John Dwyer Honored with AIA Award

John Dwyer Honored with AIA Award

Instructor recognized for humanitarian work in post-Katrina New Orleans

John Dwyer brings a strong background in public service to his role as an Architectural Technology instructor at Dakota County Technical College. In 2007, following the devastation caused by Hurricane Katrina, Dwyer established a community design studio in the Lower Ninth Ward of New Orleans and provided pro bono architectural services to families who lost their homes to a storm surge that breached the city’s canal levees and triggered the worst engineering disaster in U.S. history. At one point a Category Five hurricane, Katrina took a total of 1,833 lives and caused $81 billion in property damage.

For his commitment to advancing the humanitarian frontiers of architectural design, Dwyer was recognized by the American Institute of Architects with the 2013 Young Architects Award, which is “given to individuals who have shown exceptional leadership and made significant contributions to the profession in an early stage of their architectural career.” Established two decades ago, the national award defines young architects as professionals who have been licensed 10 years or less; age is not a factor. Founded in 1857 and headquartered in Washington, D.C., the AIA is a professional organization for architects in the U.S.

“Our community design studio received funding from the United Way and Architects for Humanity,” Dwyer recalled. “The situation was very challenging. The goals I had going in changed a lot because getting anything built was very difficult. We still completed 60 projects in six months. It was a crazy experience, but I’m glad I went through the process. New Orleans has become my second home.”

Lower Ninth Ward, New Orleans | Hurricane Katrina aftermath | Feb. 2006

American Institute of Architects 2013 Young Architects Award
John Dwyer, AIA | Notes of Interest

“John’s design work, civic responsibility, and advocacy roles show him to be an exemplary public servant and architect. He has recognized the importance of nurturing his own leadership skills and has become a strong advocate for the architecture profession.

“John’s search to expand and articulate the value of what he does and of his profession has been a constant pursuit. His first attempt, the Clean Hub, gained momentum quickly and resulted in a fully mobile, secure, and rapidly deployable building that generated its own water, electricity, and sanitation. It was shipped to New Orleans, where it still serves as part of the city’s urban farming initiatives.

“He has demonstrated a keen commitment to the profession, the discipline of architecture, and the social role of architecture, working closely with communities. This commitment has made his leadership qualities shine as he pursues both high design and construction values even in a challenging social context.”

The AIA jury that bestowed the award commented: “His leadership in restoring parts of the Ninth Ward in New Orleans is inspiring and demonstrates his strong commitment to designing for the public interest. John strives to incorporate humanitarian architecture in community advocacy and teaching.”

John Dwyer on rebuilding New Orleans

Born to build

Dwyer set his sights on a career in architecture as a student at Faribault High School, where he discovered a knack for drafting and mathematics. “That’s something architects seem to have in common,” Dwyer said. ” We tend to know what we want to be very early in life.”

5ive HomeHe attended the University of Minnesota and earned his Master of Architecture in 1999. He completed his internship with SALA Architects, a firm with offices in Minneapolis and Stillwater, and CVDB Arquitectos, a firm headquartered in Lisbon, Portugal. He is a licensed architect in Minnesota and has practiced architecture in Louisiana, Iowa and Wisconsin as well.

Before his pro bono work in New Orleans, Dwyer founded a private practice as a residential architect. About the same time, he started lecturing and teaching as an adjunct professor at the U of M’s College of Design. One of his most recognized early projects is the 5ive house, an eco-savvy residence in the Bryn Mawr neighborhood of Minneapolis. Also know as Washburn, 5ive was the first LEED Platinum new-construction home in Minnesota and one of the first in the country to receive the U.S. Green Building Council’s highest LEED certification. The home won an AIA Rave Award in 2008.

Burgess ResidenceOn returning to Minnesota after New Orleans, Dwyer designed a residence in St. Paul that earned the title, “A House for the New Economy.” Dwyer described the difficulties presented by the project, aka the Burgess, this way: “Conceived in early 2008, at the height of the great recession, the challenge of building bordered the impossible. Budget, program, size and amenity were quickly dictated by appraisable value and lending requirements that were, at the time, unknown even to lenders.” Featured in a number of publications, including the Star Tribune, Arch Daily, Architects List and New American Luxury, the project was named the AIA Home of the Month  for January 2013.

In 2010, Dwyer founded John Dwyer Architect, a practice powered by exemplary client service with an emphasis on designing beautiful, high-performance buildings. Below are some key projects from the John Dwyer Architect portfolio:

(right to left) String Variable, Vincent, Whisper, Infill
At the speed of tech

As a seasoned residential architect and an adjunct professor at one of the top-ranked professional architecture programs in the nation, Dwyer came to the DCTC Architectural Technology program with a priority goal regarding what his students needed to learn.

“I’m at a spot in my career when I’m ready to teach more about the technological side of architecture,” he said. “I’m very interested in how fast technology is advancing in my profession.”

Dwyer pointed out that architecture as a field is moving toward a paperless construction process. That means his students must be conversant with a number of increasingly popular architectural tools, including digital fabrication and 3D printing.

Digital fabrication

Digital fabrication technology allows architects to send computer-made designs to computer-controlled machinery. The latter fabricates real, not virtual, building components. Using this technology, architects can bypass traditional components and realize projects that were once considered too complex to pursue.

Excerpt from “How to Make Almost Anything: The Digital Fabrication Revolution” by Neil Gershenfeld, head of MIT’s Centre for Bits and Atoms: “A new digital revolution is coming, this time in fabrication. It draws on the same insights that led to the earlier digitizations of communication and computation, but now what is being programmed is the physical world rather than the virtual one. Digital fabrication will allow individuals to design and produce tangible objects on demand, wherever and whenever they need them. Widespread access to these technologies will challenge traditional models of business, foreign aid, and education.”

Digital fabrication works by San Francisco architect, Lisa Iwamoto.

3D printing

3D printing is a type of additive manufacturing that takes a digital file and translates its data into a physical object. The cost of a 3D printer ranges from nearly $67,000 for a Solid Technologies ZPrinter 650 to about $2,200 for a desktop MakerBot Replicator 2. Top architectural, engineering and construction firms integrate 3D printing as a crucial step in the project development and delivery process. 3D printers can produce both true-white and full-color physical models from 3D CAD, BIM (Building Information Modeling) and other digital sources, allowing architects to enhance innovation, streamline communication, shorten time to construction and reduce costs.

3D printing architectural model examples
Architecture spans the globe
Nordic PavilionJohn Dwyer enjoys traveling—especially when his destination features spectacular architecture. One of his favorite stops is the Venice Biennale of Architecture, which is a major section of the Venice Biennale, a world-renowned art exhibition held in the Biennale Gardens  once every two years. The architecture section takes place in even years, the contemporary art section in odd years.

“Numerous countries have their own national pavilions at the Biennale,” Dwyer said. “The best architects from around the world are present at event.” He considers the Nordic Pavilion his favorite exhibit at the Biennale. For his next trip to Venice in 2014, he is making plans to have his own exhibit.

Another important stop for Dwyer is the London Design Festival at the Victoria and Albert Museum. “The London Design Festival is like the Oscars for design,” he said. “I try to get there every year if I can.”

Favorite architectural masterpieces
Chiesa di San Carlo alle Quattro Fontane (Church of Saint Charles at the Four Fountains) in Rome
Architect: Francesco Borromini
Chiesa di San Carlo alle Quattro Fontane
Igreja de Santa Maria (Church of Saint Mary) in Marco de Canaveses, Portugal
Architect: Álvaro Siza
Igreja de Santa Maria
Thermal Baths at Vals in Graubünden, Switzerland
Architect: Peter Zumthor
Thermal Baths at Vals
Career data

According to ISEEK, Minnesota’s education, career and job resource, the average wage for architectural and civil drafters in the seven-count Minneapolis/St. Paul metropolitan area is nearly $29 an hour. Top earners make more than $36 an hour. See map below for Bureau of Labor Statistics national wage information.

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