So this week was the annual convention for the Louisiana component of the American Institute of Architects.  It was held in Shreveport, Louisiana.  Ironically enough since I am the current past president of the Shreveport Chapter of the American Institute of Architects, and since I can’t say no I was nominated/railroaded into the job of Committee Chairman for this event.  If I sound surprised in my high assessment of the quality of this event it is in no way intended to be an affront to my initial expectations for the committee.  This is purely a reflection of my tendency to under rank my own ability to guide said committee cleanly through the perilous waters of convention preparation.  Long story short, it was a great convention.  I just wanted to share a few nuggets of what I find to be valuable take aways from a few of the lectures and events.

Sound building design trumps eco bling – Peter Pfeiffer

Wow, this guy flipped the lid.  And rightfully so.  He has been around since green meant smart design and not more money for tagging LEED behind the moniker of a project.  He helped start the energy star program which ultimately become a nation wide conservation mandate which we see on all the appliances we shop for today.  The major point of his 2 hour explicative laced and sometimes comedic rant is that a few minor and relatively inexpensive thoughtful moves in the early phases of design can prove to be more effective than the most expensive eco-bling amenities that are so popular these days.  Things like solar panels, tankless water heaters and geothermal heating/cooling.  Instead elements like deep shade, umbrella roofs and generally logical programing are ways to save immense amounts of money both on the upfront costs in the systems of the house and which help to offset maintenance and utility costs for the life of the structure.  One example included using larger overhangs at the windows to reduce the radiant heat caused by large windows with no shading.  This one idea can save more money than even the most effective eco bling amenity on the market.

Design for the masses – Larry Speck

Larry is one passionate guy.  His oration technique when he is at his most convincing state reminds me of some of the most spirited pastors from my childhood in church.  And rightfully so.  He feels strongly that people whether they notice it or not should be subjected to good design.  Design that changes their lives for the better.  Design that is useful for the everyday person.  A distinction must be drawn between the design that Larry speaks of and the so called rock star architecture that we have trained the masses to currently recognize as what as architects are about.  He teaches a class that dwells on this subject for 14 weeks at the University of Texas at Austin.  He is on a mission to change this perception and I must say that I am with him.

Mid century modern Shreveport Architecture

Guy Carwile of the Louisiana Tech School of Architecture took two bus loads of convention goers on a short tour of some of Shreveport’s best examples of mid century modern architecture.  It’s quite surprising to know that Shreveport sports a collection of this type genre of architecture which is second to none in the state and could perhaps hold it’s own up to comparison with similar collections nationwide.  The majority of these were either done or influenced by the Weiner brothers (Samuel and William) who are famous for their trend setting modern residences throughout the 50’s and 60’s and other iconic buildings.

There were of course various other great events but these for me were the high points.  We did in fact have a great committee of professionally passionate AIA members who worked tirelessly to make the event a huge success.  It was a great convention and I am looking forward to the next time our great city hosts this event in five years.

Jeff Spikes, iARCHiTECTURE