After a long career as an architect, 25 years of which were spent in public office, Larry Friedberg, FAIA recently retired. Read his reflection below, what he hopes for the future of architecture in Colorado, and how he plans to spend retirement.
Why did you first decide to become an architect?
As a young child I always liked to draw and make things with my hands. I also liked taking things apart but couldn’t always figure out how to put them back together. I also remember being interested in the various houses and commercial buildings that I visited as a child and visualized how they compared to others and wondered why they were different from one another. As I got older these interests morphed into architectural design when I went to college.
Reflecting on your 25 years as State Architect, what stands out to you? Highs? Lows?
As an architect who was trying to find work during the economic downturn in the eighties, state service seemed like a safe haven. What I thought would be a short stint with state government turned out to be the most rewarding and fortunate opportunity in my career as an architect. I acquired the responsibility to oversee the administration of all state funded construction and obtained the authority to make thoughtful decisions and add value to a multitude of significant projects of all kinds in collaboration with various state agencies, institutions of higher education and the design and construction community. It was most fulfilling and a great privilege.
What have been some of your favorite/proudest projects to work on?
On the policy side I was able to implement Qualification Based Selection (QBS), establish a fair, equitable and consistent selection process and standardize contract and procedural documents with the AIA, the ACEC and the AGC statewide. These efforts established consistent and understandable roles and responsibilities for the state and the consultant at all state agencies and institutions of higher education in Colorado.
On the project side, I enabled the design and construction of the Colorado State Patrol prototype Trooper Station throughout Colorado, the successful recommissioning of an abandoned dormitory at the former Lowry Air Force Base in two weeks to house evacuees’ from Hurricane Katrina, the facilitation of the History Colorado Museum and the Ralph L. Carr Judicial Center and the restoration of the Colorado State Capitol Dome including the life safety upgrades which installed a concealed fire alarm and suppression system throughout the building and extended the four internal stairways to communicate with all levels.
Curt Fentress, FAIA once described my job as State Architect to one that removes boulders and other obstructions from the road to allow others to travel down it.
What have been some of the biggest challenges in your career and how did you overcome them?
When I first came to the Office of the State Architect, formerly called State Buildings and Real Estate Programs (SBREP), the office had no real authority or influence on state funded construction except to track the status. At one time, SBREP managed all construction centrally and had long ago, through a change in legislation, given up the responsibility to the various state agencies and institutions to manage independently. Without centralized oversight and the establishment of consistent policies and procedures protests and appeals were routinely coming from the design and construction community because of unfair selection and contracting practices. Through many years of consensus building with the state and the design and construction community, I was able to change legislation to establish fair and equitable practices throughout state government and officially establish in statute in 2015 the Office of the State Architect headed up by the State Architect.
For the first time in Colorado state government, a licensed professional architect was officially in a permanent position of responsibility to recommend capital construction spending on an annual basis to the Governor’s office and the Colorado General Assembly.
What advice do you have for the next generation of architects?
There are many ways to practice architecture and contribute to the profession. I remember one day at lunch talking with George Hoover, FAIA who was encouraging me to submit for fellowship. I was reluctant to do so and explained that I hadn’t achieved anything equivalent to what he had done as a designer or educator. George then immediately lectured me on the multitude of ways to serve the profession including the value of working in the public sector and helping to shape responsible public policy. I thought deeply about that that night and submitted for fellowship the next day. So, my advice is to follow your passion wherever it leads and be open to alternatives.
What are the benefits of a role in public service?
As an architect who worked in the private sector for sixteen years for firms as large as Skidmore Owings and Merrill in Chicago and small local firms in Denver, I understand the trials and tribulations that our profession must go through to obtain work and then provide comprehensive design services. Having that perspective allows one to advocate for fair and equitable selection and contracting processes. Being in public service you are essentially the owner with the responsibility to oversee the entire process from project development to selection of design and construction services, contract negotiations, energy conservation, environmental responsiveness, project closeout and occupancy and continuous monitoring for best practices. Essentially, you’re involved from soup to nuts.
I would strongly encourage other architects to consider a fulfilling career in public service, but only after practicing several years in the private sector.
Why did you choose to get involved with AIA Colorado?
I believe the AIA is the best represented and most respected voice of responsible design and construction in Colorado and the country.
What do you think are the largest opportunities for architects in Colorado right now?
I believe the sky is the limit for opportunity in Colorado due to the robust economy we are experiencing and the desire to live here and participate in the great outdoors and the lifestyles that go with it.
What are the largest challenges for architects in Colorado right now?
To continue to keep the role of the architect relevant in responsible and sustainable planning, design and construction of the built environment and to not be seen as an unnecessary added expense that should be avoided or minimized.
Where do you see the profession going in the future?
It appears to me that the design profession is continuing to merge with the construction and information technology communities and that multi-discipline firms/organizations are the future for better or for worse. I fear the stand-alone traditional architectural firm is a construct of the past and in order to survive and be relevant diversification is necessary.
How do you plan to spend retirement?
Well, I retired the first of August, my eldest son got married here in Denver on the first of September, and then my wife and I sold our home of 30 years and bought and moved into a new home on the south side of Cheery Creek State Park the first of October. So, after all that, I think I’ll go ride my bike around the park for a while.
Anything else you’d like to add?
Although I retired from my job as State Architect, I did not retire from architecture. It’s in my blood.