Notes from ASPIRE EXPERIENCE: A New Conference Model with Leading-Edge Sessions and Mountain Charm

In the spirit of innovation and collaboration, AIA South Atlantic recently hosted a joint conference in Asheville, NC for members of AIA NC, AIA SC, AIA GA, and beyond. The ASPIRE Experience hosted world-class designers and thinkers for a three-day event using venues across the city in April; the resulting conversations were inspiring and energizing. More than 20 team people from LS3P attended ASPIRE and, in addition to being a fantastic opportunity to spend time with colleagues from eight offices around the firm, ASPIRE presented ideas that will stick with us in the long term and inform our designs.

Among my favorite experiences was earning three learning units for drinking and learning about how to make beer at the LEED Platinum Sierra Nevada brewery! Chad Pregracke also gave an inspirational talk about how one person can make a difference.  He shared his story about growing up and working on the Mississippi River as a commercial fisherman and shell diver.  He became appalled by the amount of garbage in the river and decided that if no one else was going to do something about it, he would.  His hard work, leadership, positivity, and can- do-attitude has grown his operation to over 100,000 volunteers.  Chad and his crew have removed 10 million pounds of garbage from our nation’s great rivers with an impeccable safety record.

From staff members around LS3P, a few of our favorite experiences and key takeaways included the following:

 “I was most interested in the two urban design charettes in which I participated. The first focused on Columbus, GA and how to responsibly revitalize a struggling neighborhood within the city; the mayor and two top city planning officials were present and eager to hear the ideas shared by everyone involved. The second workshop was a topographic study of Asheville. We explored how thriving areas of the city, which are currently divided by seemingly insurmountable hills and a rugged landscape, could be connected through varying types of architecture. My personal favorite of these was a blend of underground parking, street-level retail, and commercial and residential towers at varying heights with tiered green spaces that help mitigate the elevation changes at a personal level.”  – LS3P Associate Tyler Cole, Assoc. AIA

“From the tour of the Asheville Art Museum, I was reminded to expect the unexpected when it comes to integrating new systems into new additions attached to older existing buildings.  This is common knowledge among architects – but properly preparing the client for these events can be tricky. People gravitate towards, and stick around for, endeavors that have a purpose.  Find the purpose and others will follow and make for a better process – we can’t do it alone!”- LS3P Associate Principal | Project Manager | Architect Dean Rains, AIA, LEED AP, GGP

“Tim Hawk, FAIA talked about how to approach global issues that feel daunting. For example, in the span of about a century, the global population grew from one billion to six billion, and life expectancy doubled. In solving huge societal issues like access to food, water and housing or tackling climate change, where do we begin, as designers or as citizens? According to Hawk, we should ‘begin anywhere, and begin with fact-based optimism.’”  LS3P Senior Associate | Strategist | Writer Katherine Ball, AIA, LEED AP

“One of my favorite moment’s was Roy Spence’s keynote and the video of the group singing ‘Hallelujah.’  We are stronger when we harmonize together and also celebrate each individual. Follow your passion and find you purpose – then sing it from the mountaintops!” – LS3P Vice President | Principal | Columbia Office Leader Mary Beth Sims Branham, AIA

“The format for the conference was innovative and successful.  Leading off the keynote presentations with artistic entertainment was cool.  Pairing similar topics during ‘talk’ presentations followed by your choice of an informal ‘chat’ discussions was engaging.  I particularly enjoyed the Housing by Design Talks, which contrasted the promotion of architecture through documentation of mid-century modernist residential architecture by a non-architect with the Pathways’ ‘housing first’ model for impacting the homeless.” – LS3P Senior Associate | Project Manager | Senior Healthcare Architect Todd Reichard, AIA, LEED AP

“Oz Ozburn of Design Ecology shared a great thought on leadership: ‘Incumbent leadership focuses on risk management and efficient procurement; transformational leadership strives for the highest good within a community of trust and shared input.’“- LS3P Associate Principal | Raleigh Operations and Finance Manager Megan  Bowles, AIA

 “I was inspired by what I would categorize as ‘non-architect’ involvement in our field.  I really enjoyed Accidental Archivist: Transforming Modernist Documentation with George Smart.  He was in the financial advising industry for years and found a love of modern architecture later in life and now leads a nationwide non-profit that documents modern homes.  There was a clear focus for many of the talks on the affordable housing shortage and potential solutions (such as tiny house developments).  The multi-venue presentation format was a great way to get out and see the city.”- LS3P Associate Principal | Architect Jaime Henderson, AIA

“The Keynote speakers were excellent and inspiring, and the ability to get outside and walk the city of Asheville to the various venues was a great way to see the city up close. Note: even though you could earn up to eight learning units by visiting breweries, don’t try to earn all those learning units by visiting three breweries in one day. Drinking beer at 9:30 AM is never a good idea.”- LS3P Vice President | Principal | Studio Director Eric Aichele, AIA, LEED AP

As this year’s President of AIA SC and Chair of the ASPIRE Design Awards program, I was proud to see this tremendous effort on behalf of AIA South Atlantic Region grow into a meaningful, productive, and rewarding three-day event.  If you missed ASPIRE EXPERIENCE in 2019, you’ll have at least two more opportunities to get involved in 2020 and 2021! We look forward to building on this year’s momentum as we begin planning for next year.

About Dan

LS3P Associate Principal Dan Scheaffer served on this year’s ASPIRE EXPERIENCE Conference Committee and as Chair of the ASPIRE Design Awards program. Currently serving as President of AIA SC, Dan is an ardent supporter of educational and professional outreach. A frequent adjunct professor and guest lecturer at Trident Technical College, Dan has taught a variety of courses including Architectural History and Architectural Drawing and Design. His professional service includes three years as Lowcountry Director for AIA South Carolina as well as his current service with AIA SC.

Dan brings over 16 years of experience in complex designs for diverse education, commercial, healthcare, and transportation clients. Dan is well-versed in best practices for the design of state-of-the-art learning environments; his broad portfolio of designs for technical education and the training for specialized career skills include a nursing and science school and an aeronautical training center for Trident Tech, the College of Dental Medicine for MUSC, and a health sciences building for Coastal Carolina Community College. Dan was also instrumental in master planning of the Orangeburg Calhoun Tech (OCTech) Advanced Manufacturing programs, which is anticipated to provide long-term economic benefits to region through the development of a highly skilled workforce.

Dan volunteers extensively with Trident United Way, with leadership roles in programs such as the Lowcountry Food Bank Battle of the Bands and the annual Day of Caring. He is a recipient of an AIA Design Excellence Award, a graduate of Leadership Charleston, and one of the Charleston Chamber of Commerce’s Forty Under 40. Dan was named one of 12 nationwide winners of the AIA Young Architects Award in 2016.