With more than 200 seminars, 90 tours, 800 exhibitors and 80 events, attendees of the 2014 American Institute of Architects annual convention were spoiled for choice. The convention sprawled over several sections of McCormick Place on the lakefront of Chicago's near south side. With its international reputation as a Mecca for exceptional architecture representing nearly every tradition from the 1800s to the present, Chicago proved to be the ideal host city for the convention.
Among the highlights of the AIA convention were keynote presentations from local starchitect Jeanne Gang, designer of the acclaimed Aqua skyscraper, Chicago-based artist Theaster Gates, founder of Rebuild Foundation and Zappos CEO Tony Hsieh. The main sessions of the AIA convention took place from Thursday June 26 through Saturday June 28. Several half-day and full-day pre-convention conferences and workshops also took place at McCormick Place on Wednesday June 25.
Educational seminars and workshops covered nearly every aspect of architecture, from materials choice to the business of running a small firm. The sprawling Expo floor featured an array of displays, ranging from external building materials to interior fabrics. Attendees could also earn Learning Units (LUs) by conducting one-on-one Expo Chat sessions with designated exhibitors on the Expo floor. Live interviews with industry experts also took place on the Expo broadcast stage.
The AIA convention wasn't all work and no play, however. Convention attendees could also participate in walking tours, bus and boat tours conducted by docents from the Chicago Architecture Foundation and other architecture-related events offsite. One particularly popular spectacle on the Expo floor took place at the YKK AP booth on Thursday June 26, where a reprise of the popular "I Am an Architect" video had its premiere, featuring architectural firm partners "Brady" and "Mosby," who starred in the original video. On Friday June 27, "The Party" provided an opportunity for convention attendees to mix and mingle. A behind-the-scenes tour of McCormick Place on Saturday June 28 was another popular event.
Attendees who wanted to get an early jump on next year's convention were able to pre-book hotel rooms in the 2015 host city right on site. The 2015 AIA annual convention is scheduled from May 14 to May 16 in Atlanta, Georgia. The host venue for the convention will be the Georgia World Congress Center, located in the heart of Atlanta.