Dec 6, 2018

Interview With John Dale, EDmarket Architect Member


Name: John R. Dale

Firm: Harley Ellis Deveraux (now known as HED)

Title: Principal, National Pre-K12 Studio Leader

Years in the education business: 22 years in school design, 36 years in the architectural profession.

Brief history of your firm:  Our company was founded 110 years ago in Detroit as an architecture and engineering firm. The work in the early years ranged from breweries and industrial complexes for the auto industry to large private residences.

What was your first job? My first job was doing residential work for a local general contractor one summer in London, Ontario when I was in high school. My first job working as an architect was for a big firm in Toronto – Niesch Owen Roland and Roy Architects (NORR), an offshoot of one of Canada’s first modernists, John C. Parkin Architects.

How did you get interested in school design? In 1996, having spent many formative years working on a wide variety institutional and educational work with Barton Myers Associates in Toronto and Los Angeles, I was encouraged to apply for the position of Design Team Leader at the newly opened Pasadena office of Perkins + Will. The Principal in Charge of the new office, Gaylaird Christopher, was a passionate and dedicated school architect. I was quickly caught up in the energy and excitement of working on innovative school designs for an enlightened School Superintendent, Sherry Eagle, in West Aurora, just outside of Chicago. I got hooked and have been focused on school design, almost exclusively, ever since.

What makes your firm unique? Our combined expertise in architecture and engineering includes building science. This has put us in an excellent position to do innovative sustainable design in many sectors within our design portfolio.  As a highly collaborative culture, we have a strong reputation as team players. We work collaboratively with a wide variety of other design firms, sometimes as executive architects but increasingly, as design collaborators. Our portfolio is therefore innovative, diverse and tremendously varied in scale and character.

What do you like best about designing school projects? I am constantly inspired by educators and students who are dedicated, energetic and open to new ideas. The most moving moments in my career have been at the completion of a project when students have approached me and expressed their appreciation of the results.

What is your typical day like? Insane. There is always more to do than the hours available. My time is split between the design and coordination of active projects, client outreach, proposals for new work, conferences, workshops and presentations. I am Co-Founder and Co-Chair of the Council on Open Building, a North American network of professionals that advocates for buildings designed for resilience and change.

What do you like to do in your spare time? What is ‘spare time’?  My ancestors where architectural engravers and when I have time, I search the internet for their books and illustrations. When there is more time, I travel with my family – to the East Coast or Europe or to a lake north of Toronto, Canada, where we share a summer cottage.

What has been your involvement with the AIA-CAE? I have been a member of the CAE and attending conferences sponsored by the group for over a decade. About 8 years ago, I was invited to chair a subcommittee on Alternate Learning Environments and was then selected to part of the Leadership Group. I served four years in the LG, culminating in a year as Chair in 2016. I was an ex-officio member of the LG the following year and served on the Board of the CAE Foundation. I continue to be active with subcommittee work and participation in conferences.

How do you think the partnership between EDmarket and AIA-CAE has helped companies like yours? The partnership has created stronger ties between the education furniture industry and our studio leaders, helped keep us current and given us the opportunity to share our ideas about the education environment to a broader audience.

What advice would you give other architects thinking about joining EDmarket? Get involved. Offer to do a presentation; volunteer to design a classroom of the future; connect to your colleagues in the industry; see great educational environments by your colleagues in person.

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