JASON'S PRESIDENT’S FOREWORD TO THE ACADIA 2017 CONFERENCE

2017 ACADIA Proceedings.jpg
 
 
 
Lumen at PS1 (Jenny Sabin)

Lumen at PS1 (Jenny Sabin)

Confluence Park Pavilions (Andrew Kudless)

Confluence Park Pavilions (Andrew Kudless)

Jason Kelly Johnson's "President’s Foreword" to the ACADIA 2017 Conference Proceedings (available here)

“Testing Ground”

Now in its 36th year of existence, the ACADIA community continues to thrive. Since its inception, Acadians have produced pioneering work and research, making key contributions to the fields of architecture, design, computation, engineering, scholarship, education, and beyond. As the most selective peer-reviewed conference of its kind in the world, it is also an open setting to discuss and debate experimental ideas no matter who you are or where you come from. I often call ACADIA a “testing ground”. It is a conference that explicitly accepts and cultivates early work-in-progress explorations, where one can share and celebrate prototypes, iterations, glitches, failures, tests and triumphs.    

My own involvement with ACADIA began over a decade ago. After having just become an Assistant Professor and co-founder of Future Cities Lab, I was fortunate to have a project accepted for presentation at the conference. It was exciting to discover a peer group with overlapping research interests in fabrication and robotics, and also mentors willing to provide constructive feedback and encouragement.

At these early ACADIA conferences I fondly remember getting to know the emerging work and research of people like Andrew Kudless and Jenny Sabin. Andrew’s early explorations in form-finding and material systems, most often using inexpensive wood laminates and plaster, allowed him to iterate and produce families of experiments, rather than mere one-offs. In a similar fashion, Jenny’s early research into textile systems and weaving algorithms allowed for the production of thousands of exploratory prototypes, some fantastically monstrous, others more refined and systematic. During these years I was also struck by the support and mentorship they received from the ACADIA community. People like Philip Beesley, Mike Weinstock, Achim Menges and Branko Kolarevic, come to mind. Not only do they regularly attend the conferences and provide support, but they mixed it up later in the evening, helping emerging generations connect the dots, meet future collaborators, and openly discuss potential new avenues of research. It is exciting to see projects from Andrew and Jenny now being realized. Andrew’s concrete shell pavilions at Confluence Park in Texas, and Jenny’s recently executed project Lumen for MOMA PS1’s Young Architects Program, are both excellent examples of Acadians moving from the “testing ground” to real-world constructions of the highest quality.

Similarly, during the year the majority of Acadians work tirelessly to experiment, write, design, build, prototype, collaborate and teach. Near the end of the year they gather in one place to exchange ideas, debate, share, learn and celebrate the past year’s accomplishments. It is in this spirit that our “testing ground” exists and flourishes. This year, with the MIT School of Architecture and the MIT Media Lab in Cambridge, Massachusetts as our extraordinary backdrop, we explore the conference theme of “Disciplines and Disruptions”. In the spirit of Acadians past and present, the conference Chairs speculate that: “Distinctions between design and making, building and urban scale, architecture and engineering, real and virtual, on site and remote, physical and digital data, professionals and crowds, are diminishing as technology increases the designer's reach far beyond the confines of the drafting board. This conference provides a platform to investigate the shifting landscape of the discipline today, and to help define and navigate the future.”

On behalf of the ACADIA Board of Directors and its membership, as President of ACADIA I want to acknowledge the 2017 MIT conference team for their extraordinary organization, energy and thoughtfulness.

Special thanks to Conference Site Chairs Skylar Tibbits and Takehiko Nagakura, the Technical Chairs, Exhibition Chairs, Session Chairs, Hackathon Chairs, and many other advisers and supporters including Dennis Sheldon, and Head of the Department of Architecture at MIT, Professor Meejin Yoon. Workshop Chair Justin Lavallee (with Brandon Clifford), assistant Maroula Bacharidou, copy editors, graphic designers, staff members Patricia Driscoll, Inala Locke and many others were also instrumental to the success of the conference. Chairing and hosting a conference requires a thankless series of meetings and tasks that require vision, energy, a sense of humor, diplomacy and above all patience. Skylar, Takehiko and the extraordinary team they assembled, have patiently and generously worked with us over two years to craft a thought-provoking conference, exhibition, workshops and hackathon events.

I would like to acknowledge ACADIA’s many sponsors this year. Year-after-year the support of sponsors allows us to host a world-class event with an unsurpassed roster of keynote speakers, awardees, exhibits, publications, workshops, special round-tables, events and celebrations. Additional sponsorship from Autodesk allowed us to support more ACADIA Conference Student Travel Scholarships than ever before, and the ACADIA Autodesk Awards Program will honor and financially support emerging paper and project research again this year. I would like to personally thank Matt Jezyk from Autodesk for working with us over several years to make this an annual feature of the conference. Shane Burger, in his role as ACADIA’s Development Officer, took the lead with sponsorship again this year. Adam Marcus, in his role as ACADIA’s Communications Officer, also maintained key partnerships with Architect’s Newspaper and Archinect. Under their leadership our development and communications efforts have never been stronger.

I would also like to thank the ACADIA Board of Directors and Officers. Through the leadership of this dedicated group of people, ACADIA’s organization, finances, sponsorships, marketing and other outreach efforts have never been stronger. In addition to Shane and Adam, board members Mike Christenson, Kory Bieg, Dana Cupkova, Philip Anzalone, Kathy Velikov and others, have taken key leadership roles this year. We look forward to continuing to build-upon and evolve these efforts in the coming year as ACADIA prepares to host its follow-up conference in Mexico City in October 2018.

Finally, this year the ACADIA community mourned the tragic loss of pioneering architect Zaha Hadid. She was previously awarded ACADIA’s highest honor - the ACADIA Lifetime Achievement Award for Design in 2014. Zaha, along with her partner Patrik Schumacher and legions of extremely dedicated employees and collaborators, produced a trail-blazing body of cutting-edge work. Together they pushed design, computation, fabrication and construction into radical new territories. For many years her employees, collaborators and students have also made critical contributions to the ACADIA community. While we mourn Zaha’s loss, we also celebrate and take inspiration from her spirit of inventiveness and risk-taking. At this year’s Conference and Annual Meeting, we will honor Zaha for having the courage, patience and fortitude to devote her life to translating spectacular visions, paintings and models, into buildings and public spaces with the highest degree of conceptual thinking, craft and computational rigor.   

Jason Kelly Johnson
ACADIA President

Associate Professor, CCA San Francisco
Founding Design Principal, Future Cities Lab