The few weeks leading up to the conference, I was completely deluged with work, and the week immediately prior, I came down with a bad sinus infection. All of this combined to make getting out of town in any kind of reasonable way almost impossible, and I nearly missed my flight. I gave up on preparing my remarks in advance, and decided to just skip half a day of the conference to do it in Atlanta. That part worked out pretty well, and, combined with the fact that I can stand in front of a room full of people and talk about architecture all day long anyway, meant that I was in good shape by the time it was my turn to present.
But before I get ahead of myself, let's briefly recap the whole weekend.
I flew in on Thursday, arriving at around 3:00. Tom picked me up at the airport and we we went back to our hotel. We had arranged to split a room and a car, which all worked out very well. I needed the car because I had another architectural agenda for the weekend besides my talk: visiting and photographing the Peachtree Center and its adjacent hotels in downtown Atlanta, all of which were designed by the architect John Portman.
Thursday night was the conference meet-n-greet event, and it was like a homecoming for me in many ways. I had gotten to know many of the ATLOS folks when I was in the area (sort of) building the Tennessee House. That was almost 2 years ago! It was great to see old friends again and begin to get caught up in person (which is so much better than Facebook and the blogs, although they are better than nothing). The highlight of my evening was meeting Lynne Bourque and her husband Stephen. I have known them online for a while, and they are every bit as great in person as I had expected them to be.
Friday morning I discovered that the local public library was next door to the rec center where the conference was held, which made it extra easy to cut class and work on my talk, while still joining everyone for lunch. The rest of the day I had 3 seminars, which were "What's So Darn Special About Firefly?" with Kelly Elmore; "Design Thinking" with Tim Cheadle and Tori Press; and "Wine and Cheese? Yes, please!" presented by Maggie Roberts. All of them were fun and engaging, and a good time was had by all.
That night I got busy polishing my talk for the next day, and decided in the process to scrap all the slides I had prepared earlier at the library, and devote my entire talk to John Lautner's architecture. I realized that since I had tons of photos of some excellent examples of his houses, both from the tour I took last summer and a couple of events I had participated in since, I would show those. The photos really did deserve a wider audience, and they fit my talk perfectly, which was titled, "Style and Individualism in Modern Architecture". You will be hard pressed to find a more individualistic architecture than Lautner's, and I had around 8 very good examples of his houses (some of which I still need to write up for the blog), ranging from his early career in the 1940s to as late as the '80s. By the time I pulled it all together and appropriately revised my introductory remarks, I finally made it to sleep by around 2am.
Saturday morning rolled around and I was up extra early re-editing and revising, and deciding which shirt to wear for my talk. Before I presented I attended Miranda Barzey's talk on "The Importance and Value of Personal Style" which I enjoyed, although I was mostly focusing on my notes for my talk, which was next. (We were a little late to Miranda's presentation because Tom let his GPS talk us into going to the wrong Starbucks (#firstworldproblems) which I bring up here in the spirit of not being ready to let him live it down.)
Then it was my turn! The room was packed and I was a little nervous at first, but then I was fine once my own enthusiasm for the work took over. They audience was responsive and engaged, and asked great questions along the way. I had floor plans for some of the houses, and one person remarked to me that he started to glaze over at first, when the first plan drawing flashed onto the screen, but that when I started pointing out specific features of the house in plan and linking them to the photos too, that it really came alive for him. Also, he observed that others in the audience were having a similar experience. I had many comments afterward that a) my enthusiasm was infectious; and b) that people in general had no idea that modern architecture could be so interesting!
I can't express how happy it makes me that I took a bunch of people who were pretty much ambivalent at best with regard to modern architecture and showed them a beautiful and interesting side to it that they didn't know existed previously. It just doesn't get much better than that.
That afternoon I had 2 more seminars: "The History and Science of Five Classic Cocktails" with Trey Peden and Tori Press; and "Maintaining Rational Optimism" with Paul Hsieh. That evening was the big party at the Casey House, where I had a great time mingling, meeting new people, and talking about the events of the weekend. It was great to unwind and relax with a great group of folks, once my presentation was out of the way.
Sunday morning I headed to downtown Atlanta to check out the Peachtree Center and its hotels by John Portman. Portman pioneered the big open atrium lobby style of hotel (with glass elevators going up and down in the big atrium lobby). This model is somewhat common today, but never existed at all prior to his 1967 Hyatt Regency, which is one of the three hotels by him in downtown Atlanta that I got to see on this trip. They were doing work on the roof and skylight but it still looked pretty great:
The rest of my Sunday afternoon included the OHomos panel discussion with myself, Tom, and Trey; and "Exploring Ayn Rand's Theory of Concepts" presented by Stephen Bourque. The panel discussion was lively and consisted largely of coming out stories and questions from parents or future-parents about gayness and kids. Stephen's talk was just getting interesting when he unfortunately ran out of time, but he had some interesting observations on the topic.
It's hard to decide which aspect of the conference I enjoyed most, between seeing old friends, giving my talk, and seeing the Portman buildings. Let's just call it a trifecta weekend of awesomeness.
Big shout out to Jenn, Kelly, Miranda, and the ATLOS-folk who put together such a great and fun conference!