Entering its fourth decade, the highly regarded Monterey Design Conference (MDC) bills itself as an intellectually vibrant weekend that promotes casual conversation among attendees and its illustrious presenters, which in the past have included Pritzker Prize laureates Rem Koolhaas, Shigeru Ban, and Thom Mayne. This year’s MDC did not disappoint.

The three-day event, organized by the AIA California Council, took place in October at a historic Monterey Peninsula conference center, where a number of the structures were designed by Julia Morgan. Over 900 attendees, 750 of them architects, were treated to thought-provoking, inspiring, and often amusing lectures by some of today’s leading practitioners from around the world, including Copenhagen-based Dorte Mandrup and Paris-based Dominique Jakob. Tokyo-based Sou Fujimoto, along with New York–based Shohei Shigematsu of OMA, brought the house down with respective presentations that, in both cases, were visually stunning as well as hilarious. Emcee Reed Kroloff set the tone for the relaxed affair, which also included fireside festivities, a film screening, house tours, and a reception sponsored by Architectural Record honoring 2017 AIA Architecture Firm Award winner Leddy Maytum Stacy Architects of San Francisco.

As it always does, MDC carved out time within that busy schedule to look back on the careers of the elder statesmen and -women of design— this year honoring Beverly Willis and hosting talks by Ed Fella and Gere Kavanaugh. Looking ahead to the future of design, it also showcased emerging talent from throughout California, including 2017 RECORD Design Vanguard winner Alan Tse.

While there was no theme to the conference, one that emerged from the works presented is the growing importance of integrating landscape design into the design of buildings—in some cases, the two becoming indistinguishable. The focus on landscape was all too present during MDC as the catastrophic fires of Northern California raged on throughout that weekend, affecting a number of attendees and communities within a three-hour drive from the conference grounds.

The next MDC will take place from October 25 to 27, 2019.