Five Highlights from AIA Convention 2015

A few weeks ago I flew down to Atlanta to attend my first AIA Convention in several years. While I have attended major building product expos in the past year or so, AIA remains the best convention for catching up with architects as well as the building product manufacturers who are targeting them. The show, which drew roughly 17,000 attendees, took place at the Georgia World Congress Center Expo with events and celebrations taking place all over the city. Here I present a few of the highlights from my two days at the show.

1. The Opening Keynote

The American Institute of Architects' 2015 Convention in Atlanta.
Former President Bill Clinton spoke at the opening keynote for The American Institute of Architects’ 2015 Convention in Atlanta. Image courtesy Carl Bower (

I have always heard that Bill Clinton is an incredible public speaker to hear live, so I made sure to fly into Atlanta the night before to be on time for his opening keynote. Clinton followed moving speeches by this year’s Kemper Award winner Ed Mazria and Gold Medal winner Moshe Safdie. One of my favorite quotes of the day was from Safdie who said, “If we seek truth, then we shall find beauty.”

Telling the packed audience that if he didn’t go into politics he would have wanted to become an architect, Clinton made several strong points, including the fact that “we overlook the low hanging fruit” when it comes to climate change, citing the difference it would make if building owners would simply paint their roofs white. “If we are going to avoid the worst consequences of climate change, we need people like you,” he told the audience. “The way I look at the current world, your role is perhaps more important than it has even been.”

Overall, a great way to kick off the show.

2. Parasoliel Structural Panels

Uriah Bueller of Parasoleil in his booth during AIA 2015. © Rita Catinella Orrell

This manufacturer of structural panels offers a line of patterned cut-outs for light filtering shade, privacy screening, railing panels, and exterior building cladding for residential or commercial applications. Parasoleil  founding designer Uriah Bueller was at the booth during the show presenting “Pattern Map”, a new system he developed to help define patterns and categorize them on a 2-axis chart in order to help figure out which applications they are best suited.

Finishes available from Parasoleil, including a new faux-rusted powdercoat (top). © Rita Catinella Orrell

3. Trick from iGuzzini

© Rita Catinella Orrell
© Rita Catinella Orrell

This little puck-sized LED fixture was doing some pretty magical things in the iGuzzini booth on the show floor. Trick is able to gently wash the entire wall, create different shadow effects, or illuminate the wall edges. It’s quite a feat of Italian engineering.

4. Oval Fire Products Extinguisher

© Rita Catinella Orrell

As far as life safety products, the most innovative new product on display was a new fire extinguisher design from Oval Fire Products. This oval-shaped unit is ADA-compliant with UL-listing coming later this year.

5. Step ‘n Wash


Maybe it’s because I have just returned from a trip with two young children to Disney World, but the Step ‘n Wash retractable step stool for children really struck a chord with me. Having to lift your small child at an awkward angle so they can wash their hands in a public restroom is messy, painful, and downright unnecessary. Every establishment (except 18+ venues, obviously) should be required to install these. Simply step on the stool to use, then it gently lifts out of the way until needed. It’s not just for children either, shorter people of all ages would find this incredibly helpful (it has an 800 lb. load capacity).

Next year’s AIA Convention will take place May 19-21st in Philadelphia.

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