AIA Conference on Architecture 2017

August 09, 2017

Members from the NarmourWright team traveled to Orlando this year for the AIA Conference on Architecture 2017. Nearly 20,000 attendees from the architectural & building community packed into the convention, traveling from all over the world to experience three immersive days with some of the most creative minds and brands in the industry.

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Orlando is widely known for our world class theme parks and attractions; however, this is only part of the story of the city. The Orlando area also offers a vibrant diversity of architecture (from Frank Lloyd Wright, Bauhaus to Calatrava). AIA Conference on Architecture 2017 provided a unique opportunity to showcase this to its guests.

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The conference offered an assortment of educational tours, exhibits, lectures and classes all available to attendees. NarmourWright focused its time on topics that are ever-evolving within the industry; architectural acoustics, mid-rise construction, Building Integration Modeling (BIM), business & strategy, building envelop & waterproofing. It is important to see what impact these topics have on the practice of architecture and how other professionals are dealing with these issues. Additionally, we were fortunate to take a couple of the local tours offered.

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The Buena Vista Drive: An Encyclopedia of Themed Architecture

Buena Vista Drive is an important corridor connecting various aspects of the Walt Disney World Resort. It is a 7-mile long boulevard with resort-based projects designed by 11 world-renowned architects. These buildings are iconic and have defined the character of the boulevard which illustrates numerous collaborations between WaltDisney Imagineering and very talented architects while delivering memorable themes for guests over the years.

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Beyond Backstage: How Architects Help the Magic Kingdom to Remain the Most Magical Place on Earth

Magic Kingdom was the first phase of the project and the only theme park in Florida on which Walt had direct a influence. Even 45 years after opening it’s still most visited theme park in the world.

By far the most sought-after tour was Beyond Backstage which guided visitors through the Magic Kingdom in a way few rarely see. The tour provided insight into how “the magic is maintained” for millions of guests that visit each year. We explored the underground network of tunnels referred to as the “Utilidor” which hosts the busy network of people, offices, vehicles and systems that supply the park and transport cast members from one end to the other.

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This was done to enhance the guests’ experience by maintaining a consistent storyline. What happens in these tunnels is akin to a small urban bustling city. We were led through this extensive system of tunnels, stairways and catwalks by one of the leading architects (Scott Brooks) who has dedicated his career to the park. We were told that photography of this portion of the tour was forbidden in order to maintain the illusion of the park. So, no photos are available of this engineering feat.

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The tour concluded with rare access to the Cinderella Castle, easily the most photographed building in the world. This part of the tour highlighted the complex design requirements of incorporating such a lavishly appointed space into a small area in the middle of the existing castle over 100 feet above the park below. For most people seeing behind the curtain would ruin the illusion of it all but for architects and designers it only made it more magical.

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As architects we have a professional standard to uphold. We must strive to improve our professional knowledge and skill as we seek to raise the standards of the practice. This often means we need to continue to broaden our education so that we can learn about new and innovative products to deliver the best project possible to our clients. We have a responsibility to continue to evolve with the changing industry and to address the issues that are we are facing. The convention was an opportunity to step back from our day-to-day to do just that with other professionals. Architects challenge each other through discussion, collaboration and even competition which ultimately results in elevating the entire practice of architecture to new levels. We are looking forward to doing this again next year. Hopefully we will see everyone in NYC for the AIA Conference on Architecture 2018, July 21-23.