Let us take a look back on a few of Mark Schmidt’s milestones, advice, influences and notable projects that define this veteran architect as he prepares for retirement from a long and storied career.
The beginning: Mark’s early interest in building and construction led him to study architecture in high school. After beginning college with a focus in Industrial Design at Iowa State, he switched to architecture, and his love of the technical drew him into writing specifications.
Mark’s inspiration: Famed Iowa architect Chick Herbert was an influence—while Mark was working for Chick Herbert & Associates, Chick would review the specifications for quality control and liability protection. Ed Sanke was a mentor for Mark at Construction Specification Institute, and ultimately got Mark interested in being on the board.
The aesthetic of designs by Mies van der Rohe continue to be an inspiration for Mark, in particular the American Federal Building downtown. I.M. Pei’s use of materials is another touchstone; the Art Center, although not a perfect building, is very nice spatially.
Notable projects: Mark had involvement in the Des Moines Civic Center’s drawings and enjoyed seeing the details of that technically sophisticated building come together. It is especially rewarding that it still functions well today.
The Black Engineering Building at Iowa State was a favorite—it was the first project for which Mark completed construction administration, and it had some challenging coordination. Gehry’s building at The University of Iowa was one of Mark’s early specifications projects. With its copper skin and other unique attributes, it remains another favorite.
Favorite part of being an architect: “Seeing the results of what one does.”
Advice: Mark says, “Being flexible and going with the flow is important. People make mistakes and may realize something late in the process that they had forgotten, but by doing your best with what you get to produce, a good outcome is what is important. Also never delete a spec—you never know when something might need to be used again!”
To young architects, he suggests, “Get your hands dirty, meaning get out and build things. Finding opportunities to work on different parts of the construction process such as laying a brick, putting up drywall, running wires or plumbing, etc. can help you better understand what is required to construct a building and help create better drawings in the process.”