Allen E. Neyman, AIA
Treasurer Maryland Architects PAC
Design Build Bridges, Architects
Bridges are magnificent human undertakings, at any scale. Everyone gets involved in their construction – government at all levels, business, and the community. With rare exceptions, architects do not build bridges. Contractors and engineers have taken over the enterprise, and will continue to, as the rebuilding of infrastructure becomes more important in the new economy.
Dwell on that for a moment, and you might conclude that highway bridges are common, prototypical repeats, predetermined with only a bit of imagination, evidenced every decade with maybe a material change. Is that a consequence of priorities in contemporary life, accepting the placeless and faceless?
As we well know, contractors, unions, and engineers have clout in the same economy in which architects have little. Noting the size of their PAC budgets tells part of the story – not that more PAC contributions would alter the architects’ expertise or place in the economy. What would?
Metaphors aside, we do have the job of bridge building, and it’s more important now than ever. We need to build bridges with the legislature, in business, and with the community. This is not accomplished by designing great buildings – only sometimes the public realizes that yes there is architectural acumen behind it all. It’s about the hard work of building bridges with the community.
So I have much respect and admiration for Kathleen Sherrill, President AIA MD, appointed to the 21st Century Schools Commission. And congratulations Kathleen, for this appointment! The commission, by its title alone, commands attention. A mixed group of elected officials, educators, contractors and professionals will advise the Governor. While the committee should stand permanently to influence this and future governors, it may not. Bridges are built, and then put into use. But I’m sure you’ll agree that when architects are in a position to guide and proffer ideas that shape building programs, results are more likely to end well.
And we need many more bridges. So Kathleen is doing more, too, when she sits and advises the board at Walter’s Art Gallery. And just last year, she had a leadership position in the SB109 Taskforce for Small and Minority Business and State Procurement. To me, leading is more about sacrifice than power, more about hard work than ideology. Kathleen would probably agree, less is it about rewards.
Few architects work their way into the let’s call it “political” arena for reasons that have not yet been explained to me. Our fields of work – public buildings, housing, health care, schools, work places, you name it – touch on every aspect of daily life. One would conclude that the profession is advising boards and committees in every institution and branch of government. No statistics to support this, but I don’t see many architect colleagues out there. Part of the problem is that there are no vacant seats imploring architects to participate in meaningful positions.
There are, notably, other bridge builder architects. Those with advisory positions, like Chris Parts, Dan Bailey, John Corkill, and a few others I’ve heard, like Kathleen, have found a calling. When we look at bridges, we seldom think of the designers or forces that built them. Maybe if they were more memorable we would. Then we look at what government does and wonder how it ended that way. In my opinion, architectural expertise is needed at every level to set attitude and direction. What voices shape school construction programs? What influences regulation that will shape design and practice for public buildings? What bridges can architects design and build to connect the profession to the real world of government and institutional power? Architects – make your voice heard in the public realm. Insist on your seat at the table – it will have broader effects.
The Maryland Architects PAC does not support all Maryland candidates who run for office, only a few in the Maryland legislature, due to limited funds. Please help us reach out further and consistently for candidates who will make a difference. Did you know the PAC is open 24/7/365? Well it isn’t. But we accept donations at any time. Please give at http://www.aiamd.org/advocacy/contribute-to-md-architects-pac/
A Message from MD Architects PAC Treasurer – Principles, Annapolis Style [June 2016]
A Message from MD Architects PAC Treasurer – Are PAC’s on the right side of history? [April 2016]
A Message from MD Architects PAC Treasurer [December 2015]
A Message from MD Architects PAC Treasurer – It’s Reality Now [March 2015]