Amsterdam: The Architectural Eccentricities of a Beautiful City

By Monica Mader, Associate AIA

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Canal Houses, a typical Amsterdam photo op

Amsterdam has an innate ability to whisk away any heart fond of architecture. As young, aspiring architects, my significant other and I found ourselves lost in a labyrinth of canals, cooing over modern gems, and reeling at construction dates from bygone eras. The prestigious lineup, featuring work from Renzo Piano, Stephen Holl, MVRDV and 3XN, intermixed into the historic city fabric was the perfect potion for a surreal experience. Attempting to demystify the charm Amsterdam placed upon us, I inevitably did my architecture research to pinpoint those attributes.

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Geoffrey Bawa and the Architecture of Sri Lanka

By Will Ives, Associate AIA

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Like most who work in the practice of architecture, I see travel as an opportunity to expand and enrich my perspective on design. Books, magazines, and blogs all have their place, but nothing is quite like setting out into the world to discover new sources of inspiration. Unlike Europe or frequently visited Asian countries, Sri Lanka has few widely known landmarks – modern or otherwise – which allowed me to explore with no preconceived images in my mind. From an architectural perspective, my recent trip to Sri Lanka was as unique a travel experience as I’ve ever had.

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An American (architect) in Paris

By Erica Dunn, AIA

After four years of idle chatter and eight months of planning, my husband Phil and I finally touched down at Charles de Gaulle airport for our three week vacation in France.  We landed with little more than my high school French (uniquely accented by two years in French-speaking West Africa with the Peace Corps), a couple of guidebooks, and my Google map of all the “You MUST eat here” recommendations we received.

Eiffel Tower

Since it was Phil’s first time in France and my first in sixteen years, we decided to rent an apartment in Paris hoping it would give us an opportunity to sink a little deeper into Parisian culture and enjoy daily life in one of the most beautiful cities in the world.  During our time there we ate amazing food (egg-over-easy in my ham and cheese crêpe? – wow), made daily visits to our neighborhood boulangerie (which also happened to be the famous Poilâne Bakery), tried to master the subtle nuances of the city’s recycling program, attended a classical music concert in Sainte Chappelle (Louis IX’s 13th century stained glass wonder),  explored the nooks and crannies of Paris’ many gardens, and indulged our tourist side by watching the glittering light show on the Eiffel Tower three times – once from the grassy expanse of the Champ de Mars, once from a romantic evening boat cruise along the Seine (alongside 40 rambunctious French middle-school children), and once from the Trocadéro, where a huge crowd had gathered to watch the first football match of Euro 2012 on a large outdoor movie screen.

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Design Connects: Reflections on the AIA 2012 National Convention

By Will Ives, Associate AIA

What’s it like to be in a room with 20,000 architects? Exciting? Inspirational? Terrifying? Perhaps it’s all of the above. I’d never pondered this question until just last week when I travelled to Washington, D.C. for the 2012 AIA National Convention and Design Expo. This was my first time attending an AIA National event, and I didn’t really know what to expect. So armed with an array of pens, a blank sketchbook, a stack of business cards, and my fashionable yet eco-friendly AIA lanyard, off I went. While I hesitate to use a cliché – that I walked away with an incredibly renewed focus and newfound determination – it really was a great experience. I would strongly encourage anyone practicing or studying architecture to consider attending at least once.

As a younger member of the architectural community, the AIA Convention offered a unique opportunity to gain exposure to an incredible range of people and ideas. Formally, these unfolded through an endless offering of seminars, focus groups, tours, and social events. I was initially overwhelmed as I tried to craft the perfect itinerary, but in retrospect I realize that the sessions only serve to start the discussion; it’s the networking, informal collaboration, and potential long-term connections that are the real opportunity presented by the Convention.

My days were filled with sessions such as “Design Entrepreneurship”, “Connecting Learners”, and “Architects who Blog”. Spaced between these sessions were walks through a maze of expo booths teeming with consultants, software companies, and suppliers, which filled the vast Expo Hall beneath the Convention Center. When one tired of demonstrations on the newest innovations in termite control, and storefront systems, DC’s unrivaled range of free cultural experiences awaited just out the Convention Center doors.

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