Issues & AdvocacyIssues & Advocacy
WITH TOM LIEBEL, FAIA, CITIZEN ARCHITECT IN ACTION
Tom Liebel, FAIA, LEED Fellow is a Principal with Marks, Thomas Architects, a Baltimore-based multi-disciplinary design firm. Elevated to the College of Fellows of the American Institute of Architects in 2011, Tom was also one of 34 individuals named to the inaugural class of LEED Fellows.
Tom has been involved in integrating sustainable design principles into a variety of ground-breaking adaptive use and historic preservation projects over the past fifteen years. Tom is involved in ongoing research exploring the relationship between sustainability, preservation and urban design, with a particular emphasis in the use of urban adaptive use projects to promote neighborhood revitalization and civic engagement.
Author, critic and mentor, Tom has consulted on green projects nationally and internationally and in 2009 authored a chapter on sustainable design for the National Trust for Historic Preservation’s Main Street Program publication, Revitalizing Main Street: A Practitioner's Guide to Comprehensive Commercial District Revitalization.
Most recently, Tom was appointed by the Governor of Maryland to Chair the Maryland Green Building Council and also serves on the Maryland Advisory Council for Historic Preservation and Baltimore City’s Commission on Historical and Architectural Preservation.
Why is it important that architects be more involved in advocacy?
I think it is imperative that Architects become more involved in advocacy, because many policy decisions that impact Architects are not made by Architects, and it is incumbent upon us to educate legislators and executives on the topics upon which we have a unique perspective and depth of knowledge. I think we have been very successful in establishing the AIA and architecture profession in general as an excellent source of information without a lot of "spin."
How does what you are working on offer a way to engage young architects and architecture students?
A great deal of my advocacy efforts and volunteer work have centered around the intersection of historic preservation and sustainable design. Both of these topics reach well beyond the core practice of architecture and places what we do as Architects within the greater context of the built environment, civic engagement, climate change, heritage preservation, etc. Advocacy gives one the opportunity to learn to speak about a topic, and the important role that Architects can play within the broader conversation, without an extensive portfolio of experience and years of practice that are typically required to address the more technical aspects of building.
And it is cool and fun...
What personal experiences have you had that have affected how you perceive architects and the built environment?
Many of the projects I've had the privilege to work on have focused on transforming an existing structure, and what has been extraordinary to watch is the impact that rehabilitating a single building can have on transforming an entire community. Having the opportunity to work with great clients, consultants and community members has also taught me the vital role Architects can play as synthesizers who have the skill set to draw out the strengths of each team member in a collaborative process where the final built outcome is greater than any individual's single vision.
What could an AIA member, who is just finding out about your efforts for the first time, do to get more involved?
Volunteer, volunteer, volunteer. Get involved with your local AIA Chapter and become active in the Knowledge Communities that interest you. Volunteer with other affiliated organizations to gain knowledge, experience and the opportunity to meet those you will be coordinating with throughout your career. Don't be afraid to speak up and voice your opinion about things you care deeply about.