• 2019 Design Matters Conference
    Damon Rich
    Keynote Speaker
    Chicago Architecture Center, Chicago
    Nov 06, 2019 to Nov 09, 2019
    Association of Architecture Organizations

Chicago City Model Experience, Chicago, 2018. Courtesy of Chicago Architecture Center. Photo: James Steinkamp.

The Association of Architecture Organizations' Design Matters Conference is the largest annual gathering for staff of nonprofit architecture and design organizations dedicated to enhancing public dialogue about architecture and design. The 2019 conference is being held in Chicago, where delegates come together for three days of professional networking and sharing best practices related to organizational management, as well as development of public programs, exhibitions, and publications geared to general audiences. Through keynote lectures, panel discussions, breakout sessions, and mobile tours attendees investigate how communities are enhanced through design. Conference programming is designed to support members’ organizational needs in key areas such as strategic thinking and planning, discussion of current design issues, development of public programs and exhibition curation, and critical administrative and communications management skills.

Michael Wood became the Association of Architecture Organizations' (AAO) first executive director in Spring 2010, bringing to the position 13 years of experience in the nonprofit sector, as well as an interest in and commitment to architecture, design, and social innovation as strategies for addressing issues of civic engagement and education. Since joining AAO, Wood has curated 16 conferences and successfully transformed an annual Chicago meeting into a traveling event that meets in cities across the United States, effectively bringing AAO members into direct contact with staff and work of architectural organizations throughout the country. Under Wood’s leadership, the AAO Network has grown from 16 founding members to more than 125 members spanning 75 US cities and 9 countries.

Damon Rich is a designer and urban planner creating strategies to help residents exercise power within the public and private processes that shape our cities. In 2015, Rich cofounded the independent design studio Hector, with Jae Shin, in order to expand the reach of his practice, and he is currently at work on projects in Newark, Philadelphia, and San Francisco. Attuned to the many competing interests at play in the urban planning process, Rich's work celebrates visions of communities and residents who are often excluded and advances the roles of design and democracy in civic decisions about urban change. In 1997, Damon founded the Center for Urban Pedagogy (CUP) and, in collaboration with a group of other educators, advocates, artists, and architects, developed a roster of programs to engage community-based organizations and public school students in explorations of such topics as tenant rights, affordable housing, and infrastructure design.

Kimberly Dowdell is the 2019–20 National President of the National Organization of Minority Architects, and director of business development at HOK Chicago. She initiated the concept behind Social Economic Environmental Design, an organization that she cofounded in 2005, and is a member of the Detroit Developer Roundtable and the Urban Land Institute. She was a Crain’s Detroit Business “40 Under 40” honoree. In 2019, Dowdell delivered the 19th Annual Dunlop Lecture at the Harvard Graduate School of Design.

Yesomi Umolu is director and curator for the Logan Center exhibitions at the Reva and David Logan Center for the Arts, University of Chicago. Umolu directs a program of international contemporary art in the Logan Center Gallery and contributes to a number of strategic committees that drive the development of contemporary art, architecture, and urbanism on campus. Umolu has been a visiting lecturer, critic, and speaker at a number of international universities, including Cranbrook Academy of Art, Bartlett School of Architecture, University College London, and University of the Witwatersrand, Johannesburg. She recently served on the curatorial advisory board for the United States Pavilion at the 16th Venice Architecture Biennale, commissioned by the School of the Art Institute of Chicago and the University of Chicago, and is artistic director of the 2019 Chicago Architecture Biennial.

Mary-Margaret Zindren is the executive vice president of American Institute of Architects (AIA) Minnesota, and by virtue of that role, also the executive director of the AIA Minneapolis, AIA Northern Minnesota, and AIA St. Paul chapters, and of the Minnesota Architectural Foundation. She received her bachelor’s in public administration from Miami University in Oxford, OH and her master’s degree in public affairs with a focus in public and nonprofit leadership from the Humphrey School at the University of Minnesota. She holds the designation of Certified Association Executive from the American Society of Association Executives. Zindren was born and raised in Green Bay, WI, and has lived in St. Paul, MN for more than 20 years. In addition to her career-long focus on association management, advocacy, and governance, Zindren is active in social justice community work, is writing a book, and makes time to seek out architectural gems wherever she travels.

The Association of Architecture Organizations (AAO) is a member-based network connecting the many organizations around the world dedicated to enhancing public dialogue about architecture, urbanism, and culture. Founded in 2010 following its first conference in November 2009, AAO serves an emerging cultural sector by cultivating a common core of knowledge, ethics, and sense of purpose among its individual and organizational members. Through meetings and conferences, newsletters, reports and field surveys, webinars, online discussion groups, and related resources, the Association promotes knowledge sharing in the field, and seeks to expand public dialogue about architecture and design education. AAO’s Network currently spans 154 members that operate in 75 US cities and nine countries.