Last Friday, we had a dedication ceremony to the memory and vision of Michael Mead, who was instrumental in the design that won our LuigART 2014 Design Competition. How could we not make them the winner? Their entry was an incredibly detailed 1/4" model of their design, accompanied by a CNC-cut box containing all of the drawings and renderings. It all went together - was a complete thought. And they said they'd build it. Remarkable.
Michael was a remarkable person, by all accounts, and although I only met him once, in a meeting after they had won the competition, I've learned much about both who he was and the mark he left on the people around him. He served five years of duty in the U.S. Marine Corps as a CH53 helicopter crew chief and served two tours in Afghanistan and Iraq, earning the presidential air medal for 149 combat support missions. After his service, Michael also excelled academically graduating Summa Cum Laude with an undergraduate degree in Architecture from SUNY Buffalo, followed with his Master's degree in Architecture from University of Kentucky. Upon graduation Mead started work with Architect Matthew Brooks, and began shaping the next generation of students as an Associate Professor of Architecture at the University of Kentucky.
Michael's grandparents drove from Rochester NY to attend, and his dad George and George's wife Kelly both spoke, beautifully, powerfully, from the heart. Colleagues spoke, of Michael's continual effort, meticulousness, drive, intelligence, and kindness. We stood in a circle inside 142 York, with all of its CNC-cut bones cradling us in wood-tone beauty and rhythm, and we communed in memory and reverence, as Matthew Brooks' dog Chuy paced around the loop, comforting and consoling all who stooped to pet him. I was so grateful, standing there, for many things. Grateful to have crossed paths with him. Grateful to be able to realize his design. Grateful for everyone who came to share in this moment. Grateful for all of the connections that Michael created, and continues to make. Grateful that design and the resulting building can overcome death.
Death - Michael took his own life a few weeks after I met him, in September 2014. I didn't know him other than that meeting, but I still remember standing on the sunny sidewalk outside what is now Broomwagon on E. Loudon, with the specter of his loss throwing my life's compass all off. And I can only imagine how shocked those were who knew him so much better than I did.
So, as much as these two houses, comprised of thousands of puzzle pieces cut out of sheets of OSB on a CNC machine, as much as these houses represent the edifice of building's ability to transcend death, to carry on after the loss of the maker, as much as all of this encourages me and renews my faith in the power of what we do, it more so reminds me that we need to check in with those around us, we need to ask, we need to intrude into each other's minds and hearts, so that they cannot hide that which may be crippling and crushing them. None of us can do it alone, and some of us don't know how to reach out, to ask for help, so we have to meet them more than half way.
(portions of this taken from Alex Huber's press release that accompanied the Dedication - credit to Kindling PR)