The 2008 AIA Iowa Annual Convention was held yesterday and continues today at the Polk County Convention Center in downtown Des Moines. I attended two of the workshops yesterday, Speed Mentoring, and Transitions in Internships.

The Speed Mentoring workshop in morning was co-organized and presented by my former studio instructor, Erin Olson-Douglas. After a brief presentation on the history of mentorship in the architecture profession and its more contemporary dynamic, we paired up and had speed mentoring in a similar fashion to speed dating. I had the opportunity to talk to four different professionals for five minutes each. Each dialogue was a little bit different.

One conversation I had was with an architect at OPN in Cedar Rapids working on the new federal courthouse design. It was interesting to hear about their experience dealing with the flood and the unfortunate headache the courthouse project has been with the years of setbacks from the federal government. Another architect I talked to, from Fort Dodge, suggested I participate in a Community Design Center project to engage my broad interest in architecture, urban and community design.

The workshop wrapped up with some feedback about the workshop – what could be different, and about mentoring in general. Overall everyone seemed to really enjoy the workshop. I had expected the session to be geared more towards mentoring students like myself, but the demographic of participants was actually much more diverse. In this session we were lined up in order of experience – so the most experienced talked to the least experienced (students) first. However since we only moved four times, the most senior, experienced professionals may have only talked to students and new architects, while those in the middle only talked amongst their peers.

Everyone seemed to agree that all aspects of mentorship were valuable and the idea that the mentor is sometimes also the mentee, contrary to the more traditional notion of a mentor. It was a good experience meeting with established Iowa architects and getting a better understanding of the role mentorship plays in the profession today.

In the afternoon we attended Transition in Internship, a workshop concerning the internship development program and exam required to become a licensed architect. Most participants except for me and a few of my classmates were current intern architects readying to take the exams, so much of the discussion was new to us. It was still valuable to learn about the process and what is to come.

An interesting display at the exhibition was a company, DIRTT, from Canada that produces modular wall systems that can be custom designed by architects and are environmentally friendly. The ISU Solar Decathlon team also had a display. Another good year at AIA Iowa.