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BSA News

Aug 24, 2023

AIA National Women’s Conference Showcases Women Architects


Photo courtesy of AIA National

With the AIA Women’s Leadership Summit (WLS) a little over two weeks away, excitement is at a fever pitch. Boston is gearing up to welcome attendees in various ways, from firms hosting happy hours to a crowd-sourced map of spaces around the city that were designed or constructed by women, highlighting how women have shaped Boston’s built environment.

Local Firms Roll Out a Welcome

Many of Boston’s finest architecture and building industry firms have planned activities to welcome participants from around the nation to their firms and to the neighborhoods of Boston.

Happy Hours

There will be a welcome reception the first evening of the summit (September 12), and during the two evenings that follow, September 13 and 14, Boston architecture firms will host happy hours from 5:30 p.m. to 6:30 p.m.

Although each firm will determine its own happy hour agenda, attendees can expect to enjoy light food and/or beverages as well as tours of the firms and the opportunity to meet some of the firm’s staff, look at work in progress, and discuss the firm’s work, office culture, and advocacy.

Kelly Ard AIA, co-chair of this year’s summit and partner at designLAB architects, which is hosting a happy hour, says that happy hours “present a great opportunity to give deeper insight into the area firms and bring a personal touch to a national audience.”

Firms participating in these happy hours include CannonDesign; Gensler; MASS Design Group; Payette; Perkins+Will; Annum Architects; HGA Architects & Engineers; ICON Architecture, Inc.; William Rawn Associates, Architects; designLAB architects; and HOK.


Following the firm happy hours will be dine-arounds from 7:00 p.m. to 9:00 p.m., which allow attendees to dine informally at restaurants clustered by zones throughout the city. Attendees can preselect a nearby restaurant of their choosing and enjoy dinner with a group of WLS attendees. “What is amazing about these,” says Ard, “is that those who sign up are seated with one another somewhat randomly, which allows for a great opportunity to meet new people in a social setting. I’ve always found them to be a highlight of the WLS offerings.”

Space for the firm happy hours and dine-arounds is limited, so advance registration is required. Attendees who are interested in participating in a firm happy hour can sign up here, and those interested in a dine-around can sign up here.

Built By Women: A Crowd-Sourced Mapping Project

Last March, CBT and CannonDesign celebrated International Women’s Day with a walking tour that visited 10 spaces—buildings, interiors, landscapes, and artwork—throughout Boston, all designed and/or constructed by women. From this celebratory event and tour, the idea for a crowd-sourced map was born.

Created by CBT Senior Associate Laura Rushfeldt AIA, Principal Devanshi Purohit Intl. Assoc. AIA, and Associate Principal Ellen Perko AIA, alongside CannonDesign Principal Lynne Deninger AIA, Associate Vice President Katie Courtney AIA, and Vice President Inga Leonova AIA, Built By Women is an accessible online map that highlights spaces (e.g., artwork, such as the Make Way for Ducklings sculpture on Boston Common; interior spaces, such as the Boston Public Library’s Central Library transformation; and landscape spaces, such as 100 Pier 4 Plaza in the Seaport District) around the city that were built or designed by women. “It could be that the project lead was a woman or maybe the lighting designer was a woman. What we want to highlight is the women who were central to getting the job done,” says Rushfeldt.

In addition to the 10 destinations from the original International Women’s Day walking tour, the map has expanded to include almost 100 locations, from Boston neighborhoods to Greater Worcester and beyond.

So how does this relate to the Women’s Leadership Summit? The map will serve as a shared resource for summit participants to learn about Boston and women’s contributions to its design.

The goal is to add as many destinations as possible right up to, and even beyond, the September event. “We are looking for more projects or spaces that are close to the conference site,” says map creator Deninger, “so if a conference attendee has maybe a half-hour to spare, there will be a location they can check out within that time frame.” Map creators will also prompt WLS attendees to share their favorite places and spaces designed and/or constructed by women in their own hometowns to extend the conversation to more US cities and abroad.

“The response has been incredible,” creator Rushfeldt reflects, “so many have been sharing their projects and favorites. We have a stack of submissions that we are working to add!” Fellow creator Ellen Perko adds that the project “has really taken off—better than we ever thought (but always hoped). It would be great to see this crowd-source mapping for each US city!”

The map project has also piqued cross-disciplinary interest, engaging a range of designers, makers, and builders. The Boston Society of Landscape Architects has invited their networks to contribute and include representation of landscape architecture projects. Artists, installations, interiors, and lighting designs, as well as a wide range of architecture and urban design projects, are represented among the map’s destination points.

If you have a favorite space in Boston that was built by or designed by a woman or woman-led team that you would like to see represented, please send your information via email to Laura Rushfeldt ([email protected]), Ellen Perko ([email protected]), or Lynne Deninger ([email protected]).

Summit Dates, Location, and Waitlist

The summit will be held September 12 through 14 at the Sheraton Boston, 39 Dalton Street, Boston, MA 02199. We can’t wait to see you there! (Tickets for the summit have recently sold out, but additions to the waitlist are accepted until September 1 in the event that tickets become available.)