In the early afternoon of March 6, 2017, several past Urbahn Medal recipients came together for an inaugural summit in Washington, D.C., to continue the way forward for collaboration among architects working in and for the public sector.
The Urbahn Medal, named in honor of Max O. Urbahn, FAIA, is awarded annually to a member of the Society of American Military Engineers (SAME) for distinguished performance in the field of architecture. Urbahn was a former President of the American Institute of Architects (AIA) who had profound influence upon thousands of architects as well as engineers across both AIA and SAME communities during his long professional career from the 1950s through the 1990s. The first SAME Urbahn Medal was awarded in 1996 to Harold L. Adams, FAIA, RIBA, JIA.
Many of the 20 architects who have had the privilege of achieving this high honor played a vital role in the founding of SAME Architectural Practice Committee (APC) in 2011. They were also the key drivers behind the establishment of a Memorandum of Agreement (MOA) Between AIA and SAME in 2015. The purpose of the MOA is to propel the two organizations’ collaboration in continuing education, national conferences, awards and publications, and elevating federal and military architecture within the architectural community.
During this inaugural Summit of the Urbahn Medal Group, Adams recalled the early days when he worked with President and Mrs. John F. Kennedy on several important projects, including Lafayette Square. He was later the project manager for the president’s gravesite at Arlington National Cemetery. He and his colleagues had a treasure trove of memories to share about the most prominent National Historic Landmarks in Washington D.C., including the White House and other important federal buildings around the country.
As this prestigious group stepped into the room and began sharing their combined centuries of unique architectural design experiences, it was evident that a wealth of history of America’s greatest federal projects resided in the national treasures around the table.
OUTCOMES OF THE SUMMIT
The summit was hosted by Phil Tobey, FAIA and Smith Group JJR in its Washington D.C., office. There were two objectives of this inaugural event:
- Develop meaningful relationships with our distinguished colleagues and fellow SAME Urbahn Medal recipients.
- Explore the passion and purpose behind our particular areas of expertise, find ways to increase SAME’s visibility in architectural community, and encourage more architects to participate in SAME; together make meaningful contributions to the architectural and engineering professions.
After half-day’s discussion, exploring ideas, and understanding AIA’s strategic plan outlined by AIA CEO Bob Ivy, FAIA, and SAME’s STEM education challenges posted by SAME Executive Director Brig. Gen. Joe Schroedel, P.E., F.SAME, USA (Ret.), the group decided to focus on the following three initiatives for 2017.
- The Urbahn Medal Recipient Interview Series – The APC will begin to capture the stories of those who have received the Urbahn Medal, starting with interviewing the first winner Harold L. Adams. After listening to stories of each participant who has contributed so much to the profession in his or her own unique way, Bob Ivy stated that these are great stories which are valuable for young people to hear, and could be inspirational to their professional growth.
- Architectural Course at SAME-sponsored Engineering & Construction Camps – SAME sponsors or co-sponsors engineering summer camps for high school students held annually at Army, Air Force, Marine Corps and Coast Guard installations. At this point there are few architectural courses taught at these camps. Joe Schroedel said that SAME advocates for multi-disciplinary education. Students want real problems to solve. Addressing real challenges or problems involving architectural practice should be part of the curriculum taught at these camps. The APC will work with AIA collaboratively to explore possibilities to include architectural units in these summer camp activities.
- Spread Awareness of Military Architecture Design Award Program – It is vitally important for good architecture designed for the federal government including the Defense Department to have the opportunity to be recognized by our peers. Currently, all three service branches (Army, Navy and the Air Force) offer its own design award program respectively. However, these programs have not been widely publicized in A/E/C industry. The APC agreed to link these design award programs in its APC Quarterly Journal and offer a platform to feature these projects annually. Also, the group will reach out to AIA to explore the most appropriate way to make these awards known in the AIA community.
THE COLLABORATIVE IMPACT
The Urbahn Medal marked a turning point in SAME in the organization recognizing the key role that architects play in supporting the Society’s mission and supporting the nation’s infrastructure and facility’s needs. The forming of the APC furthered ingrained the importance of architecture in the joint engineering community and the collaborative role that designers, engineers, constructors, project managers and others play together.
Said AIA CEO Bob Ivy, FAIA: “The alliance between AIA and SAME has grown stronger each year since. It is important to be able to share lessons through knowledge communities such as this. If we could capture the stories from these national treasures it would add considerably to the practice. Everyone here has a story that someone would like to learn from.”
Ivy’s comments were echoed by SAME Executive Director Joe Schroedel, who added: “It is crucial to get our young people involved in solving the design challenges of our time. This group can play an important role in facilitating that outcome on college campuses across the country.”
In attendance at the inaugural summit were (year denotes when received Urbahn Medal ):
- 2016 Edmond G. Gauvreau, FAIA,
- 2015 Capt. Robert Harris, FAIA, LEED AP, CFM, USN (Ret.)
- 2013 Capt. Charles Enos, AIA, LEED AP O+M, USN (Ret.)
- 2012 Phillip Tobey, FAIA, FACHA
- 2011 Col. Paula Loomis, PhD, FAIA, F.SAME, LEED AP, USAF (Ret)
- 2010 Junjian “J.J.” Tang, FAIA, F.SAME, LEED AP
- 2002 David Thompson, FAIA
- 2001 Gary Anderson, Ph.D., AIA, FAICP, F.SAME, LEED AP
- 1998 Terrel Emmons, FAIA, F.SAME
- 1996 Harold L. Adams, FAIA, RIBA, JIA
Others in attendance were Ivy and Schroedel, as well as Lisa Kuruvilla, CEO of CC Pathways Inc., who facilitated the summit.
For more information on the SAME Architectural Practice Committee, visit www.same.org/apc, or contact JJ Tang, FAIA, F.SAME, LEED AP at 312-914-0529, or firstname.lastname@example.org. Click here to read the latest copy of the APC Quarterly.
(Contributed by J.J. Tang, FAIA, FSAME, LEED AP, Lisa J. Kuruvilla, PMP, PCC, CMC, CEC)