• 2023 Design Matters Conference
    Center for Architecture, New York
    Mar 16, 2023 to Mar 18, 2023
    Association of Architecture Organizations

2023 Design Matters Conference, New York, Association of Architecture Organizations

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 2023 Design Matters Conference is a hybrid two-day convening (virtual and in-person in New York City) for networking, professional exchange, and sharing best practices related to organizational management and development of programs, exhibitions, publications, and research for public audiences. Through keynote lectures, facilitated conversations, site tours, gallery walks, and topical inquiries commissioned by AAO, attendees investigate how communities are enhanced through design. Conference programming is designed to cover a range of areas from strategic planning to program innovation to making more effective case statements on the value and relevance of architecture organizations; and includes discussion of critical issues such as mentorship and early career development, engaging BIPOC designers and underrepresented perspectives, and the role of architecture organizations in promoting climate action.

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 17 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, and again in 2021, 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 states and 44 cities in the United States in addition to eight countries.

Alicia Ajayi explores the layered complexity of people, place, and power. Trained as an architect, researcher, and writer, her work engages the narratives that create spaces we inhabit. After receiving a dual master’s degree in architecture and social work from Washington University in St. Louis, Ajayi worked as an associate designer at MASS Design Group, where she was a member of the design team for the ground-breaking Memorial to Peace and Justice in Montgomery, Alabama, a site dedicated to exposing racial terror and lynching throughout US history. Ajayi works with community development corporations, private developers, and nonprofits to create visions for spaces that reflect their mission and goals for positive change. Ajayi lives in New York City as a designer, researcher, and consultant, and is the project manager for BlackSpace Urbanist Collective.

Fabrizio Gallanti was appointed director of arc en rêve centre d’architecture in Bordeaux, France in Spring 2021. He holds a PhD in architectural design from the Politecnico di Torino and a MArch from the University of Genoa. He was the first Senior Mellon Fellow at Princeton University in 2014. Since then, he has been a visiting professor at the Architectural Association, London within the Master in History and Critical Thinking program. In 2003, with Francisca Insulza, Gallanti founded the Montréal-based architectural research studio FIG Projects (2003–present), which has curated international exhibitions, such as The World in our Eyes for the 2016 Lisbon Architecture Triennale and edited journals such as Harvard Design Magazine’s “No Sweat” issue in 2018.

Jia Yi Gu is director and curator of the MAK Center for Art and Architecture. From 2015–20, she served as executive director of Materials & Applications, a Los Angeles-based project space for experimental architecture. In 2016, she cofounded the architecture research and design studio Spinagu with Maxi Spina. She is an architectural historian and visiting faculty in architecture at the California College of Art.

Prior to joining the Center for Architecture in 2016, Ben Prosky served as assistant dean for communications at Harvard University’s Graduate School of Design, where he oversaw events, publications, multimedia content, and special projects. With a background in urban studies and urban planning, Ben has devoted the past 15 years of his career to a range of projects and initiatives dedicated to promoting and interpreting architecture and the city, including tenures at the Institut français d'architecture (IFA) in Paris, the Canadian Center for Architecture, and the Columbia University Graduate School of Architecture, Planning, and Preservation.

The Association of Architecture Organizations (AAO), founded in 2010, connects, supports, and advocates for organizations and individuals around the world devoted to advancing the role of architecture and design in service to society. 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 individuals 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.