Archive for October, 2015

I have written multiple times on the transfer of knowledge. Most of the time, I am talking about transferring the knowledge my contemporaries have accumulated over many years of experience, and most people understand the phrase to mean exactly that.  The primary reason for concern with this topic is that if we don’t mentor the next generation(s) the knowledge will eventually be lost forever.

Transfer of knowledge doesn’t just flow from old to young, but the reverse is also true. I believe I would be totally lost if not for the knowledge I have been given by young people.  Often times, as I pointed out in my last post, this occurs during the course of a conversation when something will be said that causes me to connect the dots differently and enables me to look at an issue from a new perspective.  Without this learning, I would still be in the 1970s or ‘80s.  (My staff and daughters constantly tell me that I live in the 70s!).

So here’s the deal: We hire younger people because they bring a lot to the table.  Yes, they are obviously more up to date on technology, but this isn’t my point.  Our younger hires are creative.  They come out of school with fresh ideas and strong opinions.  What they have already learned and the ways that they learn compliments our knowledge.  With them, we are better.  The relationship is mutually beneficial.

So to my younger peers, we the Boomers salute you.  I am not alone in this.  My older friends often acknowledge your contributions, and frequently talk about the rising stars in our midst.  After all, you are the future.


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One of my friends and mentors passed this past week. He was one of those people that whenever we had a casual conversation, I would learn something.

Dick was a retired police officer and an experienced volunteer firefighter. It was from him that I learned much of what I know about how fires behave in buildings and also what extinguishes them.  This has served me well as an architect over the last several years.  I’m not sure if Dick realized that I was learning anything from him or that I consider him a mentor.  It was more about making friendly conversation about topics in which he had a wealth of knowledge and interest.  I will sorely miss the warmth and fellowship of our visits.

With that said, this is very much a reminder that members of my generation need to be focused on transferring the knowledge we have amassed over a lifetime to younger people. Being a mentor involves sharing our knowledge or, better still, sharing the means to acquire the necessary knowledge.  This may be a simple matter of answering a well placed question, or being there (hanging out) when the protégé isn’t aware that a question needs to be asked.

By all means, we should take a younger colleague under our wing and share the resources we have developed over the years. I don’t need to be in younger folks’ shoes.  I was there once.  I am eternally grateful to Dick – and Tom, Sandy, Roxanne, and Sam.  I have learned so much from these five people, that I would not be the architect I am today without their willingness to mentor me.  It is my intent to pass it on to whoever is willing to listen.

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After returning from Construct 2015 last week, I asked one of our younger employees what she liked about the conference, and she didn’t hesitate to respond “The people”. I pressed her a little further and asked if she had learned anything, and her response was that the education sessions were great, but the people she met were the greatest value to her.  I was pleased to hear this, because I owe so much to my CSI friends all over the country.

I should clarify that even as a seasoned professional, I still run across questionsSTL Construct Banner for which I don’t have answers.  This is particularly true in this day and age that there is so much new technology out there and so much new information.  I consider myself fortunate that when I run across something I don’t know related to the AEC business, there is generally someone in my professional network who knows the answer.  That professional network includes the trusted advisors I know through CSI.

My network of professional peers includes, of course other architects, but it goes much further than this. I consider design professionals in other disciplines, product representatives, contractors, subcontractors, independent specifiers and other allied professionals to be my peers and trusted advisors.  It is through CSI that I know hundreds of these folks and have access to thousands of others through their contacts.

I have often said that my CSI membership pays for itself every day, because rarely does a day go by that I don’t communicate in some manner with other CSI members outside of our firm. Sometimes, it is as simple as a “good morning” on Twitter, but often it will be a personal e-mail or telephone call with a pressing technical question.  Over the years, the answers to these questions have at least made me a better architect and specifier, and perhaps, they have kept me out of court.

So this is only a small part of my CSI MVP: Member Value Proposition.  There are many other opportunities that membership presents.  These will be the subject of future posts.

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I recently had the opportunity to travel Route 66 between Mitchell, Illinois and Catoosa, Oklahoma. This was my fourth trip on this particular stretch since 1998. I have to say that the experience was bittersweet.

My melancholy over the trip has to do with those original highway businesses that have disappeared since I was last down this way in 2007. At least four have been demolished and there is no sign of their ever having been there. Some of the bridges have been closed or replaced, presumably for safety issues. Other restorations are showing their age and need some TLC.

The trip was not a total downer (how could it be?). Most of the original pavement that was there eight years ago remains. Additionally, the signage has been upgraded along the way, so use of the map turned out to be unnecessary (I still refuse to use GPS). This was true in Missouri, Kansas, and Oklahoma. Illinois has had a good signage program for years, and what I saw is still looking good.

One of the highlights of the trip was the restoration of the Boots Court in Carthage, Missouri which has been restored to its original appearance. The unsightly gable roof has been removed, and the façade is sporting pristine white paint with red awnings. The neon sign has been restored and repainted in (original?) red. IMG_2869This building is a gem that is worthy of maintaining.

Another highlight was entertaining old friends at Ted Drewes’ Frozen Custard on Chippewa Street in St. Louis. This establishment remains unchanged from my first visit in 1995, and is well maintained. There were thirty or forty people there even after 9:00 PM on a late Tuesday evening in late September. I am certain that as long as they want to keep it open, this business will continue to thrive.

In the category of reasons for optimism, There was a vintage bridge east of Vinita, Oklahoma that was bypassed by a newer structure, but given the way the road was realigned, it appeared that the old bridge will remain in place as a part of history.  I was also pleased to see that a couple of the spans of the westbound Vertigris River Bridge near Catoosa were relocated near their original site and can thus be preserved without creating a hazard to the traveling public. IMG_2878 The eastbound bridge is still carried by steel through trusses.

In the category of tired restorations, the Chain of Rocks Bridge could use a bit of paint again. The restoration of the late 1990s is showing its age as it approaches its late teens. It is clear from the fact that a parking lot has been constructed at the east end along with some signage placed there by the Route 66 Association of Illinois that there is a commitment to keeping the bridge alive. I look forward to walking it for years to come.

I’m not sure of the eventual fate of the truss bridge over the Gasconade River near Hazelgreen. The bridge is, of course now closed, and the rust on the superstructure is visible from the interstate. The first time I crossed this bridge was on a Sunday morning, and the minister was just climbing out of the river following a baptism. The memory of that occasion will keep this bridge on my mind in the future. I can only hope that there is some effort underway to preserve it.

There was one section of the bypass alignment around St. Louis that I hadn’t been on since I was five years old, so this was the first time driving it. Believe it or not, I still remember coming off the Chain of Rocks Bridge and making the right and left turns that put us on Dunn Road. Because of the construction of I-270 and all of the development that has taken place, most of this alignment looks quite different than it did 55 years ago.

There are only a few hundred miles of the old road that I haven’t traveled, and I’ve only been able to string together a few hundred miles at a time. I look forward to the time when I can string together a few weeks to drive the entire route.


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