Sheldon Pennoyer Reports from AIA National Convention

I recently traveled to Orlando, Florida to attend the 2017 AIA Conference on Architecture.  As a Northern climate person, Orlando was not the first place I would have chosen to attend such an event.  In addition to the business meeting, where I voted for our new directors of AIA National and several Resolutions to the AIA National By-laws, I had the opportunity to attend several inspiring sessions relating to the state of our profession.  The overriding message of many of the sessions focused on diversity, and the need to expand diversity whether it is cultural, racial, gender or socio-economic.  I believe that diversity in our profession accomplishes two things; it offers opportunity to many who have less and through inclusion it integrates them into society by creating an atmosphere of involvement and respect, and diversity also nurtures new and interesting perspectives in the world of design because it expands our visual perspectives to see what we design in a new way.  I often think of how we can develop our current traditional design aesthetic in New Hampshire to branch in new directions.  Creating greater diversity, encourages us to grow in a direction that honors our traditions while also challenging them in healthy ways.


One of the conference speakers was Diébédo Francis Kéré, Hon. FAIA, who spoke about his opportunity to work with the most advanced construction techniques and while simultaneously still practicing traditional building methods, to build schools in his native country of Burkina Faso, Africa.  His work has had a profound impact on multiple communities throughout Burkina Faso.  Having grown up in a third world country and then been given the opportunity to study architecture in Germany, Francis was able to bring two cultural concepts together; to create beautiful designs and bring opportunity to so many people in need.  His designs and their impacts on his native communities were truly inspiring.  I attended many more sessions to hear of other talented architects around the world who are making a difference in their communities through their architecture.  The underlying theme for all these sessions was how diversity in design brings new ways of looking at how buildings appear and work in their environments.


The highlight of the conference was hearing Michelle Obama speak about how to build more diversity in our profession in the United States.  Michelle stated the obvious which is we do not decide one day we want greater diversity so we then hire young architects from these different populations.  Instead, she identified the importance of building diversity by becoming mentors in our communities.  To work with the youngest members of our society, and to show them how the profession of architecture can give them opportunities to make a difference in their lives is to successfully nurture long lasting diversity.  Michelle’s message, which was delivered with an abundance of grace and humor, was equally powerful as well as inspiring.


Hearing all these words of inspiration, reinforced my belief that what the AIANH Forum does is of utmost importance because the opportunities provided are a significant step towards creating greater diversity in New Hampshire.  The awarding of scholarship funds to college students attending architecture programs is the more recognized Forum program.  However, the less known program supported by the Forum, is the Learning by Design Program which is offered to elementary and middle school students.  This program encourages young students to see the power of design in shaping their own communities.  It can make our younger generation realize what the design profession might do for them.  It is this program that Michelle Obama would see as our most important efforts in building diversity in our profession here in New Hampshire. 

With this message, I would encourage you to make a donation to the Forum either in voluntary time (to help in the school programs), and/or a financial gift.  This will help build a stronger and more diverse profession in New Hampshire.


Feel free to email me at or Bonnie Kastel at , if you have any suggestions or comments.


Blog category: