Message from the AIA-NJ Regional Director

April 11, 2011

The Power of a Story
By Jerome Leslie Eben, AIA
AIA NJ Regional Director ’11-‘13

At my stage in the profession, and if I begin by starting at my very first job in architecture as an office boy for Halavey H. Simmons, AIA, I am now in my 45th year!   When you have that many years behind you, there seems to be a reflection of time or an experience that you can bring forward and tell.  In affect a story.

This is the case with me, and recently while being deposed in a case that I am working on as an expert, the attorney from the other side asked about my credentials as an architect and in doing so asked me to start from my very first job in architecture. So I did and in doing so I realized that it really was literally was a series of stories that I could tell and recall with ease one after the other.  I will not bore you with the details of each experience, but as I have done in the previous articles written this year try to connect those what I write to you with the title of the particular article you see above.

There is power in telling a story and as many of you who know me, understand that I like to pump up what I do for a living, because I am extremely proud of being an architect.  So was the case recently when I visited Alex’s (my grandson) Kindergarten class in Loveland, OH.  There were about twenty-four 5 and 6 year olds in Mrs. Barramundi’s  bright classroom and I was given the honor of allowing to sit in her rocking chair (sitting cross legged on the floor is just not for me) to speak a little bit about what I do back in NJ and what it means to be an architect.

After a few short explanatory sentences, I asked the children if they would like to make architecture.  There was a resounding YES and I called on Jack to stand straight up in the middle of the floor.  Alex had informed me the night before that Jack was the tallest in the class and at nearly 5’ he is an Ohio State future basketball star unless neighboring Kentucky gets a hold of him first!

I then asked the two smallest children to place their hands against Jack’s upper arms on either side of him and move their feet out so that their backs made a slight arching shape.   I announced to the class that the three had formed what can be considered a flying buttress. This shape was followed by 2 children holding their hands up high and pushing gently against each other to form an arch. I then asked the rest of the class to pair off follow the first two to form an arch and stand shoulder to shoulder and announced that they had now formed a vault. I not only think that understood, I know that they understood!

Alex reported when he returned home at the end of the school day that I was a hit and in their class project of building a city out of wood blocks they were attempting to incorporate each of the three forms that I had explained earlier in the morning.

Not all of these children will become architects, but they have now been exposed to architecture and it is my hope that someday this first experience will resonate with them and be a fond memory when one or more of them will be retaining an architect to design their home or corporate headquarters.

The power of this story is that you too can tell a similar story, but first you have to visit a local school.  Just think if each member did one career day what we could do together in setting the future for the future architects that will take our place not to long from now.


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