Three days of design insights... a year's worth of inspiration

Mark your calendar for October 13 - 15, 2017! Block out your calendar for the weekend that has become THE architect's retreat.

Here’s to looking ahead to MDC 2017! In the meantime, check out this year's photo gallery »


three days of design

Is it possible to overdose on design? We don’t think so!


The fresh salty air and intimate atmosphere draws us back each year.

Featured Speakers

Hear their philosophy, see their work, and be inspired.

Networking Events

Wind down with our post-event meals, receptions and opportunities to connect.

About MDC 2017

Plan to join us in Monterey for MDC 2017! Registration and housing will open up in December. Conference fees will range from $520 (Member) to $725 (Non-Member) for registration (discounts for emerging professionals available). Budget $875 for the Asilomar Housing and Meal package for a three night stay or $590 for a two night stay. Rates per person are reduced for double or triple room occupancy.

A Brief History of the Monterey Design Conference

By Tim Culvahouse, FAIA, with thanks to Shelly Kappe, Hon. AIA; Paul Welch, Hon. AIA; David Meckel, FAIA, and Robert Ivy, FAIA

Entering its fourth decade, the Monterey Design Conference (MDC) brings together the country’s—and the world’s—leading architects and design thinkers for an intellectually vibrant weekend at Asilomar Conference Grounds in Pacific Grove, California. It emerged out of the 1978 AIA California Council Annual Meeting in Orange County, which the AIA California Council president, the late George Bissell, had dedicated to the theme of “design.” Bissell, “the father of MDC,” anointed a dynamic trio of co-chairs—Ray Kappe, FAIA, Timothy Vreeland, FAIA, and Bernard Zimmerman, FAIA, who conceived an ambitious format that anticipated today’s Pecha Kucha events: Groups of invited architects gave four-minute talks on their work in parallel sessions; each session had a designated recorder; and, at the end of the day, everyone got together and shared the results in a common “wrap-up” session.

Spurred by the excitement of that meeting, the AIACC inaugurated its first dedicated design conference the following year. Conference Chair Richard Saul Wurman—who went on to found the TED Conferences—dubbed it “Design 101,” inviting architects from the three states served by Highway 101 (California, Oregon, and Washington) to gather at the Monterey Convention Center. Held annually for its first few years, Design 101 soon outgrew its downtown facilities and in the mid-1980s moved to Asilomar, gaining both generous space and a glorious bayside setting amidst the buildings of Julia Morgan and John Carl Warnecke.

Merrill Hall Interior

Merrill Hall – Photo courtesey Asilomar

Designed by designers for designers, the now biennial MDC brings together a virtual Who’s Who of the design world in the remarkably intimate space of Morgan’s Merrill Hall, where every session is a plenary session. Presenters and participants alike comfortably span the generations. Around the turn of the millennium, David Meckel introduced a “Tribal Elders” session, which has since featured Pierre Koenig, Sym van der Ryn, Ray Kappe, Warren Callister and Jack Hillmer, William Krisel, and Paffard Keatinge-Clay. At the other reach of the career trajectory, the conference features “Emerging Talent,” future leaders of the profession. A film focused on some aspect of design culture, sometimes accompanied by the maker or the subject, provides an additional dimension to festivities. Shared meals and after-hours gatherings carry the discussion deep into the night.

AIA Executive Vice President Robert Ivy, former editor-in-chief of Architectural Record and long-time MDC master of ceremonies, sums up the remarkable fellowship that is the Monterey Design Conference: “Asilomar’s unique location—adjacent to the Pacific in a grove of trees, where wood smoke mingles with the salt spray—invites casual conversation, relaxation, and stimulation in a natural setting that encourages friendship and expansive thought.”

Conference Schedule


Continuing Education Academy Sessions (CES)

Monterey Design Conference Opens/Featured Speakers

Exhibit Installation

Welcome Reception / Exhibitor Networking


Dessert / Exhibitor Networking Hour

CES Session: Arid Lands

Evening Social Event – Fireside with Friends

Continuing Education Academy Session (CES) – Accessibility / (HSW)


Monterey Design Conference Featured Speakers

Morning Break / Exhibitor Networking

Monterey Design Conference Featured Speakers

Lunch / Exhibitor Networking

Continuing Education Academy Sessions (CES) or Exhibitor Networking

Monterey Design Conference Featured Speakers

California Architectural Foundation Presentation and Wine Tasting Reception


Monterey Design Conference Featured Speaker

AIA Firm Award Celebration – Ehrlich Architects


Academy for Emerging Professionals (AEP) Mixer

Continuing Education Academy Session (CES) – Accessibility / (HSW)


Monterey Design Conference Featured Speakers

Closing Remarks

Lunch (Box Lunches)

MDC Modern Home Tour*

*Additional fee and pre-registration required for this optional event.

Behind-the-Scenes Tour of the Monterey Bay Aquarium*

*Additional fee and pre-registration required for this optional event.

Contact Us





Frank Barkow, Principal
Barkow Leibinger


FRANK BARKOW studied architecture at Montana State University and the Harvard GSD. He has recently taught at the Royal College of Art in London, the EPFL in Lausanne, Harvard GSD, and University of Wisconsin in conjunction with his firm winning the Marcus Prize for Architecture. (more…)

Junya Ishigami
Junya Ishigami + Associates


Japanese architect Junya Ishigami has a tendency towards the delicate which can be evidenced in his buildings, installations and furniture. His work presents what is possible, what can be dreamed, articulated and narrated. (more…)

Bernard Tschumi
Architect, Professor
Columbia University


Bernard Tschumi is an architect based in New York and Paris. First known as a theorist, he exhibited and published The Manhattan Transcripts and wrote Architecture and Disjunction, a series of theoretical essays. (more…)

Carme Pinós
Estudio Carme Pinós


After winning international recognition for her work with Enric Miralles in projects such as the Igualada Cemetery, Carme Pinós set up her own studio in 1991, undertaking projects which she had initiated in her previous office, such as the Boarding School in Morella. (more…)

Merrill Elam, AIA
Mack Scogin Merrill Elam Architects


Merrill Elam is a Principal in the firm of Mack Scogin Merrill Elam Architects in Atlanta, Georgia. In addition to her practice she lectures and teaches frequently, having served most recently as Visiting Faculty at the Southern California Institute of Architecture (SCI-Arc) in spring 2014. In 2014, Merrill Elam was selected as the inaugural Design Leader in Architecture, Architectural Record. With Mack Scogin, she received the 2012 Cooper-Hewitt National (more…)

Rand Elliott, FAIA


Rand Elliott, FAIA, has been practicing environmentally sensitive architecture long before it became fashionable. Although the firm’s projects are not exclusively located in Oklahoma, they are adept in working with the elements of the land. (more…)

Clive Wilkinson, FAIA
President; Design Director
Clive Wilkinson Architects


Clive Wilkinson is an architect, designer, writer and strategist with particular expertise in the application of urban design thinking to interior design, specifically in workplace and educational communities. (more…)

Claude Stoller, FAIA


  Claude Stoller received his M.Arch degree from Harvard Graduate School of Design. Stoller continued his studies for a year at the University of Florence in Italy. In 1956, he formed a partnership, Marquis & Stoller Architects. In 1978 Stoller formed Stoller/Partners (later Stoller Knoerr Architects) in Berkeley. Projects included single homes, multiple dwellings, religious buildings, and institutional and commercial structures. Social issues such as housing and energy-efficient designs were a primary concern for Stoller as was historic preservation. (more…)

Zoee Astrachan & Andrew Dunbar
Interstice Architects


After years of working in separate disciplines, Andrew Dunbar and Zoee Astrachan founded INTERSTICE Architects in the spirit of “total design” – a seamless integration of structure and infrastructure, place-making and assembling, systems and material innovation. (more…)

Synthesis Design + Architecture


Alvin Huang, AIA is the Founder and Design Principal of Synthesis Design + Architecture and an Assistant Professor at the USC School of Architecture. He is an award-winning architect, designer, and educator specializing in the integrated application of material performance, emergent design technologies and digital fabrication in contemporary architectural practice. (more…)

Doris Kim Sung
DOSU Studio Architecture


DOSU Studio Architecture has shifted from a conventional architectural practice to a research-based one, bringing active systems to sustainable design far beyond the simple "greening" of a building. (more…)

Casper Mork-Ulnes, AIA
Founder Mork-Ulnes


Norwegian born, Casper was raised in Italy, Scotland and the United States. This international background is reflected in his eponymous firm’s work. Since its founding in 2005, the firm has received wide international recognition with buildings realized on 3 continents. (more…)

Pae White

Reed Kroloff

MDC 2015 Emcee



About MDC

MDC is dedicated to design. It is an open forum to a broad range of ideas and critical thinking people that shape our built environment. MDC is interested in being part of the conversation but not dictating it. The event is open to the voice of speakers, participants and those who attend. MDC is led by a dedicated committee of volunteers who spend countless hours in guiding and planning the event over the course of the year.  VIEW THE 2015 MDC CONFERENCE COMMITTEE list here.

More Insights

Asilomar Conference Grounds

800 Asilomar Avenue Pacific Grove, CA 93950

(831) 372-8016

get directions


image003Asilomar has been the home of the Monterey Design Conference over the course of four decades and it’s no wonder why. Celebrated as Monterey Peninsula’s “Refuge by the Sea” – Asilomar State Beach and Conference Grounds is a breathtakingly gorgeous 107 acres of ecologically diverse beachfront land. Situated within the quaint and scenic town of Pacific Grove, Asilomar offers guests the simple comforts of cozy cottages and rustic lodges – and an unforgettable escape from the demands of everyday life.

image004MDC is a spectacular and intimate affair, where beyond extraordinary lectures and speakers, attendees find themselves strolling on the beach, wandering the Julia Morgan designed grounds or sitting on the deck of the main lodge engaging in conversation with a Pritzker Prize winner or many of the most innovative and catalytic thinkers in architecture, as if they were invited into their own backyard. These encounters happen spontaneously and informally over the course of the conference, providing us with that raw inspiration that got us interested in architecture in the first place. Come to the architects retreat!

Asilomar housing will open in December. Budget $875 for the Asilomar Housing and Meal package for a three night stay or $590 for a two night stay. Rates per person are reduced for double or triple room occupancy.  Housing /meal package are separate and in addition to registration fees.

Click here for general information about the Asilomar Grounds and Asilomar Amenities. View a map of the Asilomar.

© 2015 Monterey Design Conference | 844-MDC-1979