Annual Summit Helps Advance Public Sector Architecture

On March 1, past SAME Urbahn Medal recipients came together for the 2nd Annual Urbahn Medalist Summit hosted at the Smith Group office in Washington, D.C. The prestigious award, established in 1996, is named in honor of Max Urbahn, FAIA, and awarded annually to a notable architect and SAME member for excellence in the field of public and military architecture.

The meeting enabled the participants to address a number of ongoing and upcoming initiatives across both SAME and the Architectural Practice Committee, including the Society’s Centennial Celebration in 2020, the committee’s alliance with the American Institute of Architects, sharing of information through industry publications, and the progress being made in getting public-sector architects more engaged on the juries of all projects. The day culminated with a tour of the U.S. Capitol Building, including the dome, at the invitation of Stephen Ayers, FAIA, the 11th Architect of the Capitol.

SAME Architectural Practice Committee Urbahn Medal Summit


SAME Executive Director Brig. Gen. Joe Schroedel, P.E., FSAME, USA (Ret.) began the meeting with a reminder that we have only about 800 days until SAME reaches its Centennial Celebration. He expressed appreciation that the Urbahn Medalists were playing a crucial leadership role by their contributions to public and military architecture and by guiding the Architectural Practice Committee (APC) in ongoing planning and proposed efforts to celebrate SAME’s 100th Year with a new SAME National Facility Design Award program. The proposed awards program will celebrate design excellence for facilities devoted to the national security. APC Founder and 2010 Urbahn medal winner, J.J. Tang shared “Our intent is to celebrate SAME’s multi-discipline approach, while elevating architecture within SAME and elevating federal and military architecture within AIA.”

The Urbahn Medal Group will play a key role in guiding APC’s implementation plan for the award program, which will seek collaborations with AIA and possibly professional organizations. Schroedel noted that “what sets SAME apart is its multi-discipline approach and willingness to take the lead in collaboration efforts among many organizations including SAME, AIA, ASCE, ACEC. By bringing our efforts together we are changing the image of our profession and educating others on the context and contributions to our nation. He stated, “We have remained at the forefront by supporting others in the profession with purpose.”

Schroedel also noted that the performance metrics of the 20th century would not take us into the 21st century. “This is a threshold moment with sustainability and resiliency only two of the important considerations. We are experiencing a relevance revolution. Our profession is one of the biggest jobs programs across the country. In an era when some discussions such as climate change are hard to have, we still have an obligation to be responsive leaders on issues like disaster preparedness.” Just as in times past, Schroedel continued “there are opportunities to make a difference if we act together.” He was referring to previous impacts on industry that were felt when government became a green business procurer. That established a market force that changed the industry to procure, build, and maintain facilities on value-based decisions.

The group discussed the disruptive changes in our industry, the changing conversation and perspective overall. Phil Tobey stated: “Clients are not asking about how we will functionally design a space anymore. They are asking how their work efficiency and productivity will be facilitated and enhanced by our designs. We must understand the clients’ business as well as our own to maintain relevance and meet evolving needs.”

Later in the day the group was joined by AIA President Carl Elefante FAIA, who said “the profession looks to public architects as a model in how to systematically deliver from procurement through construction. In a universe of federal agencies, public architects have demonstrated why resiliency and climate change should be baked into our solutions.”

Elefante added that AIA and SAME members have an important role engaging others in the conversation. The growing alliance between AIA and SAME continues to provide a platform for shared lessons through knowledge communities. “The impact that public architects have had on the profession cannot be overstated,” said Elefante. “By developing new standards and sharing the understanding that goes into DOD facilities and Non-military facilities, SAME APC members and Urbahn Medalists continually demonstrate the value of shared learning that elevates our profession. Quality matters and this group has consistently served to mentor others who look to us for how the profession should be progressing.” Elefante said.

According to Edmond Gauvreau, FAIA, Deputy Chief Installation Support Division HQ USACE, who spent several years on the AIA Federal Government Task Force, there is still work to do. Gauvreau said: “Public architects need to have a seat at the table and be on juries for all projects, regardless of client. Many of us in the public sector have an important perspective to share with different challenges to overcome than our private sector colleagues.”

He was quick to add that progress is being made. “I was pleasantly surprised that the AIA Fellows jury in recent years has looked more favorably on public practice. Last year’s class included 16 FAIAs in Category 4. This year alone AIADC had 4 new Fellows who are government architects.”

Members of the group agreed with Vice Chair for Communication and incoming SAME APC Chair, David Packard, RA, PMP, F.SAME, that “the continuity of AIA leadership participation at the summit provides an important opportunity to bring awareness of the APC and SAME to all public agency architects and AIA members.” Packard has continued to share the committee’s APC Quarterly Journal with AIA and has contributed to The Cornerstone (an AIA publication) to continually increase visibility within AIA. The group also discussed efforts to engage other association publications such as TME and ENR.

Also, on the agenda was a progress report on the ongoing interview series that was initiated at the inaugural summit last year. As part of a collaborative effort, AIA’s Steve Cimino published the Featured Member article on Harold Adams, FAIA who was the first-ever recipient of the Urban Medal in 1996. Subsequent Contributions to the AE Profession through the Eyes of the SAME Urbahn Medal Recipients have been published in the APC Quarterly Journal featuring current APC Chair Paula Loomis, FAIA, F.SAME, who won the honor in 2011.

Look for the interview with 2012 winner Philip Tobey, FAIA, FACHA, in the latest edition. This series aligns with APC’s mission of broadening SAME’s exposure in the architectural community as well as meeting SAME 2020 strategic planning goals surrounding leadership and mentoring.

SAME Architectural Practice Committee Urbahn Medal Summit Capitol Dome tour


Capping off a day of productive discussions the Urbahn medalists were honored to tour the U.S. Capitol Building including the dome, at the invitation of Stephen Ayers, FAIA, the 11th Architect of the Capitol. The view of Constantino Brumidi’s Apotheosis of Washington (1865) from the balcony at the top of the inner dome provided a rarely seen vantage point of this magnificent fresco that traces America’s history and covers 4,664-ft² with six allegorical scenes that reflect a historical perspective on war, science, marine, commerce, mechanics, and agricultural life.

The Urbahn Medalists agreed to continue in an advisory role to APC, in addition to focusing on increasing knowledge and sharing lessons learned on a number of different platforms including camps for youth, contributing to AIA’s upcoming Center for Architectural Practice, and contributing to design challenges in sustainability, energy, material selections, resilience, as well as design and public health, wellness and productivity.

In attendance at the summit were past Urbahn Medal recipients:
2017 Edmond G. Gauvreau, FAIA, USACE HQ
2015 Capt. Robert Harris, FAIA, USN (Ret.)
2014 Harley H. Hightower, FAIA
2013 Capt. Charles Enos, AIA, USN (Ret.)
2012 Phillip Tobey, FAIA, FACHA
2011 Col. Paula J. Loomis, PhD, FAIA, F.SAME, USAF (Ret)
2010 Junjian “J.J.” Tang, FAIA, F.SAME
2002 David V. Thompson, FAIA
2001 Gary D. Anderson, Ph.D., AIA, FAICP, F.SAME

Others members in attendance were incoming APC Chair, David A. Packard, RA, PMP, F.SAME, and Lisa J. Kuruvilla, who facilitated the event.

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(Contributed by Lisa Kuruvilla, PMP, PCC, CMC, CEC, and J.J. Tang, FAIA, F.SAME)