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Special Section on Architects

Honor Award: Lord Corp. world headquarters, designed by the Freelon Group Inc., RTP.

Honor Award: Fletcher Opera Theater and Meymandi Concert Hall, BTI Center for the Performing Arts, designed by Pearce Brinkley Cease + Lee, Raleigh
Merit Award: Below, Biltmore Estate Winery Addition, Little & Associates Architects, Charlotte

Related stories in this section:
Boney Architects named firm of the year
Charlotte architect wins Golf Medal
Hemphill awarded Deitrick Medal for Service
New rehab law provides a tool to rebuild communities

Composing Designs for Living
Architects design not long the building  but also the living that goes on inside

By Laura Tomczak

Take a look at any city skyline or even around your own neighborhood and what do you see? Buildings and more buildings — structures that dominate space and provide specific function in the areas in which they stand. It’s easy enough to see, but let’s not forget that before these compositions came into existence they were merely ideas. Before the contractors could start construction, these ideas required a translation of sorts.

In simple terms, someone had to put those ideas down on paper and that someone was an architect. Combining creativity and imagination, translating needs and wants and interpreting the science of structure, the architect is the person who shapes and molds the cities and communities in which we live.

It’s simple enough to realize that architects design buildings, but in truth it is much more than that. Every construction project can benefit from the skills of a good architect. “Whether you are building a corporate headquarters, a state-of-the-art research laboratory, a mixed-use retail center, or your next home, hiring an architect is one of the best investments you can make,” says Kerry Kane, AIA, the incoming president of the North Carolina Chapter of the American Institute of Architects. “Architects today are creating value for clients, users and the public in more ways than ever before. In their traditional role as designer, architects provide value with the development of functional and flexible facilities that meet users’ needs, are built on time and within budget, enhance the environment and protect and preserve our natural resources.”

Many elements such as space, function, environment, budget and lifestyle go into a design project. Architects consider it all when crafting plans for their clients. “By listening and learning about a business, and understanding their markets, an architect can help evaluate immediate and future space needs,” says Kane. “This knowledge can lead to innovative design solutions that will make the business more efficient and enhance the workplace environment.”

Kane recalls a project that his own firm, Small Kane Architects, designed for the corporate headquarters for Harriet and Henderson Yarns in Henderson. “To facilitate staff interaction and team building, a system of ‘interior streets’ and ‘department neighborhoods’ was developed,” he says. “This interior layout concept, combined with daylight, has enhanced both staff morale and productivity.”

Winston-Salem architect Bobby Patterson, AIA, the current AIA North Carolina Chapter president, agrees that a well-designed workplace makes for a better work environment. “An example is an office building project where the client tells us everything they need and we meet those needs with the design and program of the final building,” he says. “What an architect adds to that process is creating an environment that not only meets their needs but also enhances the environment of the people working there. It’s fun to come to work, because the design of the building you work in is efficient and you feel good being there.”

The same careful thought that goes into business planning is also applied in the design of residential homes. “A home no matter what shape or size can be custom tailored by the architect to suit the homeowner’s taste and lifestyle,” Kane says. “The architect’s design will also respond to the site’s physical features such as topography, solar orientation and its surroundings. Other key design goals will include development of a well-organized floor plan layout and a distinctive architectural character.”

The primary function of an architect is design, but that’s not to say it is the architect’s only function. Committing a project to paper is a large part of the architect’s task, but not the end. “In their role of design team leader, the architect creates a unified vision working with the client, consulting engineers, contractors and regulatory officials. And because of their involvement in every phase, architects can achieve results greater than the sum of its parts,” says Kane.

A good architect stays with a project from conception to completion, he adds, overseeing the construction as design plans transform into concrete compositions. This commitment also ensures that any problems encountered during construction can be properly addressed and ultimately solved.

As the world we live in continues to evolve and change, the profession of architecture reflects that same change. AIA member architects are required to continue their education, fulfilling credit requirements on an annual basis. This not only helps them to keep up with technological advancements, trends and code regulations, it inspires them with new innovations that can be applied to their design projects. It also encourages them to expand their involvement in the profession, showing them new areas in which they can use their skills or new services they can offer consumers.

“Over the past decade architects have been expanding their involvement in planning, construction and building operation,” says Kane. “Some now offer expanded services in real estate and site evaluation, computer simulation, design/build, construction management and facilities management.”

Any building project large or small, residential or business-related, can be complex; uninformed decisions can cost you valuable time and money. When making the decision to hire an architect, it’s important that you not only choose a licensed, accredited professional, but you choose one who can best interpret your needs. Just as doctors specialize in certain fields, many architects also have their own areas of expertise. Kane suggests that consumers “make a selection based on staff capabilities and experience on projects similar to yours. I strongly recommend that you call their references and visit their projects.”

The North Carolina Chapter of The American Institute of Architects was founded in 1913 and is the largest statewide AIA chapter in the country with more than 2,000 members. The AIA is the voice of the architectural profession dedicated to serving its members, advancing the value of architects to society and improving the quality of the built environment.

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