NOVEMBER 2016 HIGHLIGHT
RICK BELL, FAIA, NOMA
Name: Rick Bell, FAIA
Firm: NYC Department of Design and Construction
Practicing City: New York City
Type of Work: Public Buildings and Civic Infrastructure
Featured Project: LaGuardia Community College, East Building (or “E” Building), City University of New York
Location: Long Island City
Completion Date: 1990
Your Role: Project Architect
Project Description: Academic building for a community college, consisting of offices, classrooms, labs, cafeteria, pool, garden and an 800-seat theater.
LaGuardia Community College, East Building
How did you first learn about engineering and when did you decide that it was an area of interest for you?
I was drawing buildings, mostly schools and housing, as a teenager, but I didn’t think of this as architecture, and didn’t know any architects. When I was nineteen I had a summer job driving a delivery truck, and with some of the money saved went overseas for the first time in my life, with the intention of hitch-hiking from Paris to Dakar. I got as far as Fes and fell in love with architecture there.
What do you do?
My job title at the NYC Department of Design and Construction is Executive Director of Design and Construction Excellence. I have previously worked at DDC as Assistant Commissioner of Architecture and Engineering and at DGS as Director of In House Design during the Administration of Mayor Dinkins. For fourteen years I served as Executive Director of AIA New York and opened the Center for Architecture.
What do you enjoy most about your job?
I enjoy the great diversity of projects that we do at DDC, from libraries and museums to firehouses and police stations. To these public buildings, plazas and streets, we apply the four overarching principles of Equity, Sustainability, Resiliency and Healthy Living.
What excites you in the work you do?
Working with a diverse and talented team of architects and other design and construction professionals, we shape the City and its future, starting with the central idea that public space is for people. We currently have over 700 projects, with a combined portfolio value exceeding $10B.
Who or what inspires you professionally?
One of my mentors, in school and in life, was Max Bond. Whether at a desk crit for a housing studio or on a project site such as the Langston Hughes Community Library and Cultural Center, Max always knew what to say, what to do and how to encourage others to do more. We served together on the committee that drafted the program for the 9/11 National Memorial at the World Trade Center – and he inspired the entire team to consider how this special place could commemorate loss but also became a part of the living fabric of Lower Manhattan.
What is your proudest professional accomplishment or achievement?
My proudest accomplishment related to architecture was being awarded the Edward C. Kemper Medallion for service to the profession at the AIA National Convention in Chicago in 2014. This singular award I accepted as recognition of the collaborative achievement of many others with whom I worked in New York.
How long have you been involved with nycoba NOMA?
I first attended a NOMA event when the 32nd annual conference was held in New York City in October of 2004 and Heather Philip-O’Neal was President. My wife was supposed to join me at the awards celebration at the Grand Hyatt, but when she got sick that day I ended up going there with Everardo Jefferson instead. I remember that he didn’t know that his firm was winning two design awards that night!
Why are you a nycoba NOMA member?
I am a nycoba NOMA member because of the purpose of the organization, as described on the
NOMA website, to “speak against apathy, bigotry, intolerance and ignorance, against abuse of the natural environment; and for the un-empowered, the marginalized and the disenfranchised.” While working at the Center for Architecture, I was able to welcome nycoba NOMA to share the space with the AIA New York Chapter, and “encourage dialogues and policy that will enact a larger move towards greater diversity and inclusion in the profession.”
What do you value most about your nycoba NOMA membership?
What I value most is the programs and the people involved, especially the shared sense of activism and purpose.
To learn more about Rick Bell, please visit:
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