One snowy weekend in January 2007, Daniel Edgell took part in a downtown design charrette organized by the Rochester Regional Community Design Center. Architects, engineers and planners gathered in groups to re-envision the city's core.
Edgell's group was tasked with downtown's heart: Midtown Plaza. Of all the ideas for reviving the area that were tossed around and debated, one stands out in Edgell's mind: level the whole thing, rebuild and put in streets.
He grins as he tells the story. "And now it's being done," he says.
Edgell, 33, is an architect. He is in business for himself now, as Edgell Architecture, having recently been laid off from a position at Stantec Inc. Edgell says being self-employed suits him; while running his own business is challenging, it is easier to balance the technical demands and artistic vision of the project with the financial realities of the client.
"I like that what I do in the office isn't affecting the wallet of whoever is in charge of me," he says. "At the end of the day it's a service business. Having the freedom to make that kind of decision on my own is appealing and liberating."
However, getting paid-and getting paid fairly-can be tough, he says.
"It's an industry where people don't see the value of what you do. You go to a lawyer with a problem you know you can't solve yourself, so you're willing to pay them."
Many people don't know what architects do besides draw, he says. Architects get to know all the needs of a client, from financial considerations to how a space will be used over time to energy needs and security concerns. For example, a new operating room could become a money pit if workflow isn't considered. When not in use, such a well-equipped space can cost upwards of $90 a minute. A good planner will help the client turn over the room faster.
"A good design can save you money," he says.
Edgell can't remember a time when architecture didn't appeal to him.
"I've always been one of those people who are drawn to tinker and analyze but at the same time you create," he says. "I was always drawing, and I was always taking things apart and putting them back together again."
Edgell grew up in Canton, Ohio, the son of a machinist father and a nursing assistant mother. A mechanical drafting class in high school led to more technology classes. When he enrolled in Stark State College of Technology, he became the first in his family to attend college. He graduated with an associate degree in civil engineering with a focus on architecture and immediately went to work at an architectural firm. Nine months later, still working, he returned to school to earn a B.S. in architecture at Kent State University. A professional-level bachelor of architecture degree followed a year later.
Memories of his childhood center on the Pro Football Hall of Fame in his hometown. He recalls the week of events leading up to enshrinement every year-a week of float-filled parades, appearances by Hall of Fame members and dozens of hot-air balloons in the sky.
Personal reasons brought him to Rochester in 2005, and he joined Chaintreuil Jensen Stark. In his three-and-a-half years there, Edgell especially enjoyed projects at Rochester Institute of Technology. Among them: Park Point and the University Services Center, Monroe County's first certified LEED platinum building.
Indeed, Edgell says college campus projects are especially appealing for their variety, such as classrooms, laboratories, theaters, gymnasiums and facilities infrastructure.
Edgell is licensed in Illinois, Ohio and New York. He has immersed himself in the Rochester chapter of the American Institute of Architects, serving last year as president. He also has been involved in AIA on the state board, helping to develop programming for associate members-those not yet licensed in the state-and he represented his region on a national committee for associate members. This year he is the director representing AIA Rochester at the state level, and he serves on a test development committee.
He also gives time to local causes, including Rochester Children's Scholarship Fund and Junior Achievement. For the latter, he has helped out in classrooms at World of Inquiry School 58 in Rochester for the last three years. Edgell teaches the children things the curriculum doesn't include, such as what a checkbook is and how it works, how businesses start and what an entrepreneur does.
He has a soft spot for his time with the third-graders.
"By the time you're done after five weeks, they've grown to love you. You get to know their little personalities. It's actually hard to leave the last day," he says.
"There are so many good things you can do that don't involve sitting in an office."
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