Do you know what the late Sam Mockbee, James Cutler, Tod Williams, David Salmela, Glenn Murcutt, and Brian MacKay- Lyons all have in common, other than being incredibly talented and influential architects? They have all been speakers at our biennial Virginia Design Forum, held every other spring. The Design Forum is my favorite AIA Virginia event.

Beth Reader, FAIA

The first Design Forum was held in the spring of 1994. Jim Ritter, AIA was one of the founders. Jim thought our AIA Virginia members should have an event that clearly and specifically focused on design. Jim knew that employee issues, business, and office technology were all important, but he felt like design was the core of being a great architect. He wanted AIA Virginia to have an event that acknowledged that premise.

In addition to Jim, some of the other original Design Forum committee members included Greg Hunt (the Chair), Mark Orling, Bob Steele, Joanne Goldfarb, Carlton Abbott, David King, Judith Kinnard, Ed Pease, and Vernon Mays (the former editor of Inform).  

The theme for the initial 1994 symposium, “Architecture + Innovation” was selected to “provide a loose structure around which speakers and practitioners can explore ways in which the architecture profession has advanced in days past and hopes to advance in the future.” The first venue was The Homestead, in Hot Springs, Virginia. The first Design Forum committee thought that “in a retreat setting, architects can escape the distractions of daily practice and immerse themselves in discussions that will push the boundaries of professional discourse.” In the program, attendees were “strongly encouraged to react to what they heard, and to offer personal views and pose difficult questions.”

When we come together on March 27th and 28th in Richmond for the 14th biennial Virginia Design Forum: In Praise of Shadows, I urge you to retreat into the world of design, as the first Design Forum committee intended. Temporarily forget your day-to-day office operations and imagine yourself back in your college design studio. Let the impressive roster of speakers inspire and challenge you.

Special thanks to our current Design Forum committee members: Jack Davis (Chair), Ed Ford, Allison Ewing, Anca Lipan, Mark Orling, Matthew Pearson, Ed Pease, Andrea Quilici, Rob Reis, Michael Spory, and Roberto Ventura.

To all of the Design Forum committee members past and present, and to all of the architects who have attended the Design Forums over the past two and a half decades—thanks for creating and sustaining this signature event. And for any of you who have not yet signed up—please register online today!

Beth Reader, FAIA
2020 President