small town citizen architect


Be involved. Give back.

It’s just what we do as architects.

It can be intimidating to read what other architects are doing in this arena. I don’t know how they have the time or energy to be involved in so many important committees and activities. I’ve come to accept I was meant to bloom where I’ve been planted. This is what I do.

City of Greensburg, PA – Historic and Architectural Review Board – Through active networking in the early days of my business, I made connections in an effort to market, but in return I was invited to be part of the development of a design committee for a new Main Street program. We developed guidelines that would be the basis of our HARB. I was appointed by Mayor and Council the first year it was adopted in 2007. I’ve was reappointed this year after serving several consecutive terms. This is my hometown.

Greensburg Alliance Church Head Trustee – Let’s say I fell into this. I was asked to serve as trustee several years ago. The trustees oversee the buildings and grounds at my church. I was appointed at the end of last year and am working to strengthen relationships and team building besides taking care of projects and maintenance. Earlier this year, I did a pro bono project to create a new ‘nook’ in the church as a coffee shop type of lounge. It allowed many people to see the details an architect cares for and oversees. We worry about mundane details so others don’t have to is what I keep telling my team.

Career Fairs – Once a year I participate in a high school career fair at my alma mater. With my teaching background, I learned how to address the issues that a high school student is thinking about and how to speak to a group of students in a way they’ll stay connected. I don’t talk much about myself, but about architecture as a profession and expose them to images of architecture that they’ve never seen. I’m quite animated and work to engage them into the conversation. The thank you letters are priceless.

Job Shadows/Mentoring/High School Counseling – Beyond the career fairs, I frequently get requests for a job shadow. I don’t agree to do it because I don’t feel it’s a broad exposure to an office. Instead I sometimes agree to meet for an hour or two, and talk about the profession and the path to get there. I met with a young man and his dad recently for about an hour and went to lunch at a pizza restaurant I designed. I got the sense I overwhelmed him but his dad was truly grateful. Later this week, I’ll be speaking at the high school where my wife teaches to a group of seniors in an architectural design course. I’m not sure they’re ready for me.

AIA – I can’t brag about my current involvement, but I’ve helped arrange events for AIA Pittsburgh CRAN Knowledge Group. We’re still trying to figure out how to make this work. What I’m most proud of is my past involvement. In 1997, two other women and I started what is now AIA Pittsburgh’s Young Architect’s Forum. It was easy to be motivated at the time since I was newly licensed, working downtown Pittsburgh and had a passion for and as an emerging professional. A buddy of mine co-chaired it with me and for 7 years. Many of the activities and programs we started are still in place today. The current YAF is vibrant and has taken it to a higher level. I’m so proud to see where they are and what they do. I wonder if they know about us old timers that got them going many years ago. In 2003, I went on to serve AIA YAF National as the Regional Liaison for Pennsylvania for a two year term.

Teaching – Many of you know I have been an adjunct instructor at Carnegie Mellon University School of Architecture since 2002.  I’ve taken a break from it this year, but perhaps life will lead me back there. I’ve lost track of the number of students I had in design studio, but hopefully they’re blossoming as citizen architects (or citizens) somewhere.

I don’t believe in awards for doing what one ought to do. I do believe we can all be involved where we live and where we raise our kids. Do something, make a difference. It all adds up.

Be a good citizen. Be a good architect.


photo 1 credit: 20100213 – Objects of Snow Removal via photopin (license)
photo 2 credit: Broom #1 via photopin (license)

Read what my friends are doing as citizen architects in their communities and careers. They’re quite impressive. #Architalks

Bob Borson – Life of An Architect (@bobborson)
Citizen Architect … Seems Redundant

Matthew Stanfield – FiELD9: architecture (@FiELD9arch)
Citizen Architect

Marica McKeel – Studio MM (@ArchitectMM)
Good Citizen Architect

Jeff Echols – Architect Of The Internet (@Jeff_Echols)
What Does it Mean to be a Citizen Architect?

Lora Teagarden – L² Design, LLC (@L2DesignLLC)
#ArchiTalks: The everyday citizen architect

Jeremiah Russell, AIA – ROGUE Architecture (@rogue_architect)
Citizen Architect: #architalks

Jes Stafford – Modus Operandi Design (@modarchitect)
Architect as Citizen

Eric T. Faulkner – Rock Talk (@wishingrockhome)
My Hero – Citizen Architect

Rosa Sheng – Equity by Design (@EquityxDesign)
We are the Champions – Citizen Architects

Michele Grace Hottel – Michele Grace Hottel, Architect (@mghottel)

Meghana Joshi – IRA Consultants, LLC (@MeghanaIRA)
Meet Jane Doe, Citizen Architect

Amy Kalar – ArchiMom (@AmyKalar)
Architalks #13: How Can I Be But Just What I Am?

Stephen Ramos – BUILDINGS ARE COOL (@sramos_BAC)
Help with South Carolina’s Recovery Efforts

brady ernst – Soapbox Architect (@bradyernstAIA)
Senior Citizen, Architect

Brian Paletz – The Emerging Architect (@bpaletz)
Citizen Architect

Tara Imani – Tara Imani Designs, LLC (@Parthenon1)
Citizen Starchitect’ is not an Oxymoron

Jonathan Brown – Proto-Architecture (@mondo_tiki_man)
Citizen Architect – Form out of Time

Eric Wittman – intern[life] (@rico_w)
[cake decorating] to [citizen architect]

Sharon George – Architecture By George (@sharonraigeorge)
Citizen Architect #ArchiTalks

Emily Grandstaff-Rice – Emily Grandstaff-Rice AIA (@egraia)
Citizen of Architecture

Daniel Beck – The Architect’s Checklist (@archchecklist)
Protecting the Client – 3 Ways to be a Citizen Architect

Jarod Hall – di’velept (@divelept)
Citizen Developer??

Greg Croft – Sage Leaf Group (@croft_gregory)
Citizen Architect

Courtney Casburn Brett – Casburn Brett (@CasburnBrett)
“Citizen Architect” + Four Other Practice Models Changing Architecture

Jeffrey A Pelletier – Board & Vellum (@boardandvellum)
How Architects Can Be Model Citizens

Aaron Bowman – Product & Process (@PP_Podcast)
Citizen Architect: The Last Responder

Samantha Raburn – The Aspiring Architect (@TheAspiringArch)
Inspiring a Citizen Architect

small town citizen architect

6 thoughts on “small town citizen architect

  1. There may not be much in the way of laurels on the path we seem to have chosen, or been allotted (depending on your perspective), but there is great satisfaction in doing our parts in our own respective communities to make a difference.

    1. I agree Matt. I met with an old friend last week (who was an IDP advisor to me 20+ years ago) who has worked in a large office most of his career. He’s eyeing retirement and his thoughts of his day to day are tiring and unfulfilled. I’ll take my path and my small income and rejoice in my relationship with my family and ability to be free. To make a big mark in a small town means more than a tiny mark in a large city.

  2. Michael Riscica says:

    Wow Lee!
    Your community sounds like they are very lucky to have you as a member of it! Keep up the great work!!!

  3. Michael Riscica says:

    Wow Lee!
    Your community sounds like they are very lucky to have you as a member of it.
    Keep up the good work!

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