Architecture: Looking Ahead While Keeping One Foot in the Past

The trek to Orlando was an early one, but it was good to get a head start as the day would be full of learning. From start to finish, I was at the AIA Conference for 10 hours, sitting in on lectures, panels, keynotes and strolling through the thought-provoking expo. One resounding similarity, or theme, captured throughout the conference was the idea that architecture is the art of looking into the future while still acknowledging the past. Three of the lectures I attended focused on that theme.  

The first Keynote was Dr. Eve Edelstein, Research Director of Perkin+Will’s Human Experience Lab. She explained that overtime our brains change, so the influence of elements such as light, shadows, materials and way-finding are monumental to not only our initial function in the space, but our long term function as humans. It could be said that spaces shape us as much as we shape spaces. A memorable quote from her speech was, “Architect’s must keep one foot in the past and one in the future.”


Tour Carpe Diem, Robert A.M. Stern Architects LLP

Tour Carpe Diem. Image © Peter Aaron / OTTO
Robert C. Byrd United States Courthouse and Federal Building, Robert A.M. Stern Architects LLP

During a luncheon discussion, Robert A.M. Stern, Topaz Medallion recipient, a titan of the Post Modern Movement, and Dean of the Yale School of Architecture, gave a lecture emphasizing the importance of tradition in education. He also warned of losing the skill of sketching to a completely computerized environment. To draw is to analyze. He referred to Architecture as both an art and a professional practice. We shouldn’t throw away the present, but reconnect to the past. His work reflects both a respect for tradition and innovation.


Offices for GSK, Five Crescent Drive, Robert A.M. Stern Architects LLP


222 Berkley Street, Robert A.M. Stern Architects LLP

Architecture, Technology and Urbanism: the lecture to close out the conference focused on the evolution of a smart city. Whether involving new developments or retrofitting existing metropolitan hubs, data is now informing urban design. Effectively integrating these technologies will allow us to solve timeless issues. I find it so interesting how the digital era permeates all cultures ultimately influencing our vernacular architecture. We also have a duality of desires trending: a hermetic lifestyle versus the communal one. It compares those with no desire for human interaction with those striving for bike rides in the park or gathering for a meal at the table. These lifestyles also play a role in how we design both our spaces and cities. Again, we are looking to the future while longing to reconnect with the past.



Written by Juan Ocana, BIM Technician