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Architect About Town

Architecture surrounds Lee, Collier county lives

Architect About Town - Special to the Fort Myers News-Press

Architecture is defined as the design of structures, and its most basic function is to shelter us — but it’s more than that. We’re surrounded by it and it impacts our lives on a daily basis, sometimes for better and sometimes for worse. Most often, it’s unconscious.

Buildings play a continuous role in our lives, but what is it about a building’s design that makes an impression?

In architecture, design is a plural concept with multiple tangible factors: size, function, location, style, and age to name a few, as well as subjective meaning and interpretation. The experience of a building will vary from person to person based on their background, their education and cultural and economic status. It’s a personal and individual response.

More than just bricks and mortar, well-designed architecture serves its inhabitants and responds to its place. It may not be large or eye-catching or trendy but it serves its purpose well and makes a positive contribution to its location and society.

Sometimes architecture is sculptural or aspires to be art — the most public form of art. Think of the old Edison Theatre downtown.

At times it creates attractive outdoor space. Think of the Bell Tower Shops.

Involuntarily, architecture affects our senses; it can enrich our lives and can provoke disgust. The best inspires positive emotion, good memories or an intellectual response.

Last month, as president of the local chapter of the American Institute of Architects, I had the privilege of presenting our members with the prestigious AIA Design Honor Awards. The winning designs, both built and unbuilt, exceed expectations and are recognized for design excellence.

Selected by design professionals from out the area, every architect is honored to have their building recognized as a “superior design” by their peers.

But it is time the community has its say.

I want to hear from you. Is there a local building that has enriched your life — a structure that caught your attention or moved you? Let’s identify the best in Southwest Florida together and celebrate them.

Perhaps it’s classical, like the Sidney & Berne Davis Art Center, historically significant like the Edison Home or even strikingly modern like the landmark Dental Office on College Parkway with the wavy yellow roof. Be it a home or a public building: a church, a school or place of work — tell me about it. I want your input, your nominations and your votes.

And what is it about the building that impacted you? Is it an interior space, its scale, the materials, textures or color, or the light? It may be its remarkable appearance or a feeling evoked when you entered, or perhaps you noticed an increase in productivity of the workforce that occupies it.

Like the people who live here, architecture in Southwest Florida reflects a variety of backgrounds with a rich history. Local and international architects have provided the area with a mix of styles and building types. We have a large pool from which to choose.

Old or new, big or small, here is your opportunity to voice your opinion about the buildings in Southwest Florida that have made an impact on you.

And let’s learn from them. By determining the most influential and appropriate buildings in our community, we will determine what good design and good architecture mean here. Ultimately, arming ourselves with the tools to make educated decisions to better navigate the growth and changes of our built environment in the future.

Joyce Owens AIA RIBA