Calatrava, Wynn help draw record numbers to AIA Expo

June 01, 2005 |

More than 24,000 design professionals made the voyage to Las Vegas last month for the AIA 2005 National Convention and Design Expo, held May 19–21 at Mandalay Bay Convention Center. Attendance figures surpassed the 2004 show in Chicago by more than 10%, and the 2003 expo in San Diego by nearly 20%.

Las Vegas mega-developer Steve Wynn drew the hottest ticket in town, selling out two ballrooms at his palatial, $2.7 billion resort-casino for an engaging conversation between him and and his long-time architect/builder, Tony Marnell of Marnell Corrao Associates. The two discussed the "youthful" architecture behind Wynn Las Vegas, the changing Vegas skyline, and their adventures together while creating some of the city's most notable resort-casinos, including Mirage and Bellagio.

In discussing the architecture of his new casino, Wynn urged the audience of more than 1,000 architects to "leave the comfort" of the tried, time-tested, safe designs. "We're not sure if we did that [with Wynn Las Vegas], but at least we tried."

AIA Gold Medal winner Santiago Calatrava also had some advice for architects: "fix modern cities." Poor city planning of the past, specifically lack of functional transit and quality housing, is a major problem facing architects today, he said.

"If we architects don't give an effective answer to the problem of the city, someone else will," said Calatrava. Two different scales of intervention, one of embellishment and one of total reconstruction, must be used to fix modern cities, he said.

Calatrava also provided a colorful demonstration of the inspiration behind his sculptured buildings and bridges.

"Movement is imminent to the human body and life," said Calatrava, while sketching the twisting torso of a human body—the inspiration behind his 190-meter-tall, spiraling residential tower in Malmö, Sweden. "In order to enrich architecture, you have to transform architecture from stagnant to dynamic," he said.

Other highlights from the show:

Las Vegas mayor Oscar Goodman announced plans for a new mixed-use development for downtown Las Vegas. A Frank Gehry-designed Alzheimer's facility will serve as the "gateway" to the 61-acre complex, which will also include an academic center, performing arts center, city hall, domed professional sports complex, high-density residential, and offices.

"When I was elected mayor in 1999, downtown was dead," said Goodman. "This is the next step in the rebirth of the inner core of Las Vegas."

AIA has expanded into Japan, creating its fourth overseas chapter. Two years in the making, AIA Japan joins AIA London/UK (1993), Continental Europe (1994), and Hong Kong (1997).

AIA is also looking to go global with its Continuing Education program. Thom Lowther, head of AIA's continuing education program, will travel to Finland this summer to work with the International Union of Architects (UIA) to transfer AIA-type professional education programs to the UIA's 92 member countries.

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