2010 AIA Springfield Design Awards

by Christopher Swan, AIA

Last night, BR&P was presented a Merit Award at the AIA Springfield Design Awards for our restoration project of the historic First Church of Christ, Scientist located in Midtown Springfield.  The Professional Jury bestowing this award sponsored by AIA Springfield consisted of Anne Marie Decker, AIA, Principal with Duvall Decker Architects, P.A., Roy T. Decker, AIA, Principal with Duvall Decker Architects, P.A., and David Cronrath, AIA, Dean of LSU College of Art & Design at Louisiana State University in Baton Rouge.

I see this award as icing on the cake because it was already a success for a number of reasons.  It is extremely rewarding to have worked on a project where there was great collaboration between the Owner and the Architect joining forces to preserve a great building. The project was on time, on budget, and completed $6,400 less than the bid amount.  Why was this project so successful?

I believe the first reason is that the Owner, the City of Springfield, hired us before they even knew what they wanted to do with the building.  We were initially consulted to conduct a thorough investigation into the building to document the scope of the preservation, environmental studies, a structural analysis, and a cost estimate for the stabilization of the structure.  This was compiled into a booklet that was eventually used to formulate the scope of the work for the stabilization and restoration of the building.

I believe the second reason for the project’s success is that the City of Springfield worked with Butler, Rosenbury & Partners to space plan several potential tenants for the building.  There were a number of City offices that needed a new home and we programmed and evaluated the feasibility of each tenant for the space.  We looked at everything from traditional offices to a TV studio.  It was finally determined that the historic structure would be the new home of the Springfield-Greene County Health Department – Environmental Services Division.

I believe the third reason for the project’s success was a conscience effort to anticipate the unexpected.  Any time you renovate and existing building, there will be surprises that arise during construction.  The impacts of these surprises were minimized by having a clear understanding of how the building was originally constructed and anticipating potential areas where changes orders might hide.  A careful balance of allowances, unit prices, and minimum bid quantities were established in the construction documents and ultimately saved the City of Springfield thousands of dollars in change orders.

I see this project as a benchmark for all of my projects.  It is imperative to meet the technical requirements of a project such as budget, time, and accuracy, but it is even more rewarding to meet those requirements while preserving a cultural resource, giving those buildings a new purpose for years to come, and being recognized by your peers for excellence in design.