AIA Ohio Design Community Conference: Breaking New Ground

Earlier this month, AIA Ohio held the 2023 AIA Ohio Design Community Conference in Columbus, Ohio.  The event was the first statewide multi-day conference held by AIA Ohio since the start of the Covid19 pandemic.  Deviating from past AIA Ohio conferences in a number of ways, this event was designed to get architects out in the community while including a full schedule of continuing education credits, keynote presentations, tours, networking with sponsors, and member recognition opportunities.   

The conference, which ran from Sunday, September 10 through Tuesday, September 12, provided a wide variety of opportunities to see and experience different venues throughout Columbus.  Centered at the Columbus Athenaeum, where the keynote presentations were held, the conference looked to provide attendees with opportunities to not only meet, network, and learn, but to also see and become familiar with venues throughout the city.  From space within the National Veterans Memorial, to the Ohio Supreme Court, NBBJ, the Ohio Statehouse and the Columbus Center for Architecture and Design, conference programs took members throughout the city to compliment the educational experiences they found in the classroom. 

Attendees were provided the opportunity to attend sessions that did deep dives into the subject matter as well as those that just skimmed the surface.  The deep dive sessions on Sunday included programs focusing on both leadership and a review of Ohio’s new existing building code.  More traditional sessions were offered on both Monday and Tuesday mornings.  Keynote sessions, presented by Kirsten Ring Murray, FAIA, Principal of Olson Kundig as well as MKSK and Gensler occurred on Sunday and Monday, focusing on design of the built environment.  

Adding a different twist to programs from past AIA Ohio conventions, this year’s conference provided five different tours throughout Columbus that focused on different neighborhoods within the city.  From projects being developed at Ohio State University to Franklinton and the Brewery District, the tours provided participants at the conference the opportunity to be part of tours that piqued their interests and addressed their needs. These three-hour long programs took members to historic structures and new buildings, providing each attendee with an opportunity to see work that is ongoing in Columbus. 

A highlight of any conference is the AIA Ohio Awards Celebration.  This year’s event was held at the Huntington Club at the new Stadium of the Columbus Crew.  Located on the level of the pitch, members were able to network and socialize before the presentation of the Design and Honor Awards.  Acknowledged at the program were this year’s AIA Ohio Foundation Charles Marr Citation recipients, Honor Award recipients, and those receiving AIA Ohio Design Awards.  The venue provided attendees with a great space to recognize firms and individuals who have made a significant impact on the profession. 

New to those who may have attended past conferences was this year’s LUs & Brews.  This event provided members the chance to meet with vendors from a variety of companies and learn about materials, technology and products in the marketplace.  Nano-CEs were provided for each session with food and drink provided throughout the evening as sponsors and vendors were able to share their knowledge and information.  Most agreed that it was a great way to learn and expand their networks.

It goes without saying that AIA Ohio deeply appreciates the support provided by this year’s sponsors.  Belden Brick and Infinium are the 2023 Gold Level Sponsors, and we appreciate their support of AIA Ohio and the profession.  Brian Belden introduced our keynote speaker and Design Award Jury Chair Kirsten Ring Murray, FAIA.  Our Silver Sponsors included Marsh Building Products, Terracon, and Phillips Sekanick Architects.  Ruhlin and Factor Architecture & Engineering are our Bronze Sponsors, and Accent on Management, ASSA ABLOY, THP and Ortal are our Support Sponsors.  Regardless of the level of support provided, we appreciate the assistance these organizations provided AIA Ohio.  Their support permits us to put on programs such as the Design Community Conference, while also supporting our other efforts in advocacy and public awareness.  Thank you to each of these companies for their commitment to advancing AIA Ohio.

The two-day program offered a little bit of everything for everyone, and AIA Ohio looks forward to build on the many successes of this year’s event.  We’ll start planning for next year’s conference in the coming months – if you’re interested in working on the planning committee, reach out to Kate Brunswick at for more information.  We hope to see you all at next year’s Design Community Conference!