AIA Conference on Architecture 2022: A Debrief

Two Finegold Alexander colleagues reflect on this year’s much-anticipated industry event

Photograph of Chicago skyline taken by Tony Hsiao from the Glass Ledge at the 103rd floor Skydeck of the Willis Tower

A few weeks ago, three Finegold Alexander Architects colleagues went jet-setting to Chicago, IL for the 2022 American Institute of Architecture (AIA) Conference on Architecture! President and Principal Rebecca Berry, AIA, LEED AP, Principal and Director of Design Tony Hsiao, AIA, LEED AP, and Architect Gabriela Baierle, AIA, NOMA, LEED AP BD+C celebrated with industry colleagues, near and far. Most notably, Gabi was officially recognized for her receipt of the AIA Young Architect Award 2020 along with her peers! We sat down with Gabi and Tony to learn more about their time in Chicago and the impact of the 2022 AIA Conference.

Q: Could you share some expectations or things that you were looking forward to at this year’s conference?

Gabi: I was looking forward to the Mini MBA: Mastering the Business of Architecture for Emerging Professional session, described as a 2.5-3 hour session focusing around the business, firm perspective approach in architecture. Additionally, I was also excited for Pascale Sablan, FAIA’s session, who is President-Elect of the National Organization of Minority Architects and Architectural League 2021 Emerging Voices Award and the 2021 AIA Whitney M. Young. Jr Award recipient. I am so impressed by her immense portfolio of work around advocacy for promoting diversity in the field of architecture. Finally, due to my work with the College of Fellows as editor of their newsletter, I got to attend some great events as an affiliate of the organization.

Q: That’s great! Also, how was getting to finally celebrate your 2020 AIA Young Architect Award with peers in your class?

Gabi: Though I was a bit unsure of what to expect, it was nice being able to reunite with some past colleagues, as well as being able to meet some new people in my class.

Above left: Gabi is recognized with her peers; Above right: Gabi is seen, second person from the left
Q: Can you share something you learned or a key takeaway from the conference?

Tony: A theme discussed throughout the conference that resonated with me was the efforts to make the industry, and our own firms, more diverse and inclusive to current and future designers and architects of minority backgrounds. There was dialogue around thinking about things on a more macro-scale in the sense of recognizing systemic hurdles and considering ways to combat the inequalities. It doesn’t matter how big or small your own personal firm is, you can make a direct impact that encourages and promotes diversity. Whether it be in your own staffing, or the range of projects you work on, it is important to address these complex challenges, acknowledging the unlevel playing field people of different backgrounds have at an early age.  

Gabi: The Chief Economist of the AIA presented on foreseen challenges in the industry for the near future which I felt was interesting to learn about. Of course, we’re seeing challenges that aren’t industry-specific, including staffing needs, higher expenses and market shortages, but also more that will directly impact our work that will push us to be more innovative. For example, we can expect to see some changes in policy regarding sustainability and other important places that we could be falling short in the present day.

Q: What word would you use to describe this year’s conference?

Tony: Inspiring

Gabi: Energizing

Above left: Tony is seen in Chicago; Above right: An outdoor venue at the AIA Conference on Architecture 2022