This editorial appeared in Contract's July/August 2013 issue. To read the digital edition, click here.
In these dog days of summer, we can hopefully all take some time off post-NeoCon® and before the fall trade show and conference season begins in earnest. August can be relatively quiet for architecture and design industry events, and that makes it a perfect time to reflect on what the trade shows and conferences mean to the profession and industry in this digital, connected age.
Trade shows like NeoCon, and conferences and conventions such as the American Institute of Architects (AIA) Convention, are top of mind for me lately. I’m the only editor serving on an advisory committee for NeoCon 2014, and I am chairman of the AIA Convention Advisory Committee for the 2014 AIA National Convention to be held in Chicago, June 26–28.
We’re all on the go, all the time, and don’t always take time to consider why we attend industry events, what they offer, and how they enrich our professional lives. What do you like to see in a trade show, conference, or convention? When budgets are tight, why do you choose to attend in this time when so much information is available electronically anytime, anywhere?
Nearly 42,000 people crammed into the elevators and corridors of Chicago’s Merchandise Mart for NeoCon this past June, getting a first look at new furnishings and products, connecting with colleagues and friends, and learning from continuing education sessions and keynotes by design leaders including Lauren Rottet. And Contract presented the Best of NeoCon Awards for the top products at the show (see the winners, beginning on page 45).
The 2013 AIA Convention in Denver attracted thousands to see keynotes by Blake Mycoskie, founder of TOMS Shoes (page 138), Cameron Sinclair, and Colin Powell, as well as attend numerous continuing education sessions, receptions, and tours. Emerging professionals and young architects were highlighted at this convention at a level unlike any previous AIA gathering.
In coming months, we look forward to HD Americas (preview, page 24)—a conference presented by our colleagues at Hospitality Design—in Miami Beach, September 24–25. Formerly HD Boutique, the show is now rebranded as HD Americas with a particular focus on the hospitality industry in Latin America. And we know many of you also will plan for fall events such as Cersaie and Greenbuild, and conferences on healthcare design as well as those with a regional focus.
So what attracts thousands to take time away from their practices and make the effort to attend an industry event? We yearn to connect with those that are doing similar work, to learn and grow as professionals, and there is only so much connection possible via Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, or as an avatar in Second Life (and that’s so 2006). In short, it’s about being present, and it’s about experiences—in person and face-to-face—with those in the same industry. Social media and online information augment, but do not replace, those tangible experiences.
In discussions about conventions and trade shows, people often bring up the Milan Furniture Fair, but not only for the furniture in the exhibition halls. Rather, what is memorable is the variety of other happenings throughout the city during that eventful April week.
To be sure, while the events are related to design and products, the human experience is key. It’s about getting a glimpse of the future by seeing trends, technological advances, and creative solutions. It’s about being present—together as a profession and industry, and not in our silos—to see the future. The need for that experience is not going away, but how do we enhance it? I welcome your input.
Also in the July/August issue
After the Best of NeoCon section in this issue, you’ll see five fantastic international interiors featured (beginning on page 109) with a focus on Europe (think of it as an August European holiday, even if you are reading this in your office). I also encourage you to read about the winners of the 5th annual Inspirations Awards (page 138), sponsored by Tandus Flooring, which celebrate leadership in socially responsible design.
Enjoy this issue, and I’ll see you at an event this fall!
John Czarnecki, Assoc. AIA, Hon. IIDA
Editor in Chief