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Why attend the 2023 Design Matters Conference in New York on March 16-18?


How do we make a compelling case for architecture? The conference plenary sessions explore how we can drive collective impact in our field from multiple perspectives.

Mellon Foundation grantee, Sweet Water Foundation's Civic Arts Church

Exploring Our Collective Impact:
A Funder's Perspective

In our opening session, we hear from two philanthropic leaders who occupy critical positions for responding to the larger needs and health of our field. Over their careers, our guest speakers have been responsible for everything from awarding career-making commissions and fellowships to individuals, to issuing transformational grants to organizations, neighborhood projects, and new digital platforms, to crafting programmatic strategies on equity, social justice, and cultural diversity, even dispensing emergency financial relief.
Cooper Hewitt 2023 National High School Design Competition

Exploring New Potentials of Our Collective Impact:
A Director's Perspective

This excellent panel of enterprising leaders operating differently-scaled institutions and initiatives will discuss the new strategies and priorities they see for re-engaging with the city and the role architecture plays within their overall work.
New speaker announced:
Maria Nicanor

Maria joined the Cooper Hewitt in March 2022. What's next for the museum?

"Upcoming exhibitions and programs will promote design as a public good—creating opportunities for discovery, participation, and dialogue about our shared future."

Telling the Story of Our Collective Impact:
The Media's Perspective

  • Nick Axel, Deputy Editor, e-flux Architecture and Head of Architectural Design department at Gerrit Rietveld Academie 
  • Felix Burrichter, Founder & Creative Director of PIN-UP Magazine
  • Marquise Stillwell, Co-founder of Deem Journal; Founder + Principal at Openbox Studio, Board member for the Center for Architecture; Fellow at Urban Design Forum
Our final group conversation explores recent successes, challenges, and emerging strategies for expanding public discourse on architecture and design and for connecting with public audiences in an ever-changing media landscape.
View Full Conference Schedule


AAO members and staff connecting at a previous Design Matters Conference
Make connections with fellow conference attendees during structured networking time and casually over meals. Here's a sampling from the schedule:
  • Welcome Lunch: Check in and meet the AAO and Center for Architecture staff
  • Dine-Arounds: Get to know fellow conference attendees over a 3-course meal
  • Affinity Group Meet-and-Greets: Meet others with similar expertise (e.g., educators, curators, executive directors, funders)
  • Table Topics: Discuss topics of shared interest
  • Closing Reception: Network with your fellow architecture organization leaders
  • Breakfast with the Board: Spend time with the AAO Board of Directors

Meet leaders from the following organizations: 

AIA New York / Center for Architecture
Albert and Tina Small Center for Collaborative Design, Tulane University 
Architects Foundation 
The Architectural League
a83 Gallery
Carnegie Mellon University
Chicago Architecture Center
Cooper Hewitt, Smithsonian Design Museum
Deem Journal
Design Connects
Design Trust for Public Space
e-flux Architecture
Graham Foundation for Advanced Studies in the Fine Arts
Institute of Planning and Development Prague 
Municipal Art Society
Museum of Modern Art (MoMA)
National Building Museum
PIN-UP Magazine
Queens Museum, New York
Seattle Architecture Foundation
Storefront for Art and Architecture
University of Virginia School of Architecture
Urban Design Forum
Urban Omnibus
Urban Strategies LLC
Van Alen Institute
The World Around


View from rooftop bar, citizenM NewYork Bowery hotel

Site Visits to Local Architecture Organizations (Thursday)

There's a plethora of interesting architecture organizations nearby the AIA New York Center for Architecture (CFA). Come with us as we meet the team at a83 and tour their gallery and archives, visit The Architectural League and Urban Omnibus and Design Trust for Public Space offices, drop in to the Storefront for Art and Architecture, and much more. There is nothing more valuable than meeting fellow architecture organizations staffers at their own workplaces to get a behind-the-scenes feel for what drives their work.


Main Conference Venue: AIA NY Center for Architecture (Friday)

AIA New York opened its Center for Architecture in 2003, blazing a trail that many other public-facing architecture organizations soon followed across the country. Architect Andrew Berman's design took a mish-mash of underutilized sub-basement space and created a coherent, highly functional three-story space with open sight lines from the street. For anyone interested in developing or managing a permanent facility for public engagement, the CFA should surely be on your list of sites to visit.


What's On: Explore NYC (Saturday)

Gather at the Center for Architecture with fellow conference attendees and get sorted for various journeys out into the city, exhibits, and specialty tours. Beyond the Thursday visits to architecture organizations located nearby the CFA, we will conclude our conference by providing you with a lengthy list of places to visit, recently completed buildings to see, and exhibitions to take in over the weekend. 

From singular explorations of Piranesi at the Morgan Library and Guimard at Cooper Hewitt to the must-see Panorama and Water Supply models at the Queens Museum to MoMA’s current group show entitled Architecture Now: New York, New Publics, you really should take advantage of the breadth of offerings and explore the city with a few fellow conference attendees.

The Municipal Art Society and AIA New York will also be offering a range of individual building, neighborhood, and topical walking tours (most are $15/person), plus the Classic Harbor Line boat cruise around Manhattan is worth a try. 


Arlo Soho, bunk bed rooms
As with all Association of Architecture Organizations (AAO) events, we are mindful to be efficient with our schedule and frugal in the expenses being asked of our attendees.

The 2023 conference schedule is structured with optional activities beginning the afternoon of Thursday, March 16, a full day of programming on Friday, March 17, plus a post-conference breakfast the morning of Saturday, March 18. 

We have rounded up local favorite hotels within comfortable walking distance to the Center for Architecture. Given the various rates and endless options, we trust you'll find what you're looking for on our list of recommended hotels.

$175 AAO Member Conference Pass 
$215 Non-Member Conference Pass

Details at


Attendees at a past Design Matters Conference in Philadelphia
Are you interested in public engagement concerning the role of architecture, planning, and design in service to society?

The Design Matters Conference is perfect for architecture organization staff (at all levels), as well as design professionals, educators, and independent curators and consultants.

Let's work together to drive collective impact in our field. Please join us for the 2023 Design Matters Conference this March 16-18 at the Center for Architecture.
Register Now

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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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