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Emerging Leaders | Teams and Advocacy

Would you survive being lost at sea?

The answer to that question may depend on whether you’re on your own or with a team, as our ELP class learned in a fun exercise to begin our May session. Given a list of 15 items, ranging from a five-gallon can of water to boxes of chocolate bars to shark repellent (yes – to our surprise a very real and useful thing), we were tasked with ranking them in order of what would be most useful for survival. Initially, we ranked these individually, before then gathering into teams to come to a consensus on what everyone thought would best ensure our survival. After comparing our results with the suggested rankings from the US Coastguard, it became obvious that overall, we would fare much better in the company of our teammates rather than on our own (with the exception of a few survival minded individuals that actually scored better on their own!).

Afterwards, we delved into a model for team building in a lesson from Pete DeLisle, Hon. AIA. We explored the steps one must take and the questions to ask in building the interpersonal relationships necessary to developing successful teams, from establishing initial trust and acceptance, all the way to creativity, productivity, and interdependence. This involved another fun activity where we were asked to find a classmate to arm wrestle with, with the prize being a hypothetical million dollars for every “pin” we achieve in a 15 second period. Some teams quickly realized that the best solution was to work together and pin each other as many times as possible during the allotted time, rather than actually trying to arm wrestle and work against each other.

Following the lesson, we were honored to have a great group of panelists for a discussion on Architectural Advocacy: Local and Regional. Brian Kuper, AIA, a design principal at GFF Architects and practicing architect for nearly 30 years, Emily Mendez, A.AIA, RID, an interior designer, GFF’s Sustainability Director, and chair of AIA Dallas’ Committee on the Environment, and Nicholas McWhirter, a principal at SHM Architects, specializing in design and visualization.

The panel discussion kicked off with a question about what types of advocacy architects are most well suited for, leading to a deep dive into the root of where the word “advocate,” comes from (the Latin word advocare, meaning to a “add a voice to”). Architects are well position to lend a voice to those without one, from clients, to members of the community, to even historical buildings. An architect’s role as an advocate was also well summed up in the responsibility we have to “leave a place better than it was when we found it.” The discussion on advocacy ventured into a wide range of topics, from the hyper local within the workplace and our communities, to the national and global scale in our responsibilities in advocating for sustainability, an area where ultimately our best avenue for making an impact might be in education and raising awareness of the role architecture plays in creating a more sustainable environment.

Following the panel discussion, our class split into groups for the class project, a design to replace the Dreyfuss Club at White Rock Lake which burned down 15 years ago and has left the Park and Recreation department in need of rental facilities ever since. Our groups began discussing design ideas and planning for this week’s community meeting, held at nearby Winfrey Point, to begin getting feedback and ideas from community members for the project.