By William Richards
If you’re lining up your Q4 commitments, put Architecture Exchange East 2023 (Nov. 1-3) on your radar in Richmond. You’re not going to want to miss it this year, says AIA Virginia’s Executive Vice President Paul Battaglia, AIA, thanks to new networking opportunities and a new night for Visions for Architecture. “ArchEx is about accelerating your learning by offering some very unique experiences to forge stronger connections to your colleagues,” says Battaglia, “and we are stronger together as a design and construction community, which has never been more important than now—in today’s economy at this critical time for the environment.” The main thing for the annual convention, he says in this exclusive interview, is about being open to what’s next—and there’s only one way to find out what that might mean.
What’s your baseline for understanding ArchEx in 2023? Why is going to be an important event?
People can get their learning credits in lots of places—and that’s just a fact. But, what’s also a fact is that you can’t get them in quite the same way as you can at ArchEx. It’s one of the things that excites me as a member. If you practice architecture in Virginia, if you teach design in Virginia, and if you supply architects with products and services, this is really the only place you’re going to strengthen your position as a design thinker on behalf of your business. Or, even just on behalf of yourself, frankly.
OK, Paul, but you are the Executive Vice President of AIA Virginia. Aren’t you supposed to say that?
I wouldn’t be doing my job if I didn’t, but I have to tell you that I really believe architects, educators, product manufacturers, and AEC industry insiders in Virginia are really looking for something different—and I believe ArchEx is going to deliver. Registration opens next month and we’re really excited to let people know about it.
ArchEx is about remembering what a convening force design can be. We’re going to double down on our expo floor and really make that hive of activity a driver of networking.
ArchEx is also about providing a platform for cutting edge research and practice to flourish. The sessions we’re considering this year are really top notch. I can’t really tell you about them now—not yet—but I’m really pleased with how timely they are for this place and time in Virginia’s scene, and how compelling they are for any time, really—and that’s about finding those threads that knit together the work across generations and also the incredibly diverse markets across the state.
I think I hear you saying that ArchEx isn’t just for one type of person. Is that right?
Yes, and what strikes me is the range of things that architects are interested in doing—and what they have done, certainly—but what they are trying to get into, riding that edge of their experience and wondering what’s possible with this product on the expo floor or that talk they just heard in a packed room.
When I think back over all the years I’ve attended, the best times were the unpredictable times—the serendipity of sessions or conversations that lead down a road you hadn’t anticipated. Sometimes that happens in the lobby when I’m looking at a project exhibit. Sometimes it’s an off-handed comment made by someone next to me in a session. Sometimes it leads to a contract. Sometimes it leads to a new job.
I think there are a lot of people interested in that kind of serendipity.
What are some of the ways you’re considering that inclusive chance for everyone to find the next thing?
ArchEx is about a dialogue across experiences. We have members who have been practicing for 30 years who are really passionate about making a positive difference for their firms and for the next generation of architects. We have members who are hard-charging graduates who are on a licensure path—sacrificing a lot of their time to pass their exams—and ArchEx has to be there for them, too, offering ways to enrich that experience. It also has to offer them ways to network, too, and forge those relationships that really make a difference in the long term.
What’s one of the things that you’re changing this year?
We’re moving Visions to Thursday night, too, instead of on the final day of the convention because we want it to be a more inclusive event. I think a lot of people in the past wondered about the benefit of tacking on that extra night—on a weekend, to boot—and so by moving Visions up in the conference to Thursday, we feel we can bring more people together to celebrate their colleagues.
Whether it’s Visions or not, everything we’re doing this year is meant to bring people together and remind them that this is an opportunity for them to fulfill their goals. It’s also an opportunity for them to find new goals. For me that’s about being open to possibility, and it’s a really good time to be open to possibility in Virginia architecture right now.