Build Boston Booms
An overwhelming and negative public response to initial proposals led LMDC to embark on a more formal "design study." They have selected six prominent design teams — Studio Daniel Libeskind, Foster and Partners, UNITED ARCHITECTS, SOM, THINK, and a collaboration of Richard Meier, Peter Eisenman, Charles Gwathmey, and Steven Holl. A seventh firm, Peterson Littenberg Architects, will represent the developer.
The LMDC hopes to have the memorial design and the site plan completed by December 2003. Despite the controversies, speakers at Build Boston agreed that things were finally coming together.
Breaking Glass Ceilings
At a discussion sponsored by the Boston Society of Architects' Women in Design Network, four pioneers traded reminiscences and advice. Jane Thompson, AICP, Andrea Leers, FAIA, Carol R. Johnson, FASLA, and Elizabeth Ericson, FAIA were inspiring to both men and women in the audience.
Each of these remarkable women told about their professional experiences with sexism, from being ignored by male clients to being denied entry to construction sites. One of these horror stories was told by Andrea Leers, principal of Leers Weinzapfel Associates whose selection by the General Services Administration as architect for a courthouse in Orlando, Florida was contested as "improper" and for which legal deliberations delayed work for 1-1/2 years.
Though tempted to give in, she held her ground to do what she felt was right. Her advice to the audience: "Have a passion for what you do and learn the ability to communicate it."
Another group of groundbreakers at Build Boston were designers with disabilities. A seminar suggested that in addition to designing for disabled people who are the users of buildings, we need to design for the designers themselves, who may be challenged by impaired mobility, vision, or hearing. Design education and other professional institutions must be reformed to eliminate discrimination.
Disabled architects can offer a unique design perspective. Using adaptive technologies, improved CAD accessibility, community education through organizations like Adaptive Environments, along with networking and mentoring, enable designers with disabilities to become invaluable members of the design community.
Yet another groundbreaking group, the DataCAD Boston Users Group (DBUG) celebrated its 15th anniversary with a historical trivia quiz highlighting such milestones as having met in five New England states at 56 unique locations, and sponsoring e-mail forums that have exchanged some 70,000 messages over the last eight years.
From Courtroom to Showroom
Another conference highlight was the three-hour courtroom simulation, "Architect on Trial." This mock professional-liability trial was based on a real case in which a school custodian was injured by ice that fell from a roof after repairs to that roof had been executed as designed by the defendant architect.
At issue was whether the architect, by accepting an owner-suggested directive to install snow guards at specific locations, had also accepted a natural extension of his scope of professional services and obligations to fully design where those snow guards should have been installed, thus preventing the injuries.
Using courtroom dramatics laced with humor, the players emphasized that architects must be careful throughout design to adhere to a well defined scope of work. They should be vigilant about casually accepting minor changes, which can have major ramifications on design responsibility. With a jury composed of design professionals, it was not surprising that the defendant architect was acquitted. But would this have been the case with a jury laypersons?
The mock trial was staged by the Massachusetts Registration Board and will be repeated at a conference for its parent organization, the National Council of Architectural Registration Boards (NCARB). Organizers would like "Architect on Trial" to be a mandatory part of architectural education — before any architect has to experience such pain in a real courtroom.
While all these other events were taking place, the trade show floor of Build Boston was full of its usual wide array of product booths and photo exhibits vying for attention. Veteran observers may have felt like they had seen it all before, but one new item was arresting, the Z400 3D printer by Z Corporation.
This printer builds three-dimensional physical models layer by layer — using a starch-based powder — as directed from 3D CAD data. Perhaps not yet priced for most architecture firm budgets, the compact entry-level Z400 model, which has a capacity for up to a 8- by 10- by 8-inch (20- by 25- by 20-centimeter) model, goes for a hefty $32,000. The larger versions, which can create models up to 20 by 24 by 15 inches (51 by 61 by 38 centimeters), go for $175,000.
Still, this new product reminds us that even with advances in photorealistic digital rendering and animation, it is still hard to beat the allure of an elegant physical model. So too, despite the ease of gathering information via online sources, is it hard to beat the overall educational value of an excellent conference such as Build Boston.
Evan H. Shu, FAIA, is an architect with Shu Associates Inc. in Melrose, Massachusetts. He is a frequent contributor to Architectural Record and publisher and editor of Cheap Tricks, a monthly newsletter for DataCAD users and computer-using architects.