A trade show is a great opportunity to learn about new products, brush up on the latest design trends and concepts and mingle with suppliers, peers, colleagues and many others. Attend a trade show and the odds are pretty good you won’t walk away empty-handed—and I’m not talking about all the SWAG you pick up booth to booth. Trade show attendees typically take home a lot of knowledge and information that they can use to better do their jobs. And for architects, the American Institute of Architects (AIA) National Convention is probably the number-one “must-attend” event of the year.

This year, the national convention is set to take place May 12-14 in New Orleans—a city that has seen much in the way of building and re-building over the past few years. We’re all aware of the destruction caused by Hurricane Katrina in 2005 and since then many organizations have worked diligently to re-build much of the city.

As an example, take actor Brad Pitt’s Make It Right Foundation. Established in 2007, the group’s mission has been to build 150 green, affordable, high-quality design homes in the Lower 9th Ward neighborhood, which was closest to the levee breach. Today the foundation’s website shows 73 homes have been built, all of which have been certified as LEED platinum for energy efficiency and sustainability.

Re-constructive projects have also been underway, including the re-building of the Super Dome, which served as a shelter during Hurricane Katrina until part of the roof blew off. Now, work on the final phase of the remodeling is underway–a five-month project aimed at further sprucing up the building that has undergone massive upgrades since Hurricane Katrina.

Area architects have also kept busy. Local firm Mathes Brierre Architects, for example, recently completed the National World War II Museum Expansion, a project for which it was recognized with an AIA Louisiana Member’s Choice award. (The museum is also the site of the convention’s host chapter party.) Mathes Brierre was selected by Voorsanger Architects to be their partner on this $86 million expansion project, which features approximately 8,500 square feet of a curtainwall system designed specifically for this building.

“We were attempting to provide the thinnest sightline possible for the supporting steel mullions,” says Peter Frank Priola, AIA NCARB, and senior vice president of Mathes Brierre Architects.

The system is composed of an extruded aluminum glazing pocket mounted to a 1-inch wide steel plate mullion system. The taller vertical mullions, which span 33 feet, are 1-foot by 3-inches deep plate sections with a 5-inch wide flange at the inside face. The shorter vertical mullions are composed of 7-inch deep plate sections and the horizontal mullions are composed of 5-inch deep plate steel. Viracon was the glass fabricator and the contract glazier was Southern Walls & Windows.

Like Mathes Brierre, architects in New Orleans and across the country are finding opportunities, whether new construction, renovation or expansions. And attending shows like the upcoming AIA convention will help everyone be prepared, armed with the latest new products, trends and techniques, for when the market does bounce back.

And while walking the show be sure and stop by booth 1419 where you can meet the staff of the Architects Guide to Glass & Metal. You can pick up free copies of the magazine, sign up for our free e-newsletter or just share your thoughts on the state of the industry. We look forward to seeing you there!