Wednesday, May 25, 2016

The architect in the community: Part 4 - Kathleen Lechleiter

Kathleen M. Lechleiter founded and runs k.lechleiter ARCHITECT LLC, a woman owned small architecture firm after being a Vice President at HCM in Baltimore. She has over 28 years of practice. She, along with architect Pavlina Ilieva, set designer Kuo Pao Lian, builder David Lopez, and artist Elsa Haarstad, founded the RE/PUBLIC, a collaborative agency of individuals with complementary skill sets that got together to implement a cohesive and thoughtful process of development, design, and build. The group opened a gallery in Fells Point this year.
Kathleen Lechleiter

Community development and collaboration are hallmarks of k.lA’s practice demonstrated by work throughout the City providing public and affordable housing for area non-profits and includes teaching in the Housing and Urban Design Studios at Morgan State University. Lechleiter's practice continues to explore the power of the built environment on the well-being of the resident, the neighborhood and the City.


Here the written interview:

At what age did you decide to become an architect?
17
What was the main reason you picked architecture as your profession?
I enjoyed both math and art and felt it would be a good marriage between the two, then fell in love with design in college.
What do you consider as your (or your firm’s) best project? Give one reason why
The Linden House in Reservoir Hill.  We restored a historic Victorian house which had fallen into serious disrepair into a home for five families in a program that supports breaking the cycle of homelessness for women and children. 
The Linden House (Gertrude Stein House) in Res Hill
What is your favorite work of architecture worldwide? Give one reason why. 
I’ve always been inspired by the work of Rural Studio.  Their commitment to providing design for those who need it most while educating the next generation of architects is a model which could be applied to in Baltimore
How would you describe the state of built architecture in Baltimore based on what has been built in the last 30 years.
Our development of the harbor has come at the expense of our rich urban fabric in much of the City’s residential neighborhoods which are deteriorating at an alarming rate.
Which is your favorite neighborhood in Baltimore?
Mount Vernon – includes one of the most beautiful urban parks in the country and an excellent example of strong urban design with a mix of institutional, retail and residential in a dense fabric at a human scale.
What single piece of advice would you give the new Mayor regarding Baltimore’s built environment?
Invest in our neighborhoods!
Rural Studio, Auburn, Lions Park Scout Hut
What do you see as Baltimore’s biggest problem? Name one idea how to overcome it.
 “There is an entire industry—community development—with annual resources in the tens of billions of dollars that is in the ‘ZIP-code-improving’ business. And in the health field, there is increasing recognition of the need to act on the social determinants of health. The time to merge these two approaches—improving health by addressing its social determinants and revitalizing low-income neighborhoods—is now.” David Erickson, director Center for Community Development Investments, Federal Reserve Bank of San Francisco 
Housing blight must be dealt with before we can address greater issues of poverty, safety, etc.  Providing housing first will address many of our communities’ challenges and allow residents the opportunity to focus on education and health as a result.
                       
What would you like to be remembered for?
My work bettering the community through design and imparting that importance on those that work with me and my students.
One final comment of your own choice.
Sketch!  Communicating visually by hand is still a critical skill for architects and designers whether a quick diagram, a detail, or a simple illustration. 
“Architecture cannot divorce itself from drawing, no matter how impressive the technology gets. Drawings are not just end products: they are part of the thought process of architectural design. Drawings express the interaction of our minds, eyes and hands. This last statement is absolutely crucial to the difference between those who draw to conceptualize architecture and those who use the computer.” Michael Graves, Architecture and the Lost Art of Drawing, New York Times, 09/01/12

The series of mini interviews with local architects being engaged with the community will continue on this site.

Klaus Philipsen, FAIA