Hundreds of design professionals packed USM’s Abromson Community Education Center in Portland Thursday night for the Architalx lectures series kickoff party. The event included a talk by Portland native Tim Ventimiglia and a preview of next year’s silver anniversary celebration.

The sold-out series, which hosts four additional speakers through April, brings leading professionals in the fields of architecture and design to Portland to deliver thought-provoking talks.

“The last two years the lectures have all sold out,” Ann Casady, the chair of the 25th anniversary steering committee, told me. “And prior to that it was close to selling out with just a few seats left.”

While the kickoff lecture was held in the spacious Hannaford Hall, the talks typically take place in the smaller auditorium at the Portland Museum of Art.

John Turk, a past president of Architalx and a current member of the 25th anniversary committee, said the organization was formed because Portland lacked an architectural design school that would ordinarily host these types of lectures.

“We now have a lecture series equal to any university,” Turk told me.

“Architalx is really unique and the talks are very stimulating,” Terrence Parker of Terra Firma Landscape Architecture in Portsmouth, N.H., told me. “We usually go out after for beers and yak about the lecture.”

Greg Shinberg, who heads Shinberg Consulting LLC in Portland, also praised the annual lecture series.

“They come up with really interesting subjects that show what’s going on across the country and in different parts of the world,” Shinberg told me. “It’s always a good discussion.”

Thursday night Ventimiglia, a senior associate at Ralph Appelbaum Associates in New York City, regaled us with a talk titled “Giant Squid, Glass Eggs, Dinosaur Skin & the Elusive Philosopher’s Stone,” where he discussed the exhibition design work he’s done for major museums and corporate clients. These clients include the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum, the Museum of World Religions, the Corning Museum of Glass, the Anchorage Museum at Rasmuson Center and the National History Museum in Utah.

After he took us on a tour of these impressive projects, Ventimiglia wowed the crowd with a preview of the exhibition he and the Architalx 25th anniversary committee are designing for installation at the Portland Museum of Art in February 2013.

“We want to create a sense of participation and dialogue,” Ventimiglia told the crowd. “We want to riff off the fundamental structure of the Portland Museum of Art.”

Titled “Voices of Design: 25 Years of Architalx,” the show will allow visitors to explore and manipulate sounds, words and slides culled from a quarter-century of lectures. The conceptual drawings show three tall but very distinct structures, which visitors can enter and interact with, allowing them to manipulate images, audio clips and individual words.

“Tim’s designs blow me away,” committee member Robert Wolterstorff told me. “These designs are so deep. I’m thinking about the art history behind them, such as the primitive hut and also Maine.”

“This is going to be an opportunity for so many more people to be exposed to Architalx,” board member Dodo Stevens told me.

About 1,200 people hear the lectures each year, while the exhibition is expected to draw 35,000 to 40,000 visitors.

But in order to bring the exhibition to fruition, the Architalx board needs to raise an as of yet undetermined amount of money.

“We’re hoping to raise enough money to fully build out what this amazing design team has come up with,” Stephen Pondelis, who serves on the 25th anniversary committee and is chairing the fundraising effort, told me. “We’ve got several grant applications out and we’ve already received a grant from the Davis Family Foundation.”

Fabrication and construction of the exhibition is scheduled to begin this summer.

 

 

Staff Writer Avery Yale Kamila can be contacted at 791-6297 or at:

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