The Monterey Design Conference is the California Council A.I.A.’s equivalent of the TED Talks. Held every two years at the historic Asilomar Conference Grounds just south of Monterey, the conference brings together some of the world’s greatest architects, 3D artists, futurists, designers of all stripes and creative types from north and south to share a weekend of architecture, art and fun. This year’s agenda was structured so that talks were given on both seminal figures in California architecture and young visionaries from around the west. Attendees had the opportunity to be bombarded almost nonstop with beautiful buildings and creative ideas from eight in the morning to ten at night. And if you got tired of looking at one amazing presentation after another, you could take a walk along one of central California’s prettiest beaches just fifty yards away. Here are just a few quick snapshots of the goings on at this year’s MDC.
The conference opened with an engrossing lecture by Julia Donoho, A.I.A., about the life and work of Julia Morgan, awarded the 2014 Gold Medal, by the national A.I.A. 57 years after her death. Donoho, a national A.I.A. board member, was instrumental in promoting Morgan’s Gold Medal application and presented an extraordinary amount of documentation about Morgan’s life and early work.
Carme Pinós of Estudio Carme Pinós, Barcelona, gave an eye-popping presentation of spectacular buildings done by her offices in Spain and Mexico. Her inverted trapezoidal projects defied gravity yet maintained a remarkable sense of intimacy and scale. She kept apologizing for her lack of English skills, but her work spoke for itself.
Several environmental artists made wonderful presentations showcasing their public works. Gordon Huether, a glass and large scale environmental artist, wowed the audience with his images of undulating walls and curvy glass projections. Huether’s work finds its way from parks to hospitals to airports around the U.S. Every project is different and each one provocative. Pae White had everyone tied in knots with her dramatic string sculptures for airport lobbies and public buildings. We have been fortunate to photograph one of Huether’s projects in San Francisco, but are still waiting to get the opportunity to shoot one of White’s string sculptures.
Steven Ehrlich was given this year’s National A.I.A. Firm Award and was on hand, with his entire office, to receive the award. We have photographed several projects for Steve and he has always treated me like long lost family. Ehrlich’s office is unique because he still maintains a residential design studio while doing large-scale work around the U.S. His work is simple, modern and often filled with a dash of L.A. panache that makes it fun and inviting.
There were close to thirty other presentations given over the weekend, but not enough space to write about each one. The event was organized in such a way that a serious amount of time was given to socializing and fun. Julia Morgan designed The Asilomar Conference Center starting in 1913 as a YWCA camp. A number of her buildings are still in use including Merrill Hall where most of the conference was held. Morgan is most probably up in heaven sitting on a Roman column, looking down and smiling.