January 28, 2022

Missed out on this year’s FORUM Conference? Trust us, it was amazing. No worries though, we’re here to recap it all for you! Be on the lookout for recordings of the sessions, which will be up on the website soon! So, what happened at FORUM: Converge? Here we go…


Day One 


Forum has always been one of our favorite events of the year and something that many students look forward to after Grassroots. It is also one of the largest gatherings of architecture students where members have the opportunity to network and create lifelong friendships. 


Education & Career Expo

Speaking of networking, to kick off the forum conference this year all AIAS members were able to attend the Education and Career Expo and meet with many architecture firms, organizations, and universities to learn about what they do and how they impact the community.


General Session with Dissent Track Keynotes Germane Barnes and Cruz Garcia, Sponsored by Gensler

It isn’t often that you go to a conference and leave the first general session absolutely speechless. The first keynotes of FORUM, Germane Barnes and Cruz Garcia, opened up the floor to some extremely difficult conversations and the response from members was overwhelming. Rysa Braganza, Chapter President of X University formerly known as Ryerson said she “Loved the keynote presentations by Cruz and Germane, and the really honest conversations that came from that discussion”. Here are a couple more rave reviews from attendees:

The dissent keynote was phenomenal!!!! It was a truly informative as well as fun session also loved getting to know all the chapters! conferences are the best opportunity to meet new people. – Julia Andor, New York Institute of Technology


My favorite part of FORUM this year had to be the dissent keynote session! Hearing from Cruz and Germane was a thrilling experience and something I won’t forget anytime soon!! I love seeing the AIAS embrace abolitionist and new views of the architecture field! – Colt Brock, Georgia Tech

Day Two


Day Two started with session speakers from all three of our tracks:



How Co-Designing with Children and Youth Leads to More Sustainable and Equitable Communities for All, with Mara Minzter

Sometimes as adults we wish, “wow, it would be so nice to be a kid again”, well, as architects, you can have the opportunity to design for children. Mara Mintzer explores what it is like to design spaces for children and youth which are sustainable, equitable, beautiful, and playful. Children make up one quarter of the United States population and we discusses how important it is to allow children to have a say in the shape and form of their communities. We got to explore new tools and different methods of outreach to learn how to interact with children when it comes to designing the spaces which they inhabit and will continue to inhabit in the future. 



Innovation in Informal Settlements: Making Visible the Most Common Form, with Jose Jaime Samper Escobbar

The Sustainability track which was lead by speaker Jose Jaime Samper Escoberr examined the informal settlements (or what some refer to as slums). In her presentation they spoke about what the future for these urban environments may look like, as we face a future in which up to three-billion people will be located in these environments. The problem with this future though, is that we don’t have as much visibility in these specific communities. Through these communities we may see innovations and new practices, but we will not be aware of these changes due to a lack of visibilization in these spaces.OF URBANIZATION OF THE PLANET.



Diversity Data: Identifying Challenges to and Opportunities for Real Solutions with Jared Zurn and Andy McIntyre, NCARB

Our dissent track focused on addressing the issues of diversity, equity, inclusion, and injustice in the architectural profession. NCARB led this track and dove into the data that they gathered with NOMA to show how the profession is actually affected by the challenges within these topics. This track was extremely insightful as we were able to see raw data from the join NCARB/NOMA Baseline on Belonging survey as well as other data sources. This really emphasized the importance of firm culture, access to architectural education, and career opportunities. Students were able to share with their peers some ways that they believe we can make a more diverse, equitable, and inclusive profession.


The Return of FBD, with Marwa Al-Saqqar, Tristan Osorio, Michelle Tapia, and Christina Achkar

Back at Grassroots 2021, students had the opportunity to attend a training event for Freedom By Design (FBD). But the FBD is back and better than ever at this year’s Forum with another session. This session dove deeper into the ideas and themes that were brought up by members in the FBD at the past training session. FBD is evolving, and Marwa Al- Saqqar, Tristan Osorio, Michelle Tapia, and Christina Achkar are at the forefront of this evolution with the rest of the members of the FBDAC. This was a great place to get new resources from the Freedom by Design Advisory Committee, such as the new FBD Manual and a presentation of existing FBD projects.


Color Theory, with Christine Handy and Marry Hoffman, Benjamin Moore

What is color theory? The best thing on earth… Duh… Colors have the ability to change the feeling of a room or better yet make a room feel big or small depending on the brightness and hue of the color that’s used. Have you ever heard about a tetrachromatic test? This can be used to test a person’s ability to pick up on subtle color hues variations. If you are interested in taking this test, go here. Color theory is incredibly useful in design but is not always taught in architecture school. As designers, understanding how even the smallest things, such as a splash of color, can affect and make the biggest difference and change the context of a space. With design trends shifting away from the greyscale minimalism into the bright, multi-colorful maximalism, we see color theory being used, consciously or unconsciously, more and more everyday. 


Arhitgesture Jam – Art of Urban Sketching, with Hsu-Jen Huang

Archigesture was hosted by AIAS Conference all-star, Hsu-Jen Huang, who is a professor at the Savannah College of Art and Design and hosted quite a few sketching tours at our in person conferences in the past. The virtual world did not hold Hsu-Jen back! Armed with our favorite pens and a sketchbook, Hsu-Jen took us on a virtual tour around the world, stopped at iconic moments, discussing drawing theory, proportions, and techniques. He demonstrated quite a few techniques for us first before it was our turn! Everyone had a great time drawing and sharing their work for feedback. The workshop was light-hearted and fun, and I think we all left with some new skills and a long list of drawing tools and pen brands to try!



Wood Urbanism: The Role of Mass Timber Design, with Daniel Ibanez

Daniel Ibanez discussed the revolution of “urbanism” and its relationship to the natural environment through the lens of mass timber design. This session was an awesome balance between an idealistic sustainable future and concrete data on sustainable architecture through wood, and Daniel made it clear that mass timber design and intentional urban growth through regional material sourcing is the way of the future; “this is not just speculation, this is not just a few buildings emerging out of timber, this is really a movement that is going to have a huge inertia and is just at the beginning of starting to grow significantly.” From resilient forestry techniques to the countless uses of wood in architecture – “… a CLT panel is doing interior cladding, is the structure, is the insulation, is able to be the counter, the ceiling, the look and feel of the interior… using one massive piece of timber you are able to cover many of the different construction types that you need in a building,” to the safety inherent in mass timber construction, it’s not surprising that all the attendees to this session went away as advocates of wood!



Sustainable Design – Future Ready, with Elaine Gallagher Adams

Elaine Gallagher Adams, LS3P’s Sustainability Leader, provided a presentation on the tenets and strategies of modern sustainable architecture, starting with the question “what makes a building sustainable?” Answers from participants included a variety of ideas about sustainability, from “net zero” to “easy to use” to “LEED certification”. Elaine answered the question with her own definition: “Sustainability is living (and designing) in a way that allows living things to thrive in perpetuity.” From there the session ran the gambit on sustainable design, including information on energy usage and modeling, economics, building codes, material usage, the relationship between electric vehicles and architecture, and every other useful piece of information you can think of. The content of Elaine’s presentation could have taken up an entire semester in architecture schools, and if every architect was taught these things we would be in a much better place; “Buildings are responsible for 40% of global carbon emissions… If all we do is reduce carbon emissions from buildings by 50%, we’ll have saved the planet.” 



Trauma-Informed Design: Sharing Multi-Disciplinary Learnings and Best Practices fof Implementation, with Laura Rossbert and Chad Holtzinger, Shopworks Architecture

This session was hosted by Laura Rossbert and Chad Holtzinger of Shopworks Architecture in Denver. Laura and Chad presented their firm’s research, in collaboration with Group 14 Engineering and the University of Denver Center for Housing and Homelessness Research, into design that promotes physical health, mental health, and well-being. The beginning of the talk focused on the Arroyo Village project, which was one of the group’s first ventures into architecture that directly addresses and seeks to aid in issues stemming from trauma like child abuse, injury, etc. – as Laura said, “spaces can be healing or hurting for us,” and this session contained amazing research detailing a strategy to accomplish spaces that heal. The inclusion of natural light is hugely important to these strategies, as well as the intentional creation of community spaces and ensuring that users of these spaces feel that they have choices in how to interact with those spaces. It’s clear that, along with sustainability and equity, trauma-informed design is becoming one of the most important tenets of architecture for the future.


Quad Breakouts

Everyone who has been to a conference knows that this is one of the best parts, the Quad Breakout! This is a time to connect with the chapters in your region and get to know your quad director a bit more. This time was also used to ask questions to the candidates for the 2022-2023 National Board of Directors. Sometimes the most nerve wracking part of campaigning, our candidates led their Q&A sessions with grace while being asked in-depth questions about what they want to see happen in the organization, should they be elected.


I loved the sessions where we could talk with each other, get to know people a bit better, and make some connections. The career & education expo and the candidate Q & As were great for this, and it’s been a great conference! – Rebecca Hennings, Montana State University


General Session + Final AIAS Election Speeches with Sustainability Keynote Susannah Drake, Sponsored by the University of Hartford

Susannah Drake, founding principal of DLANDstudio Architecture + Landscape Architecture pllc. Her firm has received city, state, and national AIA and ASLA awards. Susannah was awarded the AIA Young Architects Award, Fellowship in the AIA, Fellowship in the ASLA, and was recognized as an Architectural League Emerging Voice. Susannah specializes in complex projects that require a synthesized, analytical, and research-based approach. Her large-scale planning work engages diverse systems to create ecologically and socially progressive projects that are rigorously researched, strategically planned, and beautifully designed.⁠ 


We then heard our Candidates final speeches before the Council of Presidents vote. Each candidate spoke of their goals and hopes for the future of the AIAS. It was inspiring to hear more about what it was that inspired them to run as well as what inspired them from our members at the conference. And thankfully, no one spilled water on their computer this year.

After our general session, the ‘After Dark’ Event was  A Conversation about Mental Health, Queerness, and Self-Advocacy in Higher Education with Dr. Nic Rider and Spencer Czech
Lilian Anderson (they/them), a student at Northeastern University and a member of the Mental Health Task Force wrote, “I was so grateful that Dr. Nic Rider and Spencer Czech were able to speak with us. Both have so much wisdom to impart from their lived experience as trans individuals, to their time as students as well as professionals. From asking for accommodations in studio to navigating the differences between normal college stress and possible symptoms of bigger issues, their wisdom was well worded and I hope this conversation will inspire further ones across AIAS chapters. And, for those of us who identify outside of the gender binary and/or as the sex we were assigned at birth, this talk was helpful in creating a sense of solidarity, also teaching us how to find (and that we already had) community support. When asked about grassroots ways students can advocate for change that supports diversity in architecture, they shared several empowering quotes with us, and this one by Mariame Kaba from We Do This ‘Til We Free Us stood out to me: “Our charge is to make imagining liberation under oppression completely thinkable, to really push ourselves to think beyond the normal in order for us to be able to address the root causes of people’s suffering.”

As Spencer wisely shared, you will always be so much more than anything you will ever produce, and that’s really important to remember as students being graded on what we produce.

I’d also like to share the article I found that inspired us to reach out to Nic:


And, finally, make sure to look out for the MHTF’s resource lists sharing hotlines and region-specific instructions for seeking support! Wishing you all health in this new year.”

It was a really valuable conversation and discussion that we hope will inspire attendees to bring back to their respective schools and communities.


I have thoroughly enjoyed how much focus there has been on raising awareness to various social justice issues. It is important to make sure we continue to provide ways to increase our inclusivity for all peoples! Meeting more people from across the entire AIAS has also been super fun, and I can’t wait to continue these conversations. – Tristan Osorio, University of Nevada, Las Vegas


Day Three


Wow, last day already? We were sad to see the end of FORUM right around the corner, but the day started off great…

Council of Presidents- Day One
Our final day of programming began with many of our attendees heading to the Council of Presidents (CoP) Meeting. The Council of Presidents meets twice a year at FORUM and Grassroots and is composed of representative delegates from each AIAS chapter. The CoP is charged with bringing issues to the forefront in an effort to improve education and the profession of architecture as well as to direct the policies of the AIAS. At FORUM, the CoP voted to pass the new 2022-2023 Strategic Plan!! (Check it out under ‘Governance’)! CoP also gives the National Office an opportunity to update the membership on the health of the organization- touching on things like finances, membership, and more! At the FORUM CoP, we also held our national elections where chapters vote in our set of Quad Directors and Officers! Each of the candidates did an incredible job this year, and it was inspiring to witness their passions and listen to their ideas for the future of the organization! Congratulations to all!

Brunch and Learn Sponsored by Tect 

Architects Bob Habian and Evan Troxel hosted our members not in the CoP to share an early, exclusive look at the PEOPLEVERSE™ powered by Tect, an up and coming podcast. This highly engaging session allowed students to chat with Bob and Evan about jump starting their careers, growing a professional network, and preparing for success in the building industry. While we can’t tell architecture students of the past about what they should have known, Bob and Evan were about to share their wealth of knowledge with us as students. Students shared some “big” and “personal” ideas about what they want to see, and what is possible in the field of the architecture profession. Some of those included: work/life balance, a carbon neutral environment, stronger development for areas lacking resources, technological advancements like VR and simulations, and much more. The greatest take away was: this is about people. You are not alone, and we need to rely on each other to figure out larger problems. Make your expansive network feel manageable, personable, and engaged. Enter: Tect.

Join the PEOPLEVERSE and don’t wait another second to engage your future network. Check out www.tect.com/students right now!

Presidents Panel

The Presidents Panel is hosted annually by the AIAS during FORUM to provide students with insight into the focuses and efforts of our six partner organizations in architecture, and to allow students to provide these organizations with their thoughts, questions and concerns about the future of our profession and education. This year’s panel featured ACSA President Robert Gonzales, AIA President Dan Hart, AIAS President Scott Cornelius, NAAB President Rebecca O’Neal, NCARB President Alfred Vidaurri and NOMA President Jason Pugh. The panel focused on the major topics of issue each organization is facing, and the Presidents went into detail about their organization’s efforts to better diversity, equity and inclusion both in their organization and in the profession and education of architecture as a whole. It was great to hear how each organization is making progress in changing our historically exclusive profession, but it’s also clear that our organizations need to come together to hold each other accountable to making real change. It was great to get these amazing leaders together to talk to the future leaders of our profession!


Final General Session and Elections Announcement with Community Keynote Michael Ford

We ended our final day of programming with a beautiful keynote from Michael Ford, the Hip Hop Architect. The session was jam packed with song recommendations, strong visual graphics, and heartfelt stories. Michael’s keynote was focused around FORUM Converge’s third track: Community Health. We learned about the origin and theory behind Hip Hop Architecture, which is intended to serve as a catalyst to youth, intersecting hip hop with architecture and design. Our young people, “…spend time reading lyrics and learn in a process that allows them to mathematically break down each bar inside of a song” (Michael Ford). By bridging a popular cultural movement with design theory, it allows for members of communities who may not have ever been exposed to architecture before, to start looking at design approach in an entirely new way. The second part of Michael’s keynote discussed the close relationship between the built environment and social justice, imploring architects and designers not to limit themselves to brick and mortar, but to understand that their impact is much more wide spread and have the ability to shift not only our visual world, but the conversation within it.


“The spaces that we are designing are being used as backdrops of injustices, and we cannot be complacent with continuing to design the background for horrible play.” – Michael Ford

Finally, the 2022-2023 AIAS Board of Directors was announced! Congratulations to these amazing leaders, and great job to all the candidates who have worked so hard to make our organization better!