• 2021 Design Matters Conference
    Germane Barnes
    Keynote Speaker
    Aric Chen, Fabrizio Gallanti, and Jia Yi Gu
    Dec 02, 2021 to Dec 03, 2021
    Association of Architecture Organizations

Germane Barnes and CEPODS LLC, Pop-Up Porch, Delray Beach, Florida. Courtesy the artist

The Association of Architecture Organizations (AAO) Design Matters Conference is the largest annual gathering for staff of nonprofit architecture organizations and interested designers dedicated to enhancing public dialogue about architecture and design. The 2021 Conference is a two-day virtual convening for networking, professional exchange, and sharing of best practices related to organizational management and development of programs, exhibitions, and publications geared to public audiences. Through keynote lectures, facilitated conversations, and topical inquiries commissioned by AAO to advance the field, attendees investigate how communities are enhanced through design. Conference programming is designed to support architecture organizations over a range of areas from strategic planning to program innovation to effective outreach, and includes discussion of critical issues such as mentorship and early career development, engaging BIPOC designers and under-represented perspectives, and the role of architecture organizations in promoting climate action.

Germane Barnes, keynote speaker, investigates the connection between architecture and identity, examining architecture’s social and political agency through historical research and design speculation in his research and design practice. Mining architecture’s social and political agency, he examines how the built environment influences black domesticity. He believes strongly in design as a process, and approaches each condition imposed on a project as an opportunity rather than a constraint. Architecture presents opportunities for transformation–materially, conceptually and sociologically. Barnes is an assistant professor and the director of The Community Housing & Identity Lab (CHIL) at the University of Miami School of Architecture. In 2021 Barnes was awarded the Wheelwright Prize by Harvard University Graduate School of Design and the Rome Prize from the American Academy in Rome.

Michael Wood became the Association of Architecture Organizations' (AAO) first executive director in 2010, bringing to the position 13 years of experience in the nonprofit arts 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 convening into a traveling event, effectively bringing AAO members into deeper contact and familiarity with the programs and ambitions of architectural organizations in other cities. The transition to a virtual conference format in 2020 has extended AAO’s geographic reach and made the opportunity affordable to a broader spectrum of prospective attendees. Under Wood’s leadership, the AAO Network has grown from 16 founding members to more than 100 members that operate in 29 US states (44 US cities) and eight countries.

The Association of Architecture Organizations (AAO) connects, supports, and advocates for organizations and individuals around the world devoted to advancing the role of architecture and design in service to society. Founded in 2009, AAO’s vision is to create platforms and share ideas that support the growing diversity of architecture organizations and increase their impact. AAO provides a portal to connect with a worldwide network of leading people and organizations working in the field across a breadth of practices to learn about the art and science of public engagement and communicating the value of design.