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The role of "city" architect

  • 1.  The role of "city" architect

    Posted 03-11-2019 16:19
    Just wanted to know how many architects are working directly for local government? What are challenges?

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    Andrew Thompson AIA
    County Architect
    Passaic County
    Paterson NJ
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  • 2.  RE: The role of "city" architect

    Posted 03-12-2019 18:17
    In Los Angeles we have about 20 Architects that hold the title, however some associates may have their license as well, so 20+. I work specifically at the Harbor department and our challenges maybe different than in other departments. I work in an Engineering Division. The primary challenge when working with Engineers is communicating and/or showing the value of good architecture. My peers and managers value economy, function, durability, and simplicity. Everything about the space, volume, structure, and materials needs to support the solution, otherwise I have to answer for it.

    Technically our job is difficult due to our location being an old industrial marine environment with liquefiable soils, methane, contamination, etc. Public projects answer to many stake holders which lengthen every project and raises every budget.

    Outside factors come into play every now and then such as political projects, new ordinances, community pressure, lawsuits, and audits. Since we have a lot of assets, maintenance is always an issue. Every tenant improvement ends up taking on scope creep because we discover so much deferred maintenance. Its difficult to know where to draw the line.

    Looking back, its the challenge that  keeps me here and on my toes, so I'm not complaining, just answering your question.

    Best,

    Bryan Low, AIA, CPM
    POLA

    ------------------------------
    Bryan Low AIA
    Architect
    Port of Los Angeles
    San Pedro CA
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  • 3.  RE: The role of "city" architect

    Posted 03-13-2019 16:04
    Wow thanks for the feedback. Bryan Low, your story reminds me of my days working for the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey (PANYNJ). They have an in-house staff of architects but when I worked there I was involved on a major transportation project as well as airport work. We had a Chief Architect and an Assistant Chief Architect. While we adopted most of the building codes the Port Authority also developed their own codes and standards. It was also a bi-state agency answering to both New York and New Jersey. There was a great emphasis on design excellence and I wanted to thank the Chief Architect Robert Davidson FAIA and the Assistant Chief Architect Richard Franklin AIA for making that happen. The PANYNJ Architectural Department operated withing the Engineering Department which included civil, structural, mechanical and traffic. Their was even a separate landscape design department. Our department back then had great synergy and the architectural department had a lot of say in PANYNJ projects. Hopefully in Los Angeles they can change the current model.



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  • 4.  RE: The role of "city" architect

    Posted 03-12-2019 22:34
    I was the "city architect " for Duluth , Minnesota , a city of 85000 , for over 30 years...i managed all of the city owned property design , and construction projects , as well was as the city capital improvements program....i worked directly for 5 different mayors , and numerous administrative assistants ( the #2 person in the city structure  )...each new administration had their own agenda , which was a challenge in itself...But after a few month's with the new administration , you learned to "March to a new Drummer"...
    One of the biggest challenges thru my city years , was dealing with maintenance administrators who attempted to achieve their goals , with no respect for design...I won most of the battles , with the backing of the Mayor , and Administrative assistant,  which greatly improved the fabric of our city ..But , after I retired , the maintenance folks are now , seemingly winning out , and design is being sacrificed...The city , also eliminated the City Architects position,  leaving no one with the administration with a design background , and it is starting to show....Gerald W.Johnson. City Architect ( retired) A.I.A..


    Sent via the Samsung Galaxy S® 6, an AT&T 4G LTE smartphone



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  • 5.  RE: The role of "city" architect

    Posted 03-13-2019 16:19
    Gerald, that is something I hear all too often that local governments decide the position of city architect is no longer needed and therefore eliminated. Yes you can always outsource design services but the local government does not have exclusive rights to that firm, even if contract language is somehow worked out. An architect that serves local government as part of the staff is very important because their expertise becomes part of day to day operations for that local government.

    I participate in budget meetings because my local government values my expertise.



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  • 6.  RE: The role of "city" architect

    Posted 03-12-2019 22:54
    Andrew,
    I don't have the exact number of public architects who work for local jurisdictions, but we have several who are on AIA Public Architects Advisory Group.  Julia Laue, AIA, runs a major design and construction agency that is part of the City and County of San Francisco; Susan Goldberg, AIA, is the deputy director of the City of Hollywood, FL.   
    The biggest challenge at the local level is the local politics by elected officials and constituents.  One colleague who was City Architect for a major city was demoted because of project failings not of her fault, but happened on her watch.  Another colleague is trying to get A/E selections accomplished despite her bosses wanting to restrict consideration to minority firms.
    Please continue contributing to this board.

    Ed Gauvreau, FAIA
    2015 Chair, Public Architects Advisory Group



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  • 7.  RE: The role of "city" architect

    Posted 03-13-2019 16:14
    Ed, thanks for your comment. It is important for agencies when headed by a design professional or a design professional who has input in the selection process, that minority firms do get a chance to participate. In using the RFP process for the County my process has to be fair but I have selected a minority firm on a large facility infrastructure project, because they satisfied the requirements of the RFP.



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  • 8.  RE: The role of "city" architect

    Posted 03-13-2019 07:40
    I worked for a local government which in my case is the City of New York and I specifically worked within a particular agency, ACS which stands for Administration for Children's Services. My assigned division is the division of Real Estate Design and Construction Management aka RED+CM.




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  • 9.  RE: The role of "city" architect

    Posted 03-13-2019 12:15
    I work for local government as the Chief Building Official running the building department for two cities. Coming from private practice owning my own firm, I've been doing this since 2000. Since 2007 when we started doing everything digitally, life is great, allowing more time for actual public service and interface with the design community, owners and constituents. Having a talented professional staff, supportive City Council and administration makes a huge difference.

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    Terry Welker FAIA
    Ohio Valley Region Strategic Councilor
    Chief Building Official
    City of Kettering
    Kettering OH
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  • 10.  RE: The role of "city" architect

    Posted 03-13-2019 16:10
    Terry do you have any say or leadership for Design Excellence for your two cities?



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  • 11.  RE: The role of "city" architect

    Posted 03-13-2019 20:47
    All,
    Keep up the sharing and conversation!  That is what makes this community strong - by sharing each other's stories and solutions.

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    Edmond Gauvreau, FAIA
    Washington, DC
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  • 12.  RE: The role of "city" architect

    Posted 03-14-2019 17:56
    I work for the San Francisco Public Works, Bureau of Architecture (BOA).  BOA has been in existence for over 100 years.  We have 60 Architectural Staff who design projects for various city agencies, including but not limited to Real Estate, Healthcare, MTA, SF Fire, SFPD, SF Libraries, Public Utilities Commission, and the Department of Homelessness & Supportive Housing.  We also have (8) private sector architectural firms on a Master As-Needed Contract who we tap for projects as well.

    We also have a Project Management Group of about 25, who work with private sector architect to build are major capital projects, such as the new Hospital, Convention Center, just to name a couple.

    Check out our Portfolio:
    www.sfpublicworks.org/bdcportfolio

    We have a City Architect (my boss) and a City Engineer.  Our engineering group has a staff of about 200, SMEP and Civil.

    Our architects are motivated to do good work for their city and they get to see their projects built!

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    Julia Laue AIA
    Principal Architect & Bureau Manager
    SF Bureau of Architecture, Building Design & Construction
    San Francisco CA
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  • 13.  RE: The role of "city" architect

    Posted 03-15-2019 14:20
    Julie that is very unique and very good that San Francisco sets the parameters for incorporating a Board of Architecture into City government. It is similar to one of my posts regarding the Port Authority of NY and NJ. How long has BOA been around in San Francisco?

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    Andrew Thompson AIA
    County Architect
    Passaic County
    Paterson NJ
    ------------------------------

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  • 14.  RE: The role of "city" architect

    Posted 03-16-2019 14:42
    Hi Andrew,

    The Bureau of Architecture has been in existence for over 100 years.  In fact, on the original drawings for our City Hall which was built after the 1906 San Francisco Earthquake had an entire office labeled "City Architect".  Currently the City Architect is a Deputy Directory under the Director of Public Works.  I oversee the Bureau of Architecture and report to the City Architect & Deputy Director for Buildings.

    In my original posting, I neglected to discuss what our challenges are:  One of biggest challenges are getting high quality contractors under the project delivery method of Design-Bid-Build where we are required to take the lowest bid.  When we use DBB, we need to ensure our drawings are of the highest quality and very well coordinated, which has been my initiative since I started in 2013.  With regard to QC/QA, I have also hired a Technical Manager and Design Manager who oversee the QC/QA and Design Standards for the office.  We have implemented standard detail libraries, in REVIT and CADD, drawing checklists.  We have hired two CADD/BIM managers who oversee the CADD/BIM committee and set those standards.

    Since I have started, the organization has also implemented a "Best Value" project delivery method where the bids are not only awarded on cost but also a % of qualifications and experience, which I believe is 40% of the award scoring factor.  On larger projects we use CMGC Project Delivery more and more which enables us to bring on the GC during the early phases of a project to provide pre-construction services, work with the design team on constructability reviews and value engineering if needed.  The sub-contractor packages are bid out at a later date.

    Some of the benefits of having an in-house architectural team are that we ave the historical knowledge and actual drawings of most of our public buildings, in fact.  In addition, our staff are trained to use the highest standard, durable specifications because public buildings need to be "Built to Last", which, coincidentally, is the theme of our Pre-Conference Workshop at AIA 2019 Conference in Las Vegas, on 6/5/19.  We will be discussing how we renovate historic structures, both seismically and technologically, there will be a presentation by Fred Clarke on the new SF Transbay Terminal, which is the biggest infrastructure, transportaion hub I have ever seen and it includes a 4 block park on the roof top, 4 stories above the street.  The other 2 sessions focus on Sustainability and Smart Cities.  Check out the write up in the Cornerstone issuance.  Little "plug" there for our workshop if anyone is interested.  :)

    We also have (8) as-needed private sector architecture firms who are on a master contract, (4) of which specialize in healthcare, OSHPD projects.  In addition, we have a project management group of 25 who oversee the very large capital projects such as our new $800M hospital, the new Moscone Convention Center, new Office of the Medical Examiner, etc.

    Other challenges include the stringent hiring process which is slow, restrictive and bureaucratic. Stafffing is also an issue, especially during this period when we are very very busy.  In addition, the cost of construction has skyrocketed in the Bay Area and the market is so busy, it has become harder to get good competitive bids, and the cost/SF has risen to even $1,000/SF for new construction which is probably the highest in the country, except possibly NYC?

    Sorry for the very long response.  In summary we have grown in our abilities, QC-QA, and design standards and we continuously strive for more and more improvement.  Thank your for the discussion!

    ------------------------------
    Julia Laue, AIA, NCARB, LEED AP
    Principal Architect & Bureau Manager
    Bureau of Architecture, SF Public Works
    San Francisco, CA
    ------------------------------

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  • 15.  RE: The role of "city" architect

    Posted 03-15-2019 14:22
    My apologies, Bureau of Architecture.

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    Andrew Thompson AIA
    County Architect
    Passaic County
    Paterson NJ
    ------------------------------

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  • 16.  RE: The role of "city" architect

    Posted 03-16-2019 18:13
    Andrew, the primary large city, Kettering, uses my design outlook regularly via zoning requirements. Besides being a code administrator, I'm actually more famous for my public art, www.welkerstudio.com. Hence, they know my aesthetic abilities and ask me to weigh in. I was a regular advisor when we recently created a 'form based zoning code'. This code actually defaults to me, Chief Building Official, for final design judgement in certain circumstances. In Ohio the building official does not have to be an architect but my city has always chosen to fill the position with an architect and fully support AIA activities.

    In terms of design influence I teach a lot of code classes to architects on how to use codes as creative tools. Connecting building codes to building form is enlightening. Since I'm well known as a sculptor, everyone also knows I'm not afraid to encourage or shame someone into making their design better, more beautiful. Early code discussions inevitably evolve into design discussions. Zoning folks drag me into meetings with diassagreable owners and architects as a means to convey the possibility of great design on a budget and the priority we place on design excellence. Occasionally, we all get an award winner!

    ------------------------------
    Terry Welker FAIA
    Ohio Valley Region Strategic Councilor
    Chief Building Official
    City of Kettering
    Kettering OH
    ------------------------------

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  • 17.  RE: The role of "city" architect

    Posted 03-14-2019 19:24

    I am the Chief Building Official for the City and County of Denver since 2015. Essentially, responsible for plan review, permitting and inspections for all residential and commercial projects within the City and County of Denver. We permitted over $4.2 Billion last year. Prior to that, I was  the Director of Design and Construction for the Arlington County Public School Division. Prior to that I owned my own architectural and engineering firm in the Northeast. Huge shift in work product but very exciting to be on this side of the fence and trying to streamline and simplify processes having been on the receiving side of the permitting world.

     

    Scott V. Prisco, AIA, LEED AP | Engineer/Architect Director | Chief Building Official

    Community Planning and Development | City and County of Denver

    O: 720.865.3206  C 303.349.1592 | scott.prisco@denvergov.org

    DenverGov.org/CPD | Twitter | Instagram | Take our Survey

    CONNECT WITH US | 311 | pocketgov.com | denvergov.org | Denver 8 TV | Facebook

     

    image006.png@01D3CBF0.79E95240

     

     

     

     

     




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  • 18.  RE: The role of "city" architect

    Posted 03-16-2019 13:16
    I believe that the person who has the most influence in the built environment is the owner's architect.  They select designers and contractors.  They select the sites, develop the programs, and approve the designs.  I had two public architecture positions in my career.  I was one of the staff architects for the City of Dallas from 1980 through 1991.  The City of Dallas was one of the first owners to adopt Qualification Based Selection (QBS) in the 1970s.  Although "High Design" was not our strongest suit, we won a significant number of design awards in that time.  The buildings we were designing were to be owned and operated by the the City for 30 or 40 years.  The second important aspect of that office's practice was life cycle cost.  Design decisions were made in favor of life cycle cost rather than initial cost.

    At the City of Dallas, we were focused on minority and women-owned businesses and getting them involved in projects.  We worked hard to have those businesses involved as sub-consultants, sub-contractors, and primary consultants.  At that time, we didn't have women-owned GCs.

    Our biggest problem then was what we called staff bashing.  That is the game where the politicians would try to publicly shame the staff over delays, change orders, or any other problem they could saddle staff with in a public meeting or media.  Some of our city council members elevated the sport to an Olympic level.

    My second position in the public sector was the Associate Director for Contracted Services at the University of Arkansas from 1991 to 1994.  I was responsible for the outside design consultants and contractors in our capital improvement program.  We had a committee of faculty, staff, and administration for every project.  We walked that narrow path between design and "practicality" on every project.  We had the dynamic of designing a building as uniquely its own and fitting into the context of the existing campus.  The campus architect has responsibility for the only real currency in the university - real estate.

    UofA did follow the QBS process, but there were those who worked behind the scene to undermine the process and achieve their own goals.  One who runs afoul of that will find themself on the outside looking in.

    During the end of my tenure with the City of Dallas and most of the time at the University, I was a funded member of the Public Architects Committee advisory board and later the chair which is the predecessor to this group.  During that time we had to fight the AIA in order to survive.  Remember that you and the corporate architects are the only groups that represent clients in the Institute.

    Best wishes to all of you as you further your careers and architecture.

    ------------------------------
    James Gallagher AIA
    Fayetteville AR
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  • 19.  RE: The role of "city" architect

    Posted 03-16-2019 13:27
    Jim,
    Glad to see you weigh in and discuss your past experiences at both City of Dallas and U. Arkansas.  I have a colleague currently working for Cook County, IL who is experiencing the same issues you had in Dallas.  She is hanging in there but is looking at her escape strategy.
    Hope all is well with you and yours - I am doing well.  Still with HQ Army Corps of Engineers but seeking the next great adventure.
    Best, Ed

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    Edmond Gauvreau, FAIA
    Washington, DC
    ------------------------------

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  • 20.  RE: The role of "city" architect

    Posted 03-14-2019 09:18
    ​Hello Andrew -

    It was good to meet you at Grassroots.  I am an architect who works for the City of Oklahoma City Planning Department as manager of our design review districts.  My work includes conducting public meetings, supervising staff reports, doing pre-development review, speaking to the media, updating ordinance language, and typical management activities like performance evaluations, budget, reports, reports, and more reports.

    My title is Principal Planner and my staff all have planning education and training.  I am glad to be in a position where I can "influence from within" on broader design issues for both public and private development.

    Related to other comments on this thread:  our City's building permit, code enforcement, capital improvements projects, and public works functions are not managed by architects although there are a few architects working in project management positions.

    Oklahoma City does not have a "City Architect".  I recently learned that this position was cut due to budget concerns...in 1911.


    ------------------------------
    Lisa Chronister FAIA
    Principal Planner
    City of Oklahoma City
    Oklahoma City OK
    ------------------------------

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  • 21.  RE: The role of "city" architect

    Posted 03-15-2019 02:30
    My 35+ year career has been entirely public sector at the local level in Juneau. Alaska. I began in the Building Codes Department in early 80's; became the Chief Architect in the early 90's. In 2007, I moved to the Juneau International Airport, and continue to serve there as Airport Architect. It has been a really exciting and fulfilling career. I've worked on hospital, schools, airport, recreation facilities (including our ski area), libraries, fire stations, offices, maintenance facilities, etc. I had the extreme pleasure of managing the Alaska Capitol Design Competition in 2005 that selected Morphosis, but the politics went sideways and we weren't able to build the capitol. Sigh... such is life in local politics?

    My biggest challenges have been related to "caring too much" about particular projects. When community facilities are being designed and built in a small town, it is easy to get emotionally involved in what you believe the "right" architectural solution is. I have had to remind myself over and over that the buildings are not mine - they are the public's. I have the honor and responsibility to be like a conductor in a great symphony - my role is to manage, lead, and inspire others to do their best. I strive for excellent public process, rather than the final product. Sometimes I get both!

    ------------------------------
    Catherine Fritz AIA
    Catherine Fritz, AIA, Architect
    Juneau AK
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  • 22.  RE: The role of "city" architect

    Posted 03-18-2019 11:02
    I am no longer with the City of Choctaw, but was the architect and city planner for nearly 7 years. My work was primarily planning related, but I regularly supported our building officials and code enforcement to understand the building codes and arrive at building plans that could be permitted and ready for construction. The biggest challenge for our growing town was trying to find design professionals that could prepare plans. There were local architects, but most people have never hired an architect and do not understand the design process, or are not prepared for the level of detail necessary to prepare plans. I ultimately had to "limit" my management/advice for active building projects because of potential liability purposes. If the applicant chose to go without a qualified design professional, they would have to bear responsibility for the problems during construction.

    The biggest challenge of all though; In April of 2012 a massive wildfire came through the town and burned 65 homes in Midwest City/Choctaw. Among the homes lost was our mayor's house because there was no municipal water service on that far edge of the city. The next morning I drove around with our building inspector and documented the losses and prepared the path for the homeowners/insurance/contractors/etc. to begin the rebuilding process.  A couple of families did not have insurance on the home and lost everything. It's one thing to work in the office, it's quite another to work in the community and see the people who are most affected by your work. Truly humbling.
    Mark

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    Mark Seibold AIA
    Tulsa OK
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