Design Conference kicks off today with risky theme |

Design Conference kicks off today with risky theme

The International Design Conference in Aspen begins its 53rd annual gathering today.

“Safe: Design takes on risk” is this year’s theme.

Paola Antonelli is one of three co-chairs for this year’s conference. As curator of architecture and design at the Museum of Modern Art in New York, Antonelli said she suggested an exhibit titled “Emergency” for the MOMA in March 2001.

Although her idea was approved, after Sept. 11, 2001, the idea of an “emergency” changed rapidly, and the museum decided to put the exhibit on hold. Antonelli continued to research the concept for the exhibit and said she discovered that “emergency” was a theme that never went away.

Discussing the topic with her co-chairs was how the theme for this year’s IDCA developed. She said the group decided the theme was “a natural,” as it is timely and meaningful in the design world and the world at large.

“This is not only about safety from war and danger; it’s about protection, comfort, progress and the environment,” Antonelli said Tuesday. “It’s about every facet of human life, which is why this conference is for everyone, not only designers. It’s about a point of contact between design and the real world.”

The conference will host 20 professionals from all over the world to speak about the theme of safety and risk. The guests are not only designers, Antonelli said, but have multifaceted perspectives.

“There’s an astronaut, an inventor, a landscape architect, and the former president of the World Monument Fund,” she said. “This is a design conference, but because design is a universal discipline, it’s not only about cute chairs, but building the world together. Our conference is about different professions and skills coming together.”

Walter and Elizabeth Paepcke formed the International Design Conference in Aspen in 1951, along with The Aspen Institute and the Aspen Music Festival and School. Since its founding the IDCA has come to be regarded as one of the world’s most esteemed design forums.

The IDCA is built on the belief in the fundamental importance of design. According to the organization, rather than duplicate the work of professional associations, IDCA is concerned with education rather than with training, and addresses issues that are relevant to all design disciplines.

Registration for the IDCA is from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. today at Harris Hall, with an opening reception from 5:30 to 7 p.m.

The conference itself is Thursday, Friday and Saturday. Morning and evening sessions will be held in Harris Hall, and smaller sessions will be held in adjacent auditoriums and venues in the afternoon.

For more information or special local rates, call the IDCA’s office at 925-2257 or visit

[Naomi Havlen’s e-mail address is]

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