Thursday, November 7

On Conference Day One, we consider the evolution of our field and the type of leadership needed to take us forward. In the afternoon, we explore the Chicago Architecture Biennial exhibition.


Registration Opens at the Chicago Architecture Center

9:00am – 10:00am

Looking Forward/
Looking Back

Damon Rich, Designer and Urban Planner

Sarah Herda (moderator), Curator; AAO Board Member
We start the day in conversation with a leader who was a featured speaker at the very first AAO conference a decade ago. MacArthur Genius Damon Rich founded the Center for Urban Pedagogy (CUP), one of the defining organizations of our field. After developing a roster of public engagement programs and successfully passing on the reigns to CUP’s current leadership team, Damon co-founded the independent design studio Hector in order to expand the reach of his practice and invent new ways forward for building community. In this session, we’ll discuss how our field has evolved for the past ten years and what is needed to keep us growing into the future. We also look at the varied career paths now open to those committed to public engagement.

10:00am – 11:00am

Meet the New Boss!

Stephanie Whitlock, Architectural Heritage Center

Maria Nicanor, Rice Design Alliance

Ben Prosky (moderator), AIA New York/Center for Architecture; AAO Board Member
In a 2016 survey, one-third of AAO member organizations reported anticipating a change in their top executive leadership position within the next five years. Here we join in conversation with a few recently appointed directors, and learn what new visions they bring to their jobs. Panelists will explore the major opportunities and challenges to keeping their organizations vital in their local communities and their staff and boards engaged.

11:00am – 12:00pm

Conference Round Tables

We cap off the morning with facilitated group discussions among the Conference attendees. Here is your chance to go deeper into conversation with our morning’s guest speakers, as they will ask you to share the biggest changes facing your own organization. Groups will be themed by various topics that arise during the morning talks, so you’ll have every opportunity to follow your own area of interest.

12:00pm – 1:30pm

Lunch Break

1:30pm – 2:15pm

Catalyzing Activism:
A Conversation with Chicago Architecture Biennial Artistic Director Yesomi Umolu

Yesomi Umolu, 2019 Chicago Architecture Biennial Artistic Director; Director and Curator, Logan Center Exhibitions at the Reva and David Logan Center for the Arts, University of Chicago
The third edition of the Chicago Architecture Biennial, “…and other such stories,” invites design practitioners to address social, geopolitical, and ecological processes that inform both how we think about and experience architecture and the built environment. Organized around a set of themes exploring land and commodity, memory and place, rights and contested spaces, this year’s edition of the Biennial is big, bold, and experimental. Born in Lagos, raised in the United Kingdom, and now based at the University of Chicago, curator Yesomi Umolu will provide us with an inside look at the process of delivering a Biennial fit for public dialogue and the insights she learned about communicating architecture.

2:15pm – 3:30pm

Free Time to Explore the Biennial Exhibition

Billed as the largest international survey of contemporary architecture in North America, the Chicago Architecture Biennial exhibition takes over the entirety of the Chicago Cultural Center—an ornate Beaux Arts building (Shepley, Rutan & Coolidge, 1897) that once served as the city’s central library. Stroll the galleries and large-scale installations over multiple floors and take in the perspectives of designers culled from all across the world.

3:00pm – 4:20pm

Member Shorts:
Take This Idea!

Mary-Margaret Zindren, AIA Minnesota

Angela Kyle, PlayBuild NOLA

Cathi Schar, University of Hawai’i Community Design Center

Ashley Andrykovitch, Fallingwater

A curated selection of rapid talks from AAO members are highlighted in this final session of the day. From the working title “Take this Idea!” our speakers will dispense practical advice and share their “a-ha” moments in fundraising, strategic planning, program development, and identifying local partners to champion your organization.

4:30pm – 6:00pm

Happy Hour:
Adrian Smith + Gordon Gill Architecture

Designing tall buildings is a professional sport in Chicago. So, come have a drink with the team at Adrian Smith + Gordon Gill, the visionaries behind Jeddah Tower—soon to claim the title world’s tallest. Their meticulously restored office is located in the famed Inland Steel Building (SOM, 1958), a pioneer of the “open floor plan” and the first skyscraper built in Chicago’s Loop after World War II.

6:00pm – 8:00pm

Public Lecture:
Tatiana Bilbao

To reserve your spot, please contact Hallie Rosen at
The Art Institute of Chicago presents the signature lecture of the 2019 Chicago Architecture Biennial when it welcomes acclaimed architect Tatiana Bilbao. Advance registration required.