Summer Recharge

by Sam Olbekson, AIA, AICAE, NOMA, AIA Minnesota President

Summer has always been a time for me to think about time away from buildings and how I can spend as much time outdoors as possible with my family. I am energized by the experience of a backpacking trip high into the mountains, or a long canoe portage through the wilderness, or simply working in my garden. Time away from work is an important way to replenish and reflect, especially when experiencing a new landscape or new part of the world for me. Lately it has been more challenging to find these opportunities though, and I often find myself planning fewer vacations and then planning those around Zoom meetings, mid-vacation deadlines, or Wi-Fi availability. 

A week and a half before the national AIA Conference last month I was on a road trip to camp and hike in Colorado and Utah with my daughter Mia.  We were kicking off her summer break from high school and I had planned our itinerary route, tent nights, and hotel nights around several important Zoom meetings I couldn’t miss. On our second morning of travel, I opened up my laptop to catch up on some work and to prep for a meeting and the unthinkable happened: my laptop screen flickered a few times, distorted my work into alarming (but interesting) fractal patterns, and then slowly faded into a dark empty screen. No combination of restarting, control-alt-deleting, or hard booting brought it back to life.

In spite of how serious I tend to be, I’m also an “oh well” type of person and instead of panic I felt a big wave of relief and packed up my disabled laptop for the rest of the trip. A few calls later, work output expectations were adjusted, and meetings were rescheduled. I was now on a real vacation away from work, a fortunate accident that allowed me to immerse myself into the incredible scenery around me and to be present in the moment with my daughter.

After a great weeklong trip and a long drive home to Minneapolis I turned around a day later and headed off to San Francisco for the national AIA Conference with a broken laptop. Luckily, I had a few months left on my warranty and I my laptop was fixed while I was at the conference. I was still energized from my trip and was ready to be energized again by the Conference.

The AIA National Conference was held June 7-10 in San Francisco this year with 15,000 attendees from more than 70 countries, 475 exhibiting companies, and of course a great contingent of AIA Minnesota members representing our state and local chapters. There were many highlights worth mentioning:

  • Five AIA Minnesota members were elevated to Fellowship
  • Two AIA Minnesota members received the AIA Young Architects Award;
  • Six projects designed by Minnesota architecture firms received national awards (two AIA COTE Top Ten Awards, two ALA/AIA Library Awards, and two Architecture Awards);
  • Representatives from the AIA Minnesota board of directors and other Minnesota delegates attended the Annual Business Meeting and provided input to help shape AIA national policies and elect new leadership; and
  • Connecting with our community at the AIA Minnesota reception and other formal and informal gatherings.

While there were major keynote speakers and a range of valuable educational sessions and social activities, what really resonated with me at the conference was the opportunity to connect as a group, create new connections and to strengthen relationships within our AIA Minnesota and local chapter membership. Meeting in person to have thoughtful discussions, think about how we can make our profession more meaningful and relevant, and how we can create greater value for our members were ongoing topics that we can continue at our own A’23 MN Conference on Architecture at the Depot in Minneapolis from November 13-15. 

I look forward to continuing discussions on important topics that matter to our communities, our profession, and for our membership to reconnect and make new connections in person. I hope you all are finding time to disconnect, replenish, and reenergize yourself this summer in whatever ways that work best for you. And I hope you find a way to pack up your laptop for a while without it breaking!

View the July 2023 edition of Matrix.