Practicing ArchitecturePracticing Architecture
About Ernest J. Lombard, FAIA: Ernest Lombard’s passion for architecture and history has resulted in four decades of advocacy and photographic storytelling to preserve architectural landmarks. Mr. Lombard’s championing led to preservation and public use of a multi-award-winning 1880s ghost town: Bayhorse, Idaho. He has served on Idaho’s Architectural Licensing Board; the University of Idaho’s advisory board; the AIA Idaho Chapter on the Board and Committees; and the NCARB exam committee.
Mr. Lombard, congratulations on your elevation to the College of Fellows. If you know an architect who is considering applying for Fellowship, what would you say to encourage him/her; and what advice would you offer?
Be able to distill your reason for being a Fellow into 35 words. I felt that was the most difficult part of the process. If you cannot answer that question in a forthright and concise manner, then you are probably not ready to apply. If you can, then fear not; you are ready for the endeavor.
The category of your Fellowship is Service to Society, which reflects your historic preservation and experiences as an educator. Part of your service to society is your 30-year commitment to save Bayhorse, an 1880s ghost town preserved within the Land of the Yankee Fork State park as a National Historic Register site.
Initially, I worked to save one of just a few remaining buildings in the ghost town of Delmar—an architecturally interesting, yet structurally compromised, miners’ bunkhouse in the Owyhee mountain range, one of the most remote areas in America. Several AIA architects came to my aid to help physically replace and stabilize walls to preserve the building.
The preservation work was covered by the media. Sadly, the media coverage caused the site to become more well known, which resulted in criminal trespassers burning the building.
This experience served as a wake-up call to photographically record the buildings; if the buildings themselves couldn’t be saved, at least I could save them in pictures. This ultimately resulted in 30,000 historic ghost town images.
It also prompted the realization that future building preservation needed to be under the auspices of an entity that would provide some level of protection to a site. All of which led me on the path to saving Bayhorse with multiple partnerships pursued.
When I’d give talks about the importance of saving the ghost town, AIA members were often present and offered their encouragement to keep going with the project.
You received U.S. Senate Recognition when Senator James E. Risch read your contributions into the Congressional Record in 2009. Could you describe the process that took you from the concept of saving Bayhorse Ghost Town to seeing it accepted as a state park?
To commemorate Idaho’s Centennial of July 3, 1990, the state legislature decided to fund a new state park. I knew just the place for it: Bayhorse, a ghost town dating from the time of statehood and located in one of Idaho’s most scenic mountainous areas.
I had to convince the Idaho State Park Board (of which I was not yet a member), as well as the governor’s office, state legislators, the State Historical Society, and other statewide and national stakeholders that the ghost town was the best choice for the park.
While everyone was excited by the idea of a historic ghost town becoming a state park, no one could have envisioned the 20-year challenge for the state government which resulted from trying to buy a contaminated mine site with taxpayer money.
In order to affect the outcome, I needed to become a board member of the Idaho Department of Parks and Recreation. When I was on the board, I had the opportunity to keep Bayhorse in discussions.
Ultimately, Bayhorse was funded by the Idaho Department of Parks and Recreation along with grants from the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency for mitigation of the mine site.
During the process of preserving Bayhorse, you were a two-term chair of the Idaho Department of Parks and Recreation. What did you learn through your architectural education and subsequent career that prepared you for public service?
Being on a state park board included overseeing an annual budget of about 40 million dollars and more than 30 public-use properties.
I brought master planning, facility planning, and design to the vision of the sites and services provided for the public.
Most board members didn’t have a design or planning background, and I was in a position to educate them. My architecture skill set, including problem-solving, complemented the requirements of the board’s work.
Prior to my appointment to the state park board, I served for 10 years on the Boise City Planning and Zoning Board which required at least one architect to be a board member at any given time.
I believe that at least one architect should always serve on park boards as well as city planning and zoning boards.
You were an adjunct distinguished practitioner instructor for the University of Idaho. What is it about an architectural education that prepares graduates to explore the breadth of experiences available for architects?
While I served as the chairman of the College of Art and Architecture’s advisory board, I collaborated with the University of Idaho to form the Idaho Rome Study program. Architecture students had the opportunity to study in Rome for a year and broaden their exposure to solutions of other architecture problems.
Between when you were a student of architecture and when you were an instructor at the University of Idaho, the practice of architecture evolved—perhaps most notably with the advent of computer aided design technologies. When thinking about the evolution in the practice, how has it changed for the better? Are there any advances you consider to be a double-edged sword?
The architectural practice has changed for the better because an architect can produce a complete and more detailed set of contract documents for the construction of a building than previously possible. Architects can make better use of their time because with computer aided design some of the former repetitious work has been removed.
One double-edged sword is that with today’s technologies, more detail can be included, but ultimately it costs more time and money to address the details. From a business point of view did this answer the question and save the architect or the client money? The very fact that more details can be included often causes clients to expect more out of an architect for the same compensation even though the architect has provided a superior product.
Another advance I consider to be a double-edged sword is when computer aided design (CAD) technologies are employed—CAD allows a “final” product to be presented without an exploration of all possible options and design solutions.
CAD can produce a sophisticated looking design, but it may not present an answer to the question asked in the problem statement; a scenario that I saw in much of the student work submitted to me. Jumping to an end-point prevents the discovery of the creative nexus that really does answer the question.
Design is hard work. Being able to describe how and why you’ve chosen a design approach is imperative.
The AIA Fellowship program
The American Institute of
Ernest J. Lombard, FAIA-EM