Key Takeaways from the Annual AIA CRAN Symposium

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Warren Lloyd, AIA, LEED AP

Key Takeaways from the Annual AIA CRAN Symposium

Key Takeaways from the Annual AIA CRAN Symposium

The American Institute of Architects (AIA) is the world's largest network of Architects and Design Professionals and includes twenty-one knowledge communities, including the Custom Residential Architects Network. As the 2023 Chair of AIA CRAN, Warren helped bring the National CRAN Symposium to Salt Lake City in October. This was a unique opportunity for the team at Lloyd Architects to spend time away from the office and focus on their professional development. Residential Architect peers from over thirty US states and abroad gathered to share and learn from the unique Utah story.

Team members Maja, Diane, London, Won, Dave, Abby, and Alec poolside at the Red Butte House

Top 5 Takeaways 

#1 All communities are different, but we share common challenges. 

Top of mind for many communities right now, including Salt Lake City, are housing affordability and growth management plans. Not every strategy is right for every community, but sharing our strategies broadly helps everyone keep attuned to possible solutions. 

#2 Utah doesn’t have an easily identifiable architectural style

Instead, the Intermountain West is a collection of influences from early European immigrants as well as native American and Mexican architectural traditions. Utah’s high desert climate affects how we design and build, while our mountains provide beautiful backdrops. As part of the symposium, attendees toured several residential homes, including two designed by Lloyd Architects. It was inspiring to see the variety of ways our peers, both local and recognized architects from both coasts, interpret a regional response to the unique Utah landscape.

#3 A fresh perspective 

Conferences are energizing, and the Symposium was no different. In addition to touring homes, we were treated to visual journeys through some of our peers' work and strategies to design sustainably. We’re eager to apply some ideas that inspired us on future projects. 

#4 Residential architecture is at the core of all architecture

Tom Kundig of Olson Kundig Associates expressed this the best: 

“If there is one environment that provides a sense of place, of refuge, it’s our home. Once you understand all of those issues of how to deliver a project for a family or a situation at that very intimate level, you begin to understand what architecture is really about at its soul. I think one reason that Corbu, Kahn, all our heroes did such great, larger institutional work is because they came from a residential arena. I just want to make that emphatic point because I do run into resistance at the AIA and at some academic institutions that custom residential work is, in fact, unimportant. We think it is the core of what we do.” 

Tom and Warren at Olson Kundig's Wasatch House

#5 Food is the common language that creates the backdrop for great conversations.

Just like at dinner parties in our homes, gathering together over a meal is a powerful way to connect. At CRAN, evenings are filled with small group dining opportunities, often hosted by the generosity of one or more of our vendor sponsors. In these informal settings, we meet architects from across the nation and compare notes, share best practices, commiserate, and learn how others approach residential architecture in their communities.

Bonus Takeaway: Gain a new perspective by touring your own neighborhood 

Saturday morning tours provided an opportunity to see Salt Lake from various viewpoints. Our team enjoyed rediscovering our downtown through the lens of knowledge and thought leader Steve Cornell, an architect involved in historic work. Steve led a walking tour of South Temple Street, which the APA named one of the 10 Great Streets in America for its “historic residential design and craftsmanship, diversity of land uses, and the integration of multiple forms of transportation throughout history."

Steve Cornell AIA walking and sharing the history of South Temple

In addition to Steve Cornell's tour, LDS Church Engineer Georges Bonnet provided a detailed description of the seismic renovation program for the historic Salt Lake Temple, which included a discussion of the value of preserving historic structures in the fabric of a modern metropolitan setting. Simultaneously, Jesse Allen AIA led a walking tour exploring how design vision and guidelines were realized in the urban design and landscape elements of the Regent Street Improvement Project.

Each walking tour leader provided a unique perspective on the inspiring role the history of our buildings plays in our cities.

Read Warren's End of Year CRAN Chair Letter here.