CCA Hosts 101st ACSA Architecture Conference in San Francisco

From March 21 to 24, 2013, CCA played host to the 101st Annual Meeting of the Association of Collegiate Schools of Architecture (ACSA). Co-chaired by CCA Director of Architecture Ila Berman and Yale University's Ed Mitchell, the conference -- nicknamed ACSA 101 -- welcomed educators and professionals from across the globe to come together and discuss ideas on the leading edge of architectural thought.

About ACSA

ACSA is a nonprofit association founded in 1912 to advance the quality of architectural education through the support of member schools, their faculty, and students. This support involves encouraging dialogue among the diverse areas of the discipline; facilitating teaching, research, and scholarly and creative works through intra/interdisciplinary activity; articulating the critical issues forming the context of architectural education; and fostering public awareness of issues in the field.

New Constellations / New Ecologies

Ila Berman opened the conference with a provocation: "In 2010, approximately 27,000 species became extinct, 11.2 billion tons of waste were produced, the population increased by 134 million people (half as net growth), and 200,000 inventions were patented -- all in less time than it takes an architectural school to revise its curriculum. Our educational structures and professional regulatory frameworks are slow to adapt to change in relation to the speed at which the world is changing around us. If academic institutions are to be at the forefront of generating architectural knowledge and developing methods for its integration and application, we need to become far more dynamic, adaptable, responsive, and engaged to ensure that we are not facilitating our own irrelevance or extinction.

"Since this was the 101st annual conference, the intention was to reset the agenda for the second century of architectural education. The 100th anniversary conference was held at MIT, the oldest school of architecture in North America, and as a counterpoint it made sense to start the next 100 years on the West Coast, at CCA, one of the most dynamic and innovative schools in the country, whose approach is always to look to the future of architecture and architectural education."

The conference advanced a set of architectural concepts in relation to six realms -- matter, energy/ecology, form/space, technology, territory, and networks/populations -- that have been undergoing radical transformations in our current culture, and reformulated them as the ‘New Constellations / New Ecologies’ around which the conference was organized.

Six Themes: From New Material Economies to Cloud Culture

The programming was diverse and dynamic. It included more than 30 paper sessions and nearly 100 papers presented by faculty from the 127 schools of architecture across North America, in addition to 12 focus sessions on special topics, tours to architecturally and culturally important San Francisco buildings, workshops, regional caucus meetings, and an award ceremony to honor architecture educators and professionals. Panelists and paper presenters included CCA faculty: Hugh Hynes, Mona El Khafif, Jason Johnson, Andrew Kudless and Chris Roach.

Also on display for the duration of the conference was an exhibition of research and design projects, curated by CCA faculty members Hugh Hynes and Antje Steinmuller.

Keynote Speakers

“The topics presented directly reflected many of the topics we students try to tackle in our studio projects,” observed current student Anesta Iwan (Architecture 2013).

The opening keynote was delivered by Francois Roche, principal of New-Territories (R&Sie(n) / [eIf/bʌt/c]). According to Berman, he was selected because his work traverses and radicalizes many of the themes of the conference, from waste materials and synthetic ecologies to genetic systems and new interactive technologies, questioning our definition of ecology while blurring the boundaries between humans, nature, and technology.

The closing keynote was delivered by Gregg Pasquarelli, founding partner of SHoP Architects of New York. Before beginning his lecture, Pasquarelli was awarded the Tau Sigma Delta Gold Medal, which is given annually to an architect who has served as an inspiration to students and design professionals.

Pasquarelli’s talk traced his architectural work with SHoP over a 12-year period in which he went from designing Dunescape, an installation structure for MoMA P.S.1, to designing the Barclays Center in Brooklyn. He stressed that architects must be willing to take risks in their designs.

Conference Success

"The conference was an enormous success," reflects Berman. "We had 450 participants, many of whom commented that this was truly the most interesting and dynamic conference they had ever attended and that we certainly achieved our goal of resetting the agenda for architectural education."

Attendees were constantly discussing and exchanging ideas about the future of architectural education and practice. "The conference brought together an incredible group from across North America," said CCA Architecture faculty member Jason Kelly Johnson. "It was an amazing opportunity to showcase the innovative and experimental design work and scholarship emerging from CCA's architecture division and the Bay Area at large."

One attendee tweeted, "Congrats on raising the bar of ACSA conferences; next century looks bright!"

Related Links

For more information about ACSA 101, and to view and purchase the program, abstract book, project catalogue, or proceedings, please visit the ACSA website.