I had an amazing experience during the AIA National Convention. It wasn’t at the convention itself, where people are running helter- skelter to their CEU sessions, but at a dinner hosted by Gilbert and Suzanne Mathews Friday night at the Folger-Shakespeare Library a few blocks from the Capitol Building.

Gilbert owns Lucifer Lighting, one of the most enlightened (no pun intended) companies I know of, and was made honorary AIA at the convention. To celebrate, Suzanne invited a lot of extraordinary architects and friends to a dinner—among them, Tom Kundig, Larry Scarpa and Angela Brooks, Frank Harmon, Marlon Blackwell, John Grable and Gabriel Durand-Hollis.

The conversation was rich and stimulating, and it made me realize how we architects need each other.  We have to be connected, to talk about how design relates to the world, to inspire each other with our ideas, and to bolster each other to fight for our common cause.

Gilbert is a kind of glue that helps stick architects together.  He and Suzanne are constantly sponsoring talks, hosting this kind of dinner and just creating formats for great conversation about architecture.

It was fantastic having dinner in the Folger Shakespeare Library, one of the very best buildings by Paul Cret.  Being there also made me think about the glue that binds generations of architects.  It was probably not an accident that there’s a lineage between Paul Cret and nearly every architect in that room.  Cret had Louis Kahn as a student, and Kahn worked for him in his office.  Kahn had Charles Moore as a student at Princeton (Charles was his TA), and Charles had dozens of leading architects as his students and partners—from Don Lyndon on the West Coast to Arthur Anderssen in the middle of the country to Billie Tsien in NY.  Almost every architect in the room had been touched by that lineage.  All of us had some kind of indirect tie back to Paul Cret.

Good design comes out of solidarity and connectedness. In a hectic world, we’re sometimes missing those connections.  We forget how crucial they are.  I felt completely inspired—by everyone who was in that great Reading Room for dinner and by the many who there in spirit. These are the kinds of loose ties creative people really need.  Thanks so much to Gilbert and Suzanne for keeping us connected.