While the world may have faced serious problems over the last 10 years, that period has been a great one for architecture due to innovations in building components and systems, a digital revolution that has profoundly affected building design and a demand for distinctive architecture in emerging countries. Those were some of the conclusions of architects who spoke at the New Jersey Chapter of the American Institute of Architects' (AIA-NJ) annual 2008 Design Conference held recently at Ocean Grove, N.J.'s historic Great Auditorium.
More than 400 architects attended the event, which featured such luminaries as Enrique Norten, Hon FAIA, whose cutting edge work is based on an in-depth exploration of the issues impacting the proposed building; Hugh Newell Jacobsen, FAIA, the renowned modernist who has developed his own architectural vocabulary based upon reinterpretation of American vernacular architectural elements; Rafael Pelli, AIA, son of Cesar Pelli, FAIA, who discussed new trends affecting design and the practice of architecture; and Robert Ivy, FAIA, editor-in-chief of Architectural Record magazine.
"The extraordinary attendance at this year's event demonstrates the interest of our membership in hearing the leaders of their profession address emerging issues affecting the practice of architecture," said Seth Leeb, president of AIA-NJ. "We are pleased to have had four of architecture's most creative and innovative leaders speak at our annual program."
The daylong event led off with an address by Ivy, whose topic, "Where In the World Is Architecture: Observation of Design Trends," dealt with global trends in architecture. Using slides to make his point, Ivy discussed how, after a decade of drought through the 1990s, architecture took off in the late 1990s, launching an explosion of ideas around the world, and especially in areas of emerging growth, such as the China and the Middle East.
Noting that architecture can force people to think in different ways, he called upon architects to adapt regional and vernacular forms to contemporary needs; to rethink the functions of traditional structures, such as department stores and libraries; and to adapt traditional typologies to other uses. Such new approaches have the potential to reinvigorate our urban areas, and change the way people live, he said.
As the world's population grows, land becomes scarcer and high fuel prices affect the way we get around, architects will increasingly be called upon to set new directions for development, he said, adding that "the small actions we take can create profound changes."
Extrapolating on Ivy's idea of adapting vernacular forms to contemporary needs, Jacobsen talked about how his work takes the traditional vocabulary of the American homestead -- a structure with four walls and a 45-degree gabled roof not unlike a child's drawing of a house, and a type of architecture found throughout the world -- and reinterpreted it for his elegant modern homes composed of connected pavilions that repeat the traditional form. Jacobsen has received numerous awards for excellence in house design.
In a similar vein, Pelli, the directing partner of Pelli Clarke Pelli Architects' New York office, talked about sustainable buildings representing the next generation in architecture, and how the demand for sustainable features is forcing architects to rethink even such basic aspects of design as the walls, given the walls' importance in retaining heat. Pelli showed slides of his firm's work, including Solaire, a high-rise apartment building in Battery Park City in Manhattan that has achieved significant milestones in sustainable design.
The conference concluded with an address by Norton, the founder of TEN Arquitectos, who spoke about architecture for the global city, especially New York and Mexico City, where his offices are located, and which he described as being similar in terms of size, density and degree of congestion. In particular, he talked about five projects around the globe that reflect the future in various ways: by combining old and new, by incorporating sustainable elements and by integrating structures with their environments in unique ways.
An example of the latter is the "Vision for the College Avenue Campus" project at the College Avenue Campus of Rutgers University in New Brunswick, N. J., for which Norton's firm was selected in 2006. The goal of the project is to integrate the College Avenue Campus with Rutgers' other campuses, the City of New Brunswick and the Raritan River waterfront through a master plan. The aim of the plan is to create a vital sense of place, as well as to serve as a framework for future growth.
In addition to the program of speakers, the annual event also featured the announcement of the winners of AIA-NJ's 2008 Design Awards Program, which brings public and professional recognition to architectural projects that exhibit design excellence. Nine projects won in the built and un-built categories. In addition, merit awards were presented in the preservation and design-build categories. A formal awards gala will be held at the Liberty House in Jersey City, N.J., in January to recognize the winners.
Winners included ARO, New York; N.Y.; MJ Sagan Architecture, Princeton, N.J.; ikon.5 Architects, Princeton, N.J.; Ricci Greene Associates, New York, N.Y.; Michael Ryan Architects, Loveladies, N.J.; RMJM Hillier, Princeton. N.J.; David Yum Architects, New York, N.Y.; Tarantino Architect, Millstone, N.J.; and (jointly) Hall Construction, Howell, N.J., and Stantec, New York, N.Y.
About AIA and AIA New Jersey
The American Institute of Architects (AIA) is the professional organization that helps architects serve the public's needs and builds awareness of the role of architects and architecture in American society. The organization, which was founded in 1857, celebrated its 150th anniversary in 2007. Headquartered in Washington, D.C., its 300 plus local chapters represent 83,000 licensed architects and associated professionals. AIA New Jersey, based in Trenton, is the state and regional chapter of the national AIA. In 2000, AIA-NJ celebrated its 100th anniversary. AIA New Jersey has about 2,000 members in six regional sections. For more information, please visit www.aia-nj.org.