by Terence Baker | October 01, 2004

Christopher Gribbs"I need to make the convention itself architecturally sound to satisfy attendees.”

Christopher J. Gribbs is senior director of conventions at the Washington, D.C.-based American Institute of Architects. An AIA employee for 17 years, Gribbs has been in his current role for the past three.

Are you an architect by trade? Yes. I earned a B.A. in architecture at the University of Detroit.

Do you miss designing buildings? Yes, but I know I could always go back to it. One interesting role I had prior to my AIA years was for the National Park Service. In Texas and Puerto Rico, I produced architectural drawings of historic buildings for a survey designed to provide meticulous documentation on landmarks in order to preserve them.

Does being an architect make you see convention centers differently? I think so. I look at convention space three-dimensionally but without losing sight of the end-user. I also choose the site for our national convention in terms of how appropriate it is architecturally. Has the city embraced design? Is it walkable? What makes it interesting?

Are architects opinionated about elements of the meetings they attend? Definitely. One of my challenges is to design the convention brochure. Everyone on the committee has an opinion; the solution is always a compromise. Then I need to make the convention itself architecturally sound to satisfy the design scruples of 18,000 attendees.

What’s hot in architecture? The buzz now is sustainability increasing a building’s energy efficiency and life span.