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2021 Keynote Presentations

Daily keynotes were presented onsite at NeoCon and were also available for viewing via livestream. 

Monday Keynote
“Furniture for the City”: Recasting Urban Design through Micro-Activation
Jeanne Gang, FAIA, Founding Principal and Partner of Studio Gang

Jeanne Gang 2019 c Saverio Truglia seated 600x600 Bw

The past year has underscored the vital importance of urban public space for sustaining individual wellness, building and maintaining community connections, and enhancing the livability of our cities. Through an exploration of a diverse set of Studio Gang’s projects – ranging from large-scale residential work, like the Mission Rock development in San Francisco, to in-depth community engagement and planning efforts in Chicago, Founding Partner Jeanne Gang demonstrated how we can rethink design strategies to make cities more inclusive and equitable. In particular, she discussed how principals regularly applied at the furniture scale foster a greater sense of welcoming, inclusivity, and comfort for all citizens when deployed on the urban scale.

Jeanne Gang, FAIA, is the founding principal and partner of Studio Gang, an international architecture and urban design practice headquartered in Chicago. Known for a distinctive approach that expands beyond architecture’s conventional boundaries, she creates striking places that connect people with their communities and the natural environment. Her diverse portfolio across the Americas and Europe includes an expansion to the American Museum of Natural History; a new United States Embassy in Brazil; and the Global Terminal at O’Hare International Airport. A MacArthur Fellow and a Professor in Practice at the Harvard Graduate School of Design, Jeanne has been named one of TIME Magazine’s most influential people in the world. Her studio’s most recent monograph, Studio Gang: Architecture, was published by Phaidon last Spring.

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Tuesday Keynote
The Medici Effect: Innovation at the Intersection
Frans Johansson, Author and CEO of The Medici Group

FJ Headshot bw Square

Frans Johansson shared why the most powerful intersection in the world today is between innovation & strategy and diversity & inclusion - and what this means for you. Diverse and inclusive teams play a critical role in navigating a fast-moving world and will be the source of the next generation of game-changing ideas. Throughout this talk, Frans demonstrated that diversity and inclusion are imperative to the success of organizations' growth, and in fact, they are the ultimate drivers for innovation.

Author, entrepreneur, and acclaimed international speaker, Frans Johansson has inspired readers and audiences worldwide with his ideas on leadership, innovation, and diversity, while his practical insights have empowered thousands to take action. In his role as CEO of The Medici Group, Frans has advised executive leadership at Fortune 500 companies such as Disney, IBM, Nike, and Mastercard. His firm recently launched the world's first team coaching subscription service, which leverages diversity and inclusion to drive business outcomes and increase their capacity for innovation.

Frans is the author of The Medici Effect (Harvard Business Press, 2004 & 2017), which innovation legend Clay Christensen described as “one of the most insightful books on managing innovation that I have ever read.” His follow up book, The Click Moment (Penguin Portfolio, 2012) was hailed by Fast Company as the book that challenges traditional business-school thinking, having destroyed the 10,000-hour rule. The Medici Effecthas been translated into 21 different languages and become the definitive book on diversity driving innovation, influencing numerous industries and fields such as architecture, design, economic development, education, and investing.

Raised in Sweden by his African-American/Cherokee mother and Swedish father, Frans has lived all his life at the intersection. He has been featured on ABC, CNN, CNBC, the PBS Newshour, and National Public Radio. He has spoken to audiences on six continents, in virtually every industry, and across disciplines, from creatives to engineers, financiers to scientists, and politicians to humanitarians. Frans holds a B.S. in Environmental Science from Brown University and an M.B.A. from Harvard Business School, and currently sits on the Board of Trustees of the New York Hall of Science.

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Wednesday Keynote
Taming Push Me Pull You: KOO's Integrated Architectural and Interior Design Practice
Jackie Koo, Founding Principal, KOO

Jackie Koo Headshot

Jackie Koo, founder of her eponymous firm KOO, Architect and Interior Designer of the recently completed Sable hotel on Navy Pier and Interior Designer of the hotel at the historic Old Cook County Hospital, discussed how the best places and spaces are created by both architectural and interior design forces working in the same direction.

Jackie Koo, AIA, NOMA, LEED AP, IIDA, is the Founding Principal of KOO, an integrated Architecture and Interior Design practice based in Chicago, Illinois. KOO’s diverse portfolio is grounded in hospitality and the desire to create a specific identity for each project. KOO recently completed Sable Hotel, located on Chicago’s historic Navy Pier, providing both architectural and interior design services for the much-anticipated development and is currently designing a new esports stadium to be located on Chicago’s near south side. Jackie received her undergraduate degree in Philosophy from the University of Chicago and her Master of Architecture from the University of Illinois at Chicago. In 2020 she was named “Chicagoan of the Year in Architecture” by the Chicago Tribune.

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