the next generation of architects.

Nov 15, 2019

It has been a few months since the inaugural Young Architects Conference, but inspiration from the event is still firing through me. I was fortunate enough that modus studio supported me in attending the first ever Young Architects Conference in Portland, Oregon. This 3-day event was full of inspiring keynote speakers, relevant workshops, and most importantly a boosted sense of community, advocates, and mentors.

As the name might suggest, this conference was focused around young architects, specifically recent architecture graduates, those seeking licensure, or those who have been licensed under 10 years. This was a gap that founder of, Michael Riscica, felt was missing from the architecture community. Michael has traveled all over the country to speak at AIA, AEC, and all conferences in between, but never felt there was a place that focused on the next generation of architects. Alas, the Young Architects Conference was born. 

The conference began with an atmosphere that was unlike any other conference I have been to. It was refreshing to not walk through a sea of building product booths, but instead, walk right into a community of like-minded individuals. At any given moment you could hear conversations about what exams people were on, advice on how to get through it, and big congratulations (not to mention gold medals passed out) for all those who are licensed. Before I ever listened to a speaker or went to a workshop, I already felt like I had gained confidence and knowledge to further my career. 

So much talent came across the stage in 3 days such as Wandile Mthiyane, 25 year old founder of Ubuntu Design, who is empowering inadequately sheltered families to overcome economic and social barriers through design in South Africa. Dr. Ashlee Hayes enlightened us with discussion on how to develop a lasting career and know our self-worth. Mariela Bravo spoke on rebuilding her home in Puerto Rico after hurricane Maria, and how to adapt architecture to natural disasters. Jason Bachor, founder of GFDA, spoke about finding your unique place in this profession and not apologizing for it.

What truly resonated with me was how all of the speakers were geared toward this audience. They spoke to us about their struggles, their unique paths, the times they wanted to quit (or did), when they didn’t feel like they belonged. The content was about building a successful profession, by building up yourself and building up others, it was less about actual buildings. They were real, raw, and are taking our profession by storm. 

The workshops continued this trend with a panel that consisted of Architizer, Archinect, and Youtube architecture bloggers, and vloggers that discussed how to be a content creator. They held a mock bid day workshop that helped all of us learn what really happens on the contractor’s side during a bid day. We learned about rendering workflows, what it means to be a project manager, and other useful tips that will help us as young architects become more relevant in our field.

In addition to all the wonderful scheduled events, what made this conference unique was the ample breaks and free time that was scheduled into our days. The attendees came from all over the country, and even some from other countries. There was an inclusive range of backgrounds, races and genders. These breaks allowed for so many personal connections to be made. Lunches tended to be in big groups, free time was spent exploring Portland with someone you had just met. Another important factor to note is that all of the speakers were a part of the conference all weekend long. There wasn’t a divide between the speakers and the attendees, coffee breaks, lunches. Explorations were shared between the attendees and the speakers as one community. 

What would a conference be without awards? Well, instead of awards recognizing excellent architecture, the Young Architect Conference gave out awards recognizing exceptional people. These awards were given to those in this community who have been influential in pushing themselves, uplifting others, and putting a significant mark on the next generation of architects. 

As all good things come to an end, so did the Young Architect Conference--but not before the epic closing party..I look forward to seeing what this group is going to accomplish and can’t wait for YARCH20 on July 24-27th in Portland, Maine, so we can continue to grow and push the next generation of architects! 

Kiara Luers, Assoc. AIA

modus studio

Shout out to the real MVP of the conference… Michael’s dog, Molly!

All photographs courtesy of Young Architect and Timothy Niou Photography.