Colorado Springs News, Sports & Business

Q&A: Shining a light on the architect's role

RICH LADEN Updated: April 5, 2013 at 12:00 am

Architects work behind the scenes, but they’re not invisible.

While signs outside a home, office building or shopping center trumpet the names of builders or general contractors, and real estate developers grab headlines, architects are part of a project team, too.

Timothy Stroh is a principal at Source Architechnology Systems, a Springs architectural firm he helped found in 2004. Next year, he’ll be president of the American Institute of Architects’ Colorado South Chapter.

Stroh, 38, graduated from Montana State University with a bachelor’s degree in arts and environmental design and a master’s degree in architecture. He’s served on the Colorado Springs Planning Commission, been a member of the city’s Development Review Enterprise Customer Advisory Committee and is a graduate of the Leadership Pikes Peak program.

April is Colorado Architecture Month, and Stroh answered questions from The Gazette about his profession:

Question: Some people believe architects simply draw plans for general contractors to follow. How would you describe the role of an architect in today’s building projects?

Answer: Through education, professional experience and expertise, architects’ designs protect the health, safety and welfare of the general public and enhance the quality of life for those who utilize the buildings. We work closely with clients to understand their needs and visions, and translate those into buildable documents that fulfill their requirements in creative and innovative ways. The plans are only one of the tools we use to incorporate all of these things into our building designs.

Q: When the news media report on office buildings, hotels, shopping centers and the like, the focus is typically on the finished product, not what went into it from a planning perspective. Do architects feel they don’t get enough credit?

A: What architects would like others to understand is the thoughtful planning that goes into the design of our built environment. Architects must consider the building’s intended use, its impact on the natural environment, its context among nearby buildings and how they can protect the public. Architecture is a regulated industry, whose professionals are licensed after years of higher education and mentoring under licensed professionals, plus a number of examinations. In addition, architects work alongside owners, public officials and contractors to facilitate the final product.

Q: We know the residential and commercial building industries were hit hard during the recession. How tough was the downturn for architects and the design industry?

A: The downturn was incredibly difficult. What was felt here in Colorado Springs and the surrounding region was representative of larger trends across the nation. Unfortunately, the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics groups architects into the “architecture and engineering occupations” category so there is no accurate measure of the total impact to our field. Locally, the American Institute of Architects’ Colorado Component had many of its members experience unemployment and underemployment. However, we are seeing a strong uptick in work and this is reflected with the increase of postings at a state level on the American Institute of Architects’ job board. .  

Q: You’ve just been hired to design a new office building, hotel or custom home. What are some of the most important first steps that go into your work?

A: The first step as an architect is to always take time with your client to listen to their goals, needs and expectations. We are able to apply our expertise in the latest building methods, life safety regulations, sustainable concepts and construction cost analysis to the project design process, which results in a better product for the client. If engaged early on, an architect can address potential fiscal, design and programmatic issues before they have a negative impact on the client or project.

Q: What are some of the best qualities of today’s architecture? What makes a great building in today’s environment?

A: One of the best features of today’s architecture and design is an increased awareness of the environmental costs of how we develop the built environment. Architects have taken the lead within the building industry to facilitate intelligent discussion and creative solutions for increasing the sustainability of buildings. A great building design is one that not only takes into account the impact to the end user, but also the environment.  

Q: What are some of your favorite buildings in Colorado Springs and why?

A: The Colorado College campus has a wonderful collection of historic buildings that were designed by some of our most talented local architects in the early years of Colorado Springs. In addition to the college, the Maytag Aircraft Building on South Cascade Avenue, designed by local architect Jim Wallace, is an exceptional building in design, craftsmanship and quality. It is one of the finest examples of a post-modern building we have in our community and remains almost unchanged from 1957, which demonstrates the lasting power of great design.

Q: Is there one local building or architectural effort that you’d like to change? What is it, and what would you change about it?

A: I would like to see further efforts directed at increasing public understanding of what architectural professionals can offer to the local community. We live, work and play in the spaces we help to design, and can help make the built environment better for everyone. Architects can also play a key role in planning and disaster recovery efforts. The American Institute of Architects’ Colorado South Chapter reached out to local officials after the Waldo Canyon fire to offer our expertise as risk assessment and rebuilding efforts began.

Questions and answers are edited for brevity and clarity.
Contact Rich Laden: 636-0228 Twitter @richladen
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