From the inner workings of the mind to the outer limits of the galaxy, Friday’s keynote at the 2017 AIA conference expanded the conversation well beyond the traditional boundaries of design.

Michael Bierut of Pentagram moderated a panel called “Design that Overcomes,” which included Dan Goods and David Delgado from NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory, and Dr. Eve Edelstein, the director of Perkins+Will’s Human Experience Lab.  

“Our brain has as many neurons as stars in the sky,” said Edelstein, a neuroscientist-cum-architect who works with designers to implement research findings that can improve human health and cognition. She explained that beyond just informing design choices, neuroscience can “support an environment that yields our greatest power: creativity itself.”

Meanwhile, NASA’s Goods and Delgado work with the space agency to translate complex ideas about the universe into visible, interactive works of art.  From a pavilion that gave “voices” to spacecraft as they crisscross the sky, to a collective art project in which short wave radio operators communicated with the space probe Juno, they aim to incorporate awe into their work. Speaking about the remnants of exploding stars, Goods remarked, “Some of those atoms have become you and me. It is a gift and a privilege to be alive. What you guys do matter. What we do together matters.

Also at this morning’s keynote, the AIA bestowed the Whitney M. Young Award to Detroit Collaborative Design Center, while the prestigious Firm Award went to Leddy Maytum Stacy Architects, an office whose work “demonstrates design with purpose,” according to AIA CEO Robert Ivy. 

And just in time for his 100th birthday. I. M. Pei’s pyramid at the Louvre was honored with the AIA’s 25 Year Award. Pei’s son, Chien Chung Pei, and firm partner George Miller accepted the work on Pei’s behalf. But there was more celebrating to be done: After the convention, the younger Pei said he would return to New York to attend his father’s birthday party.


Read more of RECORD’s coverage from the 2017 AIA conference.