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(09/26/08) Upper Allen Township: Township to Spend $6.5 Million for Expansion
Bink in Central Penn Business Journal
Harrison Bink, AIA
Bink Architectural Partnership
On Central PA Architecture
"I was recently asked if there was a particular architectural style in Central PA; I don't believe there is nor should be. There should just be a response to certain circumstances of the client's desires. Any architect known for a particular style, would be showing a limitation. An 'enfant terible' architect that died fairly recently, Phillip Johnson, (whom at 86 was still practicing) was known as a "wild child" in the world of architecture. He's done all types of styles." Some great buildings and some not so great like the International Place in Boston. On the other hand, the glass house that he designed in Connecticut back in the "Modern" days was beautiful. Not a practical design for the essentials of your day-to-day living but absolutely beautiful. Then there is Frank Lloyd Wright's Falling Water. The furniture design didn't sit flat on the floors, therefore the chairs all wobbled, but they looked good and the place was beautiful. Is that architecture to aspire towards? Yes, in certain ways, but utilizing perspective.
"In the '70's, there was nothing here to hold a young professional, there is now. This is a better design environment, the builders are competent and you can exceed the expectations for the greater communities interest than you could in a more suburban area compared to the high design environment. In a city environment you have less latitude to work things. Architecture is a broad brush, with urban planning, reduction of sprawl, and use of resources. It is very frugal field. It's much more than just "decorating a box" in Manhattan.
Central PA is a rewarding place to be an architect. This area is great for quality of life and family. Architecture inevitably affects everyone's life, daily. Where you live, where you work, what you drive by, and even where you shop. We have an extremely large potential for positive interaction. Architects have a tremendous impact on the entire community and our environment."
"Architects have a spotty reputation within architecture. Outside of architecture its one of the most well respected professions. That is because the public perception of us is different then our internal perception. Frank Lloyd Wright and Louis I. Kahn are aspiring and influential architects. When I say spotty reputation, those two individuals had notably horrific personal lives and not necessarily something you want to emulate - the egocentricity of architecture is embarrassing."
On The Architecture Student
"I was infatuated with Frank Lloyd Wrights 'Falling Water in PA'. I made models of it in college however; I didn't start out with an interest in architecture or to be an architect. I began in Photography. While attending the Rhode Island School of Design, I transitioned to architecture after the first year.
I currently go to Career Days and mentor students. Typically the first question I get is: "Do you make a lot of money?" No. "Do you have to be good in math?" No. "What's the most important subject in school?" Public Speaking (speeches) and Theater Arts". Design is a tremendously important component, but it only accounts for about ten percent of what you do. Architectural education is the most well rounded education that I can think of. A lot of people who study architecture go on to very diverse personal professions. Fifty percent of people who graduate from architecture work in movies, design computer graphics, etc. Conceptualization of three dimensions is the key, but it's a hard subject to teach. Theater arts and public speaking are important because you have to convey your ideas before you have them built. You have to promote yourself to be able to get work, to be able to do the work, and to be able to do the next project. It helps if you are outgoing and conversational with good communications skills.
Architecture is a relatively abusive form of education. They give you more work than you can handle, but it builds that mental stamina of continually working at all hours to try to get any improvement you possibly can on any design that you're working on -- that breeds the sort of "you're never done" mentality. Architects work crazy hours, but although it may seem that you'll never get it done, you should always take time to go home to your family -- the crisis will still be here the next morning."
On the Architect's Social Responsibility
"The first responsibility is to your client. To help them try to explain what it is they're trying to achieve and then define ways to provide their needs in the most appropriate and economic ways. Broadly, architecture has a new mission, in green architecture and sustainable architecture; a third of the energy used in the planet is from buildings (heat, light). Therefore, if we are concerned about the life of the planet, we have a very strong responsibility to use those natural resources most effectively. "Green architecture" is only a buzzword and a feel good word that is not and has never been anything more than a "good design."
"We designed the first "Green Globes" school in PA. It is yet to be built. We must look beyond the efficiency of documents builders utilize in building these projects to a broader sustainable purpose. Urban Sprawl is the destruction of the cornfields you see going on everywhere around Central PA to build plastic houses. The infrastructure then has to be extended out to those houses and that is the opposite of green architecture. A green building is using an existing building so that you don't have to refine the aluminum, etc. When the State built their green headquarters on a new site in Harrisburg, I thought that was a poorly conceived idea. Use an old warehouse on Cameron Street, that's green. Is it harder for an architect to renovate an existing building? Absolutely.
On His Firm
"We are not the client, with the needs for improvement and we are not the builder; physically constructing the building. We facilitate both of these functions. Bink Architectural Partnership has proved over the decades to work better with contractors to help them build. We help them facilitate their work, rather then impede it. I'm not saying we're perfect, but I'm confident we're better at this than most. We use more senior registered professionals in all aspects of our work at our cost, rather then delegating that work to less experienced individuals. We may not produce in quantity because we produce in the quality and more effectively. We're very pragmatic. Pragmatism is a key component, to what distinguishes Bink in this profession. It's been a 47-year history. You tend to avoid trends in architecture. It's all word of mouth - I don't even have our sign up on our building. All of our work comes from satisfied clients."
"We are not the client, we don't bring all the money to the table, we're not the builder, we don't physically construct the building, but we facilitate both of these functions."
On The Future
"There is a strong need for architects in PA. We have the second highest need for retirement communities, after Florida. Bink Architectural Partnership is moving in the direction of senior care centers. We have doubled our volume of work in the last several years. We have to hold tight to the ability to serve the smaller clients. It is a struggle to maintain a size that is appropriate to smaller projects. However it takes just as much effort to do a million dollar church as it does a 30 million dollar school.
"There is a lot of seriously aging infrastructures in the school market. The state is making it harder for us to build new facilities due to recent legislation. We should be repairing what we already have existing. Architects do not market themselves very effectively, so if people don't ask, we cannot help. Here at Bink, we try not to concentrate on the state contracted facilities. We concentrate more on private projects. We would like to expand our senior care market to hospital work. We would venture to speak with Pinnacle and Messiah to see if we can be of service. I am somewhat resistant to growth. Our configuration is both small-personalized service as well as consulting engineering for a specific expertise with scheduling costs that are appropriate. We assemble a team customized for each project as it comes."
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Harrison Bink on Central PA Architecture