Keith Boswell, Partner at SOM in San Francisco, started coming to GPD in 1997. Since then, he’s co-chaired the event four different times with Dr. Leon Jacob and has been an ambassador for both GPD as well as a strong advocate and participant for the High Rise Workshop, that took place in Helsinki, Finland, for the first time in 2015.
In this interview, we ask Keith what makes GPD so special for him. Why does he travel all the way from California to Finland – and even beyond to GPD events in China and Cuba?
Q: What did you think of your first GPD in 1997?
A: Someone in the industry at the time told Jorma Vitkala that he needed to “get Boswell to attend”. And so I did. At the time, I felt that it was a good opportunity to get around others with similar interests and to learn something new. But what awaited me far exceeded my most optimistic expectations!
It was pure professional nourishment. As architects and designers, you’re always interested to get around others and have casual conversations. As an old cartoon once said: “If you're not careful, you may learn something before it’s done!”
I was also amazed with the contacts I made – and I felt that GPD gave me a sense of knowing who to contact for more specialized expertise to develop informed solutions. And this is what has continued to bring me back to GPD all these years.
Q: How would you describe your experiences with GPD over the years?
A: I was in total awe when I first came to GPD. It was simply unbelievable! It’s a wonderful network of people that you know – or that you want to get to know.
Q: You’ve also chosen to work as Co-Chair with Dr. Leon Jacob several times?
A: Yes – Leon and I have co-chaired the event four times. He’s a glass designer – or more specifically, a glass specialist. I tend to gravitate towards people who do things that I don’t. So, Leon and I work like yin and yang. Our times of being co-chairs were a good bit of work – and also lots of fun!
What’s more, I’ve hired him for at least a half dozen projects that we wouldn’t have been able to execute on our own.
Q: What are some of your favorite memories of GPD over the years?
A: In the early days, the conference covered about 30% automotive and 70% architectural. The automotive presentations and technologies were usually years ahead of the architectural glass applications.
So, I learned the most from them. After one or two years, I could see that some learnings from automotive had finally been applied in architectural applications.
We were also always given the chance to see how safety glass was made in the Tampere region. And when you can see manufacturing and processing in action – you start to think about ways to incorporate higher performance technologies in glass in your projects.
Today, it’s more about computational items. How to achieve better energy efficiency and conservation. And it’s great to see approaches and design processes from other parts of the world. It’s truly professional enrichment.
Q: How do you hope to see GPD developing in the future?
A: In my opinion, it’s time to encourage the next generation of designers to learn from peers and to share our passion for taking the glass industry ahead.
I feel it’s really critical to get new blood into the organization, so as in previous years, others from my office will participate.
Q: What were your experiences from GPD China and GPD Cuba?
A: Really enjoyable. It was a great opportunity to bring both architects and other technical speakers to China during a time that the country, along with the glass and architectural community, was growing by leaps and bounds.
I was there at GPD China in 2005/2007, which at the time, provided architects with tremendous opportunities to implement innovative solutions in a very rapid time frame on an unprecedented scale.
The architectural glass industry began to emerge in China in the late 1990s. And GPD provided a wonderful combination of an emerging economy with the knowledge base of how to do business with glass.
Cuba in 2016 was a great opportunity as well when the country started opening up to the rest of the world. It was a positive eye opener to see the participants who were truly hungry to learn about emerging technologies and trends in the architectural design and glass industry after being in such an insulated economy.