Newsletter | December 2021
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Insights from the 2021 Design Matters Conference

At the 2021 Design Matters Conference earlier this month, participants from 24 US cities and 10 countries gathered to connect and share ideas, support each other, and advocate for organizations that advance the role of design in service to society.

As this tumultuous year comes to a close, we reflect on learnings from the Conference that can help architecture organizations create meaningful opportunities for engagement, amplify a variety of perspectives, and take action on issues that matter in the year ahead.

Highlight Video: Germane Barnes Keynote Address

4 minute highlight video:
Germane Barnes in conversation with Ben Prosky
at the 2021 Design Matters Conference.
Watch highlights from Germane Barnes' conference talk on:
  • his experience working with MoMA on "Reconstructions: Architecture and Blackness in America"
  • advice for institutions with white leadership who want to engage more BIPOC architects and designers 
  • the value of design education and community engagement 
"We need to make sure that many people who don't have an architecture education are still a part of the conversation. You shouldn't have to go to architecture school to have a say in how your city is developed. "
- Germane Barnes
Watch Highlights Video

Full Conference Recordings Available

Full recordings from the following conference sessions are available:
  • Opening Keynote - Germane Barnes
  • Using Place-Based Learning to Reframe Historical Legacies
  • Who Tells the Story of Architecture
  • New Directors/New Directions
  • Design Education Beyond Four Walls
  • Finding Excellence in Latin and South America
Contact AAO for video access

What was top-of-mind for Conference attendees?

During small group discussions in the virtual conference ballroom, attendees shared their experiences - both successes and challenges - on a range of topics.

Here's a smattering of topics that came up during the networking time:
  • addressing audience Zoom fatigue
  • using social media influencers for marketing
  • funding sources for diversity and inclusion initiatives
  • reducing carbon footprint through catering and travel policies
  • getting students engaged over Zoom with community-building activities
  • training docents to lead virtual tours
A summary of the Table Topics with links to resources and case studies is available.
Contact AAO for Resources

Network all year round, not just at the Conference!

Conference feedback confirmed the value of making connections with peers who lead architecture organizations' public programs, tours, exhibitions, K-12 design education programs, and other initiatives. 

Attendees also voiced a desire to have more opportunities throughout the year to meet and collaborate.

We are recruiting volunteers to lead virtual networking groups with fellow AAO members. Contact AAO to learn more about this and other opportunities for shaping AAO's future offerings.
I'm interested in year-round networking

Join the AAO Network

Thank you AAO Members for supporting the world’s foremost network of nonprofit architectural organizations that are leading the way in shaping public dialogue about architecture and design.

To be connected with peers who lead architecture organizations, public programs, tours, exhibitions, or K-12 design education, join AAO.
Inquire about Membership

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About AAO

The Association of Architecture Organizations (AAO) is an international member-based network that connects, supports, and advocates for organizations and individuals around the world devoted to advancing the role of architecture, planning, and design in service to society. Learn more at

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