This will be my first Architecture Exchange East as your Executive Vice President and Servant-In-Chief.  As a practitioner and firm leader, I attended this conference roughly a dozen times.

As I write this article, I ask myself, “Why did I attend?”

Was it the continuing education? The keynote speaker? The networking and fellowship?

Corey Clayborne, AIA

For me, the conference served as an architectural family reunion. I was provided the opportunity to see my closest friends and colleagues from around the Commonwealth and our universities at this designated time of year. I’ve sat at Penny Lane howling in laughter until my eyes welled up with tears.  We joked about local AIA events that we had planned before where attendance woefully missed our expectations. It wasn’t funny when it happened but it sure is comical now. Anyone who has served in the AIA has likely experienced this phenomenon. Or we imitated, in good fun, those unique personalities that may have crossed our paths in the profession. Including clients. Heck, we even used ourselves as ammunition for jokes. And then someone would inquire, “You all want one more round?!” Knowing you signed up for a 7:00 seminar early the next morning, you should probably take your hind-parts to bed, but you would stay out a little longer and succumb to the peer pressure.

I get it. Your answer may be different than mine. But we all have our reasons for attending. The goal of the AIA Virginia Board of Directors and staff is to continue to strive for greater excellence each year with this production.

So, let me take a moment to share what we are doing special this year.

First, we have invested significantly into our future generation and emerging professionals this year. For the first time ever, AIA Virginia has partnered with AIAS National to produce a one-day continuing education track specifically crafted for students. A number of AIA Virginia highly-regarded firm principals and leaders will volunteer their expertise to share today’s best practices on portfolio preparation, getting hired, successfully integrating into a firm upon graduation, and so forth in an effort to better prepare the candidates you will be hiring. Also for the first time, AIA Virginia has offered registration promotions to members that include complimentary registrations for Associate members. And let’s not forget the prosecco toast planned for our newly licensed architects.

Secondly, we have diversified the continuing education experience to capture unique opportunities not available online or at lunch and learns. Historically, AIA Virginia only had a Large-Firm Roundtable (LFRT) that facilitated dialogue amongst firm leaders on issues faced in practice such as equity and diversity, leadership development, and firm culture. These roundtable discussions have now been extended to include Small-Firms (SFRT) and Mid-Size Firms (MFRT) and will be held at The Branch Museum of Architecture and Design. Our tours this year will include Stone Brewing and VCU’s Institute for Contemporary Art designed by Steven Holl Architects. We have nearly 70 vendors that are ready to show you the latest products in the market. The keynote speaker and CEO of Architizer, Marc Kushner, AIA is one of the highest rated TED speakers in the world and his talk is going to blow you away.

Lastly, we will continue to provide opportunities to let your hair down and enjoy your time in fellowship with your peers. This year at CONNECTIONS, we will be joined by our conference partners, American Society of Landscape Architects. Representatives from Preservation Virginia and Associated General Contractors (AGC) are also expected to be in attendance. This will afford you the chance to build relationships with non-architect partners that have a role in shaping the built environment. Virginia Tech will host its annual alumni party which is always a joyous time and groups like the Emerging Leaders in Architecture and Women in Design continue to host their annual dinners.

The conference is capped with our Visions for Architecture gala that celebrates our Honors and Awards winners at the Hotel John Marshall. We will get cleaned up, maybe shave, eat great food, and dance like no one is watching as the DJ spins classic jams that take us to “back-in-the-day” memories. We will be joined at the gala by our 2017 AIA National President, Thomas Vonier, FAIA.  A tremendous honor indeed.

So, in closing, the question is “Why do you attend Architecture Exchange East?” Email me at and let me know. If you were not planning to attend, I am hopeful you will consider giving it a try. At least for one day. You’ve worked hard all year. Invest in yourself for the sake of personal and career growth while escaping the four walls of your office for just a moment. Believe me, your clients want that too.

I look forward to seeing you in November.

Register for ArchEx 2017>>

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