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Friday, 16 October 2015 12:53

Architects reflect on state of industry during annual AIA Grand Rapids Honor Awards

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The Lena Meijer Building (Meijer Inc. corporate headquarters) The Lena Meijer Building (Meijer Inc. corporate headquarters)

GRAND RAPIDS — While the American Institute of Architects Grand Rapids intends its annual Honor Awards as the celebration of the best architectural design and the top industry professionals in West Michigan, this year’s event seemed to touch on a more fundamental issue.

That’s because some of the winners used their acceptance speeches to remind attendees of the critical nature architects play in the community and that it’s important for the industry to keep that in mind.

“I believe that architecture as a profession is losing its relevance, unfortunately,” said Greg Metz, principal at Grand Rapids-based Lott3Metz Architecture LLC and the winner of The President’s Award. “If you don’t believe me, ask a stranger what an architect does and you’ll be surprised by their answer. The irony is, we are universally admired by everybody. But we have not told our story.”

To get the industry back on track, Metz suggested a handful of solutions, namely not giving work away for free. Rather, he pushed for architects to raise their fees, similar to doctors and lawyers.

At the same time, Metz suggested that architects should get involved in their communities by volunteering on boards and commissions.

“This is the easiest way to tell our story,” he said.

Recent statistics from Washington, D.C.-based American Institute of Architects (AIA) could lend some weight to Metz’s comments. According to the most recent AIA Billings Index for the month of August, billings slid nearly five points to 49.1, down from 54.7 in July. The ABI had largely been on an uptick throughout the year.

Experts, however, say that the recent drop should not be cause for considerable concern.

“Over the past several years, a period of sustained growth in billings has been followed by a temporary step backwards,” AIA Chief Economist Kermit Baker said in a statement. “The fact that project inquiries and new design contracts continue to grow at a healthy pace suggests that this should not be a cause for concern throughout the design and construction industry.”

The sentiment expressed by Metz was not lost on other award winners. Arnie Mikon, CEO of Kalamazoo- and Grand Rapids-based TowerPinkster who was one of two winners of the AIA Grand Rapids Lifetime Achievement Award, said it is important that architects be adept not only in design, but also in business if they are to succeed.

“Along the way, I saw that my best role in architecture was not so much on the design side, but better understanding our client’s business and organization needs,” Mikon said. “We need to know where we want to go. … And you need the ability to communicate that vision effectively to those that follow.”

The awards honored seven specific projects in the West Michigan area, as well five individuals for their contributions to the industry. AIA Grand Rapids also recognized a local company for its long-time support of the chapter.

Here is the complete list of winners in this year’s Honor Awards.

Building Award Winners (Project name, architecture firm)
• Jenison Center for the Arts – AECOM Grand Rapids
• Whirlpool Benton Harbor Technology Center – Integrated Architecture
• Spectrum Health Medical Group Beltline Integrated Care Center – Integrated Architecture
• The Lena Meijer Building (Meijer Inc. corporate headquarters) – Lott3Metz Architecture LLC
• Vernon J. Ehlers Amtrak Station – Progressive A&E


Small Commercial Design Winners (Project name, architecture firm)

  • Interphase Interiors, Studio Blue – GMB Architecture + Engineering
  • Art Van Sports Complex Championship Field – Progressive AE


Individual Awards

  • President’s Award: Greg Metz, principal at Lott3Metz Architecture LLC
  • Young Architect: Thom Danckaert, senior design architect at Progressive AE
  • Lifetime Achievement Award: Arnie Mikon, CEO of TowerPinkster
  • Lifetime Achievement Award: Brian Craig, director of the graduate program in architecture at Kendall College of Art and Design of Ferris State University
  • David D. Smith Humanitarian Award: Tami Vandenberg, executive director of Well House
  • Professional Affiliate Award: Belden Brick & Supply Co.
Read 3871 times Last modified on Sunday, 18 October 2015 22:30

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