Syracuse National Veterans Resource Center

 

An Interview with Dean Michael Speaks

 


Winning entry by ©SHoP Architects  – View from Waverly Avenue

 

In this interview, juror Michael Speaks was clear that his remarks were that of an individual juror and that he in no way was speaking for the entire jury. In other words, this could not be considered as an official jury report.

 

COMPETITIONS: As for research possibilities, isn’t this new facility programmatically about reentry into civilian life by veterans?

 

Michael Speaks: Many veterans are non-traditional students, and having a prominent location and facility on campus for them is important. Indeed, one of the Veterans organizations to be housed in the National Veterans Resource Center (NVRC) is the Institute for Veterans and Military Families (IVMF). But, as you note, returning to a university campus that is welcoming is important, and the NVRC will serve as the central point of that re-entry.

 

You may know that Syracuse really grew to become a large university after the Second World War, based largely on veterans returning from the war and taking advantage of veteran’s benefits. There is a long history at Syracuse of involvement with the veterans’ community. When our new Chancellor, Kent Syverud, was hired, he made veterans’ affairs and veterans’ issues a central part of his administration and agenda. As I recall, during his first address as Chancellor, he emphasized veterans’ issues as one of the most important issues to be addressed by his administration.

 

COMPETITIONS: From your past experiences with competitions, you have seen both open and invited competitions (Taiwan Taoyuan Terminal 3 competition). I wondered what was behind this choice for an invited competition process.

 

MS: Over the past 18 months we have been involved with developing a University Master Plan with Sasaki Associates. Early on the masterplan was designated as a framework rather than plan, emphasizing that it would be a living document that would adapt and change over time. That plan was signed off on last May. Although it was never completely finished—it was called a ‘draft framework plan.’ The NVRC was is to be among the very first built projects to emerge from that framework plan. The decision was made to run the NVRC building selection as a competition, something the university had not done before. In the past, more typically there would have been a request for qualifications and sometimes a request for proposals, but never a competition as such. At least that is my understanding.

 


Winning entry by ©SHoP Architects  – Aerial view of model

 

The idea for the two-stage competition was that the NVRC would be the first building project that resulted from the framework plan. It would be an important project in itself; but it would also announce the true start of the building process. The NVRC is necessarily located on one of the most prominent sites on the campus, so there was great interest in attracting world class design talent for the design of the building. As such, it would be a fitting project to celebrate the university’s history with veterans and the veterans community and to announce the commencement of the framework building process.

The university decided in consultation with the members of the campus framework advisory group and the Institute for Veterans and Military Families, to use the competition as the means of procuring a design firm to design the building. The decision was made to hire Martha Thorne, who is the Dean of the School of Architecture at the IE Madrid and Executive Director of the Pritzker Prize, as professional adviser.

 

COMPETITIONS: So my question is, why an invited competition, rather than an open competition, as was the case where you were a juror in Taiwan?

 

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