Past President Profile: Michael Schuster, FAIA

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Michael Schuster, FAIA, President, MSA Design

Looking back at your time leading AIA Cincinnati, what are you most proud of accomplishing? 

Looking back, there were several things that stand out. Not all of them happened when I was president, but occurred during the years when I was on the board and associated with AIA and the AFC (Architecture Foundation of Cincinnati). 

The Cincinnati Design Awards were founded through conversations with myself, Bob Rich, Kevin Speece, and Pat Daugherty. During the formative years of the program, I was involved for a number of years. I was a collaborator with a number of incredible design-passionate people who built the program. And proudly, the CDA’s have just finished their 24th year. The mission of the CDA’s was, and is to promote all the outstanding design being done by our local talented designers.

Another was the initiation of the Student Design Program, which became the Architecture by Children Program, and now Design LAB. I was heavily involved with the formation and worked with so many talented architects in our region as they gave back to our community (especially Zoe Hardy). The mission of that program was to introduce a wide, diverse community of our K-12 area students to architecture to support a potential lifelong interest and awareness to the design of our built environment, and to help recruit racial diversity to the practice of architecture.

In your career, what is the biggest change you’ve seen in the field of architecture?

It would have to be the constant insertion and interruption of technology to the process of design. The ability to “build” the project virtually has and will continue to transform the way we design and build. As we continue to explore the potential of transforming our designs to reality, the processes of fabrication and construction will benefit incredibly. The duration of on-site construction will lessen. The accuracy of construction will improve. The opportunities for injury during construction will be reduced. And, the opportunity for a high level of design benefits, beauty, and humanization will occur, and allow more people to live with a richer and more substantive environment.

Looking ahead, what is the biggest challenge facing architects working today? 

It is imperative that architects understand that as technology becomes inserted into the design and construction process, that the historical need to be the absolute “detailer” of the technical design of the building will constantly shift ownership between contractor and technologists, many of whom will not be traditional architects. Architects are the designers of the environments. It is imperative that architects train and study design, design strategies, and the essential aesthetics of our places. That is our ultimate purpose. To be the “creators” of places. Our architects need to be ready to not become obsolete, by only focusing on the instructions for the technical building of projects.

How has AIA membership benefited you? 

I would not trade any of my time with my involvement with the AIA. I have learned from so many great and talented architects, I have met and developed lifelong connections, and friendships. I am a better architect for my many years in the AIA. 

What advice would you give to a recent architecture graduate? 

Be designers. Be thinkers. Solve complex problems. Learn how to draw by hand. Do not only rely on the computer to illustrate and communicate your ideas. When you draw using the connected neurons between your hand and brain, you begin to intuitively “see” architecture in real time and in three dimensions. Then use the computer. You will use it better and it will be a tool in your tool belt. Not the only tool.

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