Tuesday, June 7, 2016

The Architect in the Community VII: Suzanne Frasier: "Teaching at Morgan is my best work ever"

Today's mini interview is with Suzanne Frasier, a full-time academic at the School of Architecture and Planning at Morgan State University where she is a tenured Associate Professor.

Frasier, who received her education in at City College in New York, has operated her own architecture firm in New York for 11 years before she began teaching at the New York School for Interior Design. Her most recent research on green construction techniques, sustainable consumption in the construction industry, and sustainable urbanism has been published by the National Conference for the Beginning Design Student, The American Collegiate Schools of Architecture, the Design Communication Association. Suzanne Frasier spent a sabbatical as part of Fulbright-Nehru Teaching and Research Fellowship in New Delhi, India and published several texts about New Delhi.

Frasier is a member of the American Institute of Architects where she served on the Board of Directors and of the American Society of Interior Designers. She frequently participates in the Urban Design Committee of Baltimore AIA.
Suzanne Frasier (source: Frasier)

Here the interview:

At what age did you decide to become an architect?
I was 18, in my second year of undergrad. I transferred into the architecture program.
What was the main reason you picked architecture as your profession?
I’d drawn floor plans all my life. Fantasy buildings… to scale as I got older. I wish I still had those drawings, but they’re long gone. When it finally occurred to me, architecture seemed an obvious choice. I started going to school in New York City when I was 12 years old. There were architects EVERYWHERE; it was easy to identify myself as one of them.
What do you consider as your (or your firm’s) best project? Give one reason why? 
This is such a loaded question; it’s like asking someone to choose her favorite child. How could I do that to my clients? I ran my own firm for a decade in New York City, but in no way did that measure up to what I’m doing now: teaching the designers-in-training at Morgan State’s School of Architecture and Planning. This is my best work ever.
What is your favorite work of architecture worldwide? Give one reason why. 
The Group of Monuments at Hampi is my favorite because it is urban beyond compare.
Ruins at Hampi, India
How would you describe the state of built architecture in Baltimore based on what has been built in the last 30 years.
I’ve been focusing on pedestrian culture in Baltimore lately, rather than the architecture. Any building looks better when it is set in a vibrant urban culture. Why pedestrianism is not robust in this city is a complex, granular and nuanced issue, but of course it has a lot to do with the weak mass transit system.
Which is your favorite neighborhood in Baltimore?
Hoes Heights. It’s walkable and the residents, my neighbors, are wonderful people. I’m lucky to live there.
What single piece of advice would you give the new Mayor regarding Baltimore’s built environment?
Please put every last penny into mass transit.
Hoes Heights near Medfield
What do you see as Baltimore’s biggest problem? Name one idea how to overcome it.
Faltering mass transit has Baltimore hog-tied. I believe City administrators should put every last penny in to mass transit. “The relationship between transportation and social mobility is stronger than that between mobility and several other factors, like crime, elementary-school test scores or the percentage of two-parent families in a community” (Chetty and Hendren, 2015) 
What would you like to be remembered for?
Good grammar.
One final comment of your own choice.
In 2009 several neighbors and I founded a grassroots neighborhood organization, Friends of the Roland Water Tower, dedicated to restoring the Roland Water Tower to a state of engineering stability and aesthetic beauty, as well as exploring strategies to foster stewardship for the Tower and surrounding green space.
The Roland Water Tower is located between Roland Avenue and Evans Chapel Road near the northernmost point of West University Parkway. The tower was built in 1905 to provide water to Hampden and other neighborhoods in the vicinity.
Roland Water Tower

The Tower has been allowed to fall into disrepair. The interior cast iron tank and stairs the tank are heavily rusted. The terra cotta of the belvedere and ceramic tile roof are beginning to come loose. A safety concern for the city, a fence was constructed around the Tower. Now is the time to determine how to save this historic structure. Otherwise it will be lost to Baltimore forever. Join the Friends of the Roland Water Tower to preserve this landmark:
1. The 110 year-old Roland Water Tower is a building of historical value;
2. The Roland Water Tower is a civic monument of architectural beauty, exemplifying the design principles of the City Beautiful Movement;
3. The Roland Water Tower is a gateway landmark anchoring many communities including Evergreen, Hampden, Hoes Heights, Keswick, Medfield, Roland Park;
4. The Roland Water Tower, in its location on one of Baltimore’s highest points, offers sweeping views of a beautiful cityscape from its summit;
5. The Roland Water Tower resides on a valuable tract of Baltimore City green space that is currently compromised by a chain-link fence.
Please note that we post announcements about meetings on our Facebook page: Friends of the Roland Water Tower as well as taking credit card donations via our Causes site.
The series of interviews with Baltimore architects and their involvement with their communities will be continued. 

Klaus Philipsen, FAIA

Links mentioned by Suzanne Frasier: