Along with its array of classes, Autodesk University organized a series of Innovation Forums styled in the manner of the often-emulated TEDTalks. The roster of speakers in the six sessions included experts in cloud computing and security, exemplars of the “maker” generation, and designers tackling global issues in everything from healthcare to climate change. (For extensive event coverage from attendees as well as from ARCHITECT, check out #AU2012 on Twitter.) The architectural profession was well represented in the repertoire with designers such as Architecture for Humanity co-founder Cameron Sinclair; AtFAB parametric furniture designers Anne Filson, AIA, and Gary Rohrbacher, AIA; and Lulan Artisans founder Eve Blossom.
In “The Future of Design: How the Masters Create in 2025,” organized in the format of a semi-satirical awards ceremony, six designers presented ideas for what they commonly saw as a future in geopolitical, environmental, and economic strife. In the built-environment category, Alvise Simondetti, the London-based global leader of Arup’s Virtual Design Network, displayed his idea for the “Universal Popup Hotel,” a rapidly deployable shelter in which guestrooms could be personalized digitally with programs such as “iTouch” and “iSmell.”
For the more serious presentation proposals for addressing local or global healthcare issues in “The Collective Wisdom Across Boundaries,” Phillip G. Bernstein, FAIA, Autodesk vice president of industry strategy and relations, asked the audience to vote via text message to determine which of four speakers would receive a $50,000 grant from Autodesk. Liz Ogbu, a former associate design director at Public Architecture and now scholar-in-residence at the California College of the Arts, won for her proposal to set up a more widely distributed network of popup health clinics that implemented mobile technology to improve outreach and data management.Party on the Expo Floor
After attending intensive educational sessions that ran from 8 a.m. to 7 p.m., Autodesk University attendees kicked back in a manner in character with the tight-knit community: They returned to the exhibition hall to check out more products. Certainly some attendees hit the Strip, but the expo floor stayed respectably crowded until closing time at 10 p.m.
On Wednesday night, attendees cheered competitors in a design slam that featured Autodesk’s cloud-based programs. The intermittent Internet service in the exhibition hall led to a few untimely program crashes during the 15-minute, one-on-one matches, prompting some audience members to chant “save” to the competitors. Meanwhile, Autodesk staff members and conference presenters verbally sparred in an IDEAS Cage Match, which Autodesk has held at past TED Global events. The competitors, donning costumes not unlike those worn by professional fighters, circled each other in an actual boxing ring, debating topics such as 3D printing.
For people heralding the resurgence of geek culture, the sheer number of Autodesk University attendees spanning from young to old proved that interest in programming, lasers, and electronics has never really waned—and that, based on everyone’s ambitions and accomplishments, the nerds will ultimately take over the world.