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Ralph Liebing, RA, CSI, CDT
Senior Member
Username: rliebing

Post Number: 1202
Registered: 02-2003
Posted on Wednesday, July 07, 2010 - 06:54 am:   Edit PostDelete PostPrint Post

by Ralph Liebing, RA, CSI, CDT
Cincinnati, OH

OK, you’re all not architects! But you do work with, work for, or call upon architects. Despite a diminished role, architects are still part of the project and construction process. They program, design and document projects, create solutions and “put buildings together”. Agreed?

A comment in ARCHITECT magazine about 6 months ago included, “…….The AIA has targeted teaching of how buildings are made as the weakest aspect of architectural education, and there is some merit to this charge……traditional studios [in schools] result in what can only be called schematic design…….Students are frustrated with theory-driven virtual architecture and a profession that works at the top of the food chain. They are pushing for outreach, hands-on experiences because they want meaning in their lives and want it embodied in their education…”.

Despite this “plea’, the schools remain entrenched and stressed by their own parochial curriculum development and constrained time for professional education. There may be isolated [and wide spread] courses that attempt to fill this plea from students, but doesn’t every student “deserve” to know how to realize what they conceived and design?

We all may not be architects, but we work for some or we have them as clients, or we try to influence them to specify our products. What’s this got to do with CSI, SCIP, product representatives and other non-designing architects? Plenty! With possible variations, try this on for size;

While teaching Methods and Materials [covered working drawing and then various materials and systems at basic and manufacturing levels] at the University of Cincinnati in the early ‘70s, we used one assignment where teams of 3-4 students were given the name of a product or manufacturer’s representative. They were to contact this person, set an appointment and conduct and interview to learn about the product lines, collect literature for personal libraries, AND to discuss the reps’ views on architects, good/bad drawings, etc., that impact the professional work. Surprise, the kids [now this was the ‘70s!!!] cleaned up, dressed half way decently, and ventured forth. The results? Amazing [interviews were welcomed and some even involved lunch and several hours]. Pure amazement on both sides of the interviews-- the mere interfacing, the talk, the information, the “education”, the give and take-- and yes, the opening of new worlds never before broached.

We got letters from the reps supporting this effort and expressing their eye-opening wonder at the experience; and the kids were markedly different-- they took a giant step to being “rounded professionals”!

This is but one isolated attempt, and I am sure there are others. Other people and CSI members have seen fit to do something to moderate the shameful situation we have. But one wonders why this is not and cannot be a major effort at chapter and region levels, somewhat organized, certainly encouraged, promoted and supported at the national level. This is a gaping hole that is so easily filled with a little imagination, a small effort/dedication and a sincere desire to help and make better.

In fact, there is a prognosis that says this can be done throughout the construction industry with other aspects of direct interest to CSI-- and within it’s members’ capabilities to do such things. If CSI members and their colleagues are so good at “selling” project designs, and selling products, is this not a rather easy matter of “selling” something new, different and product? We can talk ourselves blue-in-the-face, but it is action that makes the difference. And actions belie the tendency or determination to maintain status quo, and satisfy ourselves that by merely updating existing documents and programs we self-perpetuate. Isn’t lost of membership directly linked to such ideology? Aren’t “new” service and direction, and outreach not only the vogue of the day, but also the necessity of the day? Are we so satisfied to ignore this? Are we so lazy and detached to set this aside as “none of our business”?

Are we now so blasé, so stressed, so uncaring, so money driven [as in frugal] that we simply aren’t interested in a small effort to reach out and fill a need that in turn could make our lot, later, better? And yes, part of this “problem” is getting the schools to at least let us get some information and access to their students. Part of the need is academic and institutional support, and national support and impetus for the local effort! Otherwise, the travesty in place will become on-going, entrenched and unresolvable.
George A. Everding, AIA, CSI, CCS, CCCA
Senior Member
Username: geverding

Post Number: 542
Registered: 11-2004

Posted on Wednesday, July 07, 2010 - 10:17 am:   Edit PostDelete PostPrint Post

Ralph, here's another "perspective" on this week's newsletter:

For the last ten years or so, I have been bringing my Specifications and Building Materials classes to a CSI chapter meeting in place of a regular class. The last two years, I have assigned a project for the class in which they play the role of product representatives presenting a new and innovative product they have "invented" over the course of the semester. Each student is paired with a CSI member as a mentor a few weeks prior to the meeting, and CSI members assume the roles of architects, engineers, building owners, etc., at the meeting.

We've all enjoyed this process, and plan to continue it for another year this coming spring. For more information, see this article:


Here's a link to our chapter newsletter after the first year's student project. See if you can pick out the student projects from the real ads:

George A. Everding AIA CSI CCS CCCA
Cannon Design - St. Louis, MO

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