From the President's Desk|

From the President’s Desk

Why Design Excellence Matters: Reflections on Design Excellence and the Legacy of the Monterey Design Conference

By Rona Rothenberg, FAIA – 2022 AIA California President

You cannot defend your design without knowing what you’re designing for. 

I.M. Pei, FAIA

Among our diverse and broad personal and professional backgrounds, paths, and subject matter expertise, we also likely vary in our opinions and attitudes of what defines excellence in design across its multiple interdisciplinary aspects and practices.  

I know that for me, as a professional focused on institutional program and project management and delivery in government and industry, design excellence is very much consistent with the “Guiding Principles for Federal Architecture,” first defined by Senator Daniel Moynihan in 1962 and embodied in the GSA’s world class program. Those principles in summary include:

“. . . designs that embody the finest of contemporary . . . thought . . . “
“. . . designs (which) adhere to sound construction practice and utilize materials, methods and equipment of proven dependability . . . “
“ . . . Buildings (which are) economical to build, operate and maintain . . . and (are) accessible to [people with health conditions] . . . “

We as fellow presidents all agree that design excellence matters . . . and why.
Tian Feng, FAIA, FCSI California Architects Board President, Scott Gaudineer, AIA AIACA 2023 President Elect and Rona Rothenberg at the AIACA-CAB Joint Meeting July, 2022

The AIA Framework for Design Excellence also encompasses these types of goals and objectives for relevant, resilient, lasting and indeed, excellent architecture in every sense.

From the first official conference in 1980, the Monterey Design Conference has focused on design excellence in every sense.  From its inception in 1979 to the 2022 conference to be held in a few short weeks, the dedicated and generous thinking and planning of the conference who participate has been and continues to be a compendium of the best and brightest in architecture and architectural thinking, the “who’s who” so to speak of the architecture world. 

The conference, held every two years at the wonderful Asilomar Conference Center at Pacific Grove, California near Monterey, designed by Julia Morgan and completed from 1913-1929, gathers the best and the brightest in architectural design and thinking from all over the world to share ideas and real building projects. Attendees come back year after year for new inspiration.

2019 AIA California President Benjamin Kasdan AIA takes a selfie from the MDC stage.

The conference seeks to stretch and inspire our experiences, expectations and ideas about what design excellence can be and is.  In the unique natural location and within its historic and significant buildings, the conference has been described as “designed by designers for designers.”  The mix of headliner presentations by established design leaders as well as new and emerging talents and the collaborative tone and atmosphere and setting facilitates collegial interaction among new and existing teams and attendees are described beautifully here.  

At some point in our long work lives, we should all have the benefit and privilege of participating, planning, presenting or simply attending a design conference like MDC.  The hopeful spirit and engaging quality content of the conference is a gift to all of us from our profession, reminding us of the value of our training and work across our varied paths, personal interests and disciplinary focuses.   We owe a huge debt of gratitude to AIA California and to its leadership over these many years, and to the generous dedication of the conference teams, for doing it and bringing it to us and future generations of architectural professionals who strive for excellence in their work.

The grounds at Asilomar foster an informal atmosphere at MDC. Individuals, small groups and large connect. Here, Marsha Maytum, FAIA, leads a small group discussion.

AIA California
AIA California
Celebrating over 75 years of service, the AIA California actively promotes the value of design and advocates for the architectural profession. AIA CA is an association of 11,000 dedicated and passionate members who share a commitment to design excellence and livability in California’s natural and built environments.

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