture Festival home page

Modesto International
Architecture Fesival


Modesto Art Museum

We organize and host a variety
of enjoyable and stimulating
events and activities that
present visual arts to the
people of Modesto.

404 Patrick Lane
Modesto, CA 95350


AIA Sierra Valley

P.O. Box 1114
Modesto, California 95354


Member Spotlight

David Burkett, AIA
Pratt Architecture
1207 13th Street
Suite 6
Modesto, CA 95354

Phone: 209-248-7028


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