Continental Europe’s long history of holding bi-annual conferences in different host cities started in Paris in 1996, when the International PIA and the CE Chapter met for a weekend series of tours, seminars and lectures interspersed with lunches, dinners and other networking opportunities. Thanks in large part to the event organiser – Françoise Vonier, the architectural journalist and “activist” – the Paris Conference was a tremendous success.
The second CE Chapter conference was held in 1997 in Barcelona, where that successful mix of edifying educational and amicable social events was perfected into a pattern that – with adaptations and variations - has held to this day. What better way is there to earn Continuing Education Units than by visiting in-depth a beautiful, historic city with good friends and local historians, planners and architects as cultural chaperones?
Over the 14-18 April 2016 weekend, the Continental Europe Chapter conference was again held in Barcelona - its forty-first conference since 1997. As well as catering to CE Chapter members, the opportunity to re-visit Barcelona and see how it has evolved was also taken up by multiple US-based friends of Continental Europe - including Robert Ivy FAIA, Chief Executive Officer, and Tom Vonier FAIA, President Elect, of AIA National.
Several UK Chapter members also attended and were able to strengthen bonds with Continental Europe. Lester Korsilius FAIA, International Region Secretary, and Robert Rhodes AIA, IR Zone Representative, were also able to liaise with the International Director, Steven Miller FAIA.
The programme included several overview lectures with tantalizing titles such as “A Sectional Palimpsest of Barcelona”, and “Architecture Remembrance and Transformation.” Architect Benedetta Tagilabue’s lecture - rather prosaically entitled as “Social Urban Regeneration” - was in fact a highly spirited account of her work with partner Enric Miralles, touching briefly on the Scottish Parliament, but – at its best - describing the background and rational for Barcelona’s Mercat de Santa Caterina, with its vegetable inspired roof colours.
Other lectures were given by local Architects involved in specific projects in different parts of the city that were then followed by building or site tours. These lecture/tours included new-build projects at major developments in Plaça Gloiries and District 22@, plus small scale interventions in older neighbourhoods. After a technical explanation of the Barcelona Roca Gallery’s unique glass wall, a cocktail break was hosted by AIA Continental Europe sponsor, Laufen – which is also an AIA UK sponsor.
Historic preservation and renovation work were investigated at the Museu Maritim and Born Market. The recently renovated hospital complex of Sant Pau was the magnificent venue for the Saturday morning lectures, garden tour and lunch.
Special features of the Continental Europe Conferences are the sponsorship lectures and presentations, particularly those of local sponsors. The Collegi d’Arquitectes de Catalunya – the local architectural professional organisation - opened its archives for a special viewing of original Catalan architectural drawings. In her lecture “Places and Horizontal Surfaces of Barcelona”, architect Mariona Aguilera from Escofet, highlighted Barcelona’s unique paving tiles and her company’s current and historical work in architectural concrete and stone.
The Saturday night Gala Dinner is the highlight of any CE conference. This year’s dinner was held in Mies van der Rohe’s original - but relocated - Barcelona Pavilion from the 1929 World Exposition. The Pavilion has lost nothing of its modernist allure in the intervening 87 years and provided a spectacular backdrop for the AIA dinner.
Special reference should be made to the conference organiser, Sophia Gruzdys AIA NCARB (with help from Dominique Tomasov Blinder AIA and Thomas Valentine Groner). All in all, the conference generated a grand total of 18 CEUs along with many memories of good friends, brilliant weather and fantastic architecture.
The next CE conference – to which AIA UK Chapter members are granted reciprocal CE membership rates – will be held from 29 September to 2 October 2016 in Girne, North Cyprus.
Author: Lorraine King AIA