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Fellow+Talk with Paul Mankins, FAIA

By Jennifer A. Workman, AIA

Paul Mankins, FAIA is the Board of Directors liaison to the Young Architects Forum. He is a founding principle at the award winning firm substance, in Des Moines, Iowa. In 2003 he received the Young Architects Award which was followed by his elevation to Fellow in 2004. Paul has served on numerous AIA committees, was President of his local AIA Chapter, is a visiting team member on the National Architectural Accrediting Board, and is in his second year serving as the Director for the Central States Region.

At what point in your career did you decide that you wanted to become a Fellow?

I was a Principal at Herbert Lewis Kruse Blunck Architecture (HLKB - 2001 AIA Firm Award Winner) in Des Moines.  I had worked there for nearly a decade following graduate school before being named a Principal and, at the time, all of the other Principals (i.e. Charles Herbert, FAIA; Cal Lewis, FAIA; Rod Kruse, FAIA; Kirk Blunck, FAIA – see a trend) were Fellows.  They encouraged me to pursue Fellowship.  The first year I was eligible was 2004 – I was nominated that year and was lucky enough to be elevated on my first attempt.  I have colleagues who still give me a hard time about being the 2003 Young Architect Award winner and a 2004 inductee in the College of Fellows – they accuse me of “going from young architect to old architect in one year”.

What was the most valuable lesson you have learned in your career?

One of the last projects I led before forming Substance was the New Central Library in Des Moines.  This project was designed by David Chipperfield Architects out of London.  HLKB was the Architect of Record and I was Principal-in-Charge.  The Library Director told me once that “we were the hired help”.  She included herself in the “we”.  That struck me as an important thing to keep in mind.  While we are design professionals with our own interests (and agendas), fundamentally we are serving clients and solving their problems.  The art comes in the solution.  Ego control is essential.

What books or websites do you read?

Daniel Pink’s “A Whole New Mind” – kinda preaching to the converted for architects, but I liked it.  Now, regarding websites, my office-mates give me a great deal of grief about the number of architectural websites I find and visit.  I love to look at really good work, and, as an Iowan, I love finding practitioners well off the beaten path doing spectacular things.  I visit every day.  It is an interesting selection of designed things – sometimes architecture, sometimes furniture, sometimes objects – from all over the world.  It is a great way to discover new firms doing interesting things.  The site provides links to the designers websites.  I use it as a springboard for surfing.


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