AIAVT's Board Retreat Travels to Norwich University
by Eleanor D’Aponte, AIA, AIAVT Board President
On April 18th, 2023, AIAVT held their annual retreat in Chaplin Hall at Norwich University. The School of Architecture + Art graciously hosted our packed day of events which offered quite a bit of face time for students and faculty alike.
We began with coffee and treats for a brief board meeting and then dove into a close examination of the 5-year strategic plan, passed by the Board in 2022. In small teams we thin sliced primary goals: 1) public outreach 2) member engagement and 3) climate action into more specific actionable tasks and considered how they could be scaffolded onto work we are already doing. Additionally, we developed a preliminary matrix aligning said tasks with a timeline and a committee. The matrix will be developed further and exist as a live document to keep us on track. Finally, we discussed methods for optimizing communication between the board and our multiple committees. Ideas included acquisition of managerial software as well as a simple yet more formal quarterly review.
Afterward AIAVT treated Norwich University AIAS students to an ‘Ask us Anything!’ lunch session. Many were swamped with finishing studio projects, but several joined us and, over wraps from the Falls General Store in Northfield, students asked questions about the professional world and licensure. Office culture, workflow, and technology were hot topics.
Chaplin Hall was covered in floor to ceiling posters presented by the Master of Architecture students. The board reviewed each for the 2023 AIAVT Thesis Award and after much deliberation voted to split the prize between two projects: Humane Zoological Architecture by Vincent Antonecchia and Vernacular Mill by Glen Lambert.
The scale of Humane Zoological Architecture, an elephant conservationsite and education center, addressed ecological, pachydermia, and human needs. Board members remarked that the student had set a high bar for themselves and thought the project was aspirational. It was well researched and uniquely presented-affording experiential renderings from the perspective of the elephant as well as the human user. The design of Vernacular Mill, a community making and exhibition space,was well researched and elegantly resolved. The poster graphics and storytelling aspects were expert and compelling.
The last activity of the day included a homemade invention by a Vermont HS senior called ‘Brookies’, a half brownie-half cookie treat that was a serendipitous accompaniment to a discussion between architecture faculty and board members; How to ‘Build the Resilient Architect of the Future’. It was great to take an hour from our overpacked schedules to sit and reflectively share what we are seeing in the classroom and the office. Some of the unexpected take-aways from this conversation included: the need for ‘play’ in design-as an ongoing and resilient way to address unique challenges and problem solve; helping students develop skills for collaborating and working in small teams; teaching skills for eventual mentoring of younger employees; learning to advocate for energy efficient design; and learning how to fail.
The Board was pleased to take time out of our busy daily schedules to spend with each other and with Norwich Students in such fruitful discussions and team-affirming collaborations.