My family and I are still at the beach (I’m still searching for answers to life’s great questions in the waves of Sister Sea; I haven’t found them yet but we have found some really testy waves). During our travels, I always take the time to notice how different local environments are and how that environment affects/shapes building forms. I try to keep in mind that “environment” is not only the physical climate but also the political structure, citizen’s involvement and awareness, availability of local materials, construction craftsmen and artisans, etc. It seems that within each of these environments, the force of government has a stronger impact (or lack there of) than we realize (or are willing to admit). After all, I believe that “The People” earn the type of government that they earn or deserve.
So, in that context, it appears that the architect's roles in various environments run the gamut from “first stop/last word” to “another piece of the puzzle” to “in the margins.” I’d like to think that if architects as a whole were more integrated into the common context and vocabulary, better built environments would result. During our travels in and around the South Carolina coastline, I came across a billboard on Highway US17 where ARCHITECT is front and center on a billboard for Rotary International. I have to admit I did a doubletake at seeing my profession on a highway billboard. The funny part is the billboard is not advertising directly for a product or good; it is apparently advertising the goodness and virtues of what the organization does—and it headlines that the member is an architect. We turned around so I could get my camera ready and snap a quick photo.
Nice for me to see; it made me smile that the little town of Murrell’s Inlet has such a prominent display of the good that architects can do. What have you seen lately?
—Lisa Stacholy, AIA
I’m now at the beach (my family camps for two weeks on the beach; we are very “earthy”) and I’m wondering what the environment would “look” like if architects were front and center, not just relegated to one cog in the wheel of development? (We're at Myrtle Beach, far enough away from the overly "touristy" parts as we could get, while still having some creature comforts close by.) There are lots of people to watch, natural environments to observe, and some excesses (which vacations bring on to notice) as well. The local paper has a feature story of some vacationing architects and engineers who come to this area to build sand castles for their vacation (see www.myrtlebeachonline.com/entertainment/story/543322.html). I like it when architects are in the news.
It seems like with all the talk of gas prices and energy costs, architects have a unique opportunity to step up and make that difference which most of us muttered to ourselves while we were still very idealistic while in college. I have one of those goof ball “what if” ideas that I would really like to pursue. But it is a Big Idea and I’m not sure how one little architect could ever make that much of a difference. Then I look around and realize that a lot of my colleagues (I love that word, colleagues; it sounds so strong) are already doing so in their neck of the woods. Laura Montllor is taking on accessibility issues in the Port Washington/Long Island area with her Home Free Home group (they assist folks with disabilities to make their homes more livable, not only the architecture side of it but all the stuff that folks are too overwhelmed to figure out: raising funds for the labor and materials of construction, getting the design services donated, hooking up the folks with local service-oriented groups, i.e. Rotary, for additional funding assistance; see www.homefreehome.org). I think of Louis Smith who is pushing the “middle class design initiative” at the federal level so architects' fees can be included in the loan process to get better design available to many, not just the select few who "think" they should call an architect.
I want to hear more of your stories on the
I have one more week to ponder and “recharge my batteries.” I’m looking forward to your stories and experiences. Who knows, I might just find the answer while searching for the perfect wave to ride. I hope that Mother Earth and Sister Sea will help me see the way to some answers instead of only questions… how about you?
—Lisa Stacholy, AIA
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