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News > Advancing Architecture and Design > Member Spotlight: Sherman Aronson's Advocacy Efforts

Member Spotlight: Sherman Aronson's Advocacy Efforts

Sherman Aronson AIA, LEED AP BD+C
Sherman Aronson AIA, LEED AP BD+C

-Please introduce yourself - where do you work, where did you go to school, and anything fun or surprising about you that people might not know?

Hi, I am Sherman Aronson AIA, LEED AP BD+C, a long-time member of the AIA, and recently retired from practice with BLT Architects.  Originally from New York, I came to Penn for undergraduate studies, graduate M. Arch, and for the final year of Lou Kahn’s Master Class.  I have grown deep roots in Philadelphia and love our city and my home neighborhood in the northwest.

Besides my architectural work, sketching and artwork, I love to play new age jazz improvisations on piano and play percussion in a Music for People group.  Not to mention hiking in the Wissahickon near out home which is a great asset for Philly!

-What are you passionate about right now that is moving you to become an advocate?

Throughout my career I have focused on transportation, historic preservation, and green design, especially the nexus where preservation and sustainability meet.  In Philadelphia today we have the strength of new development, the need for more places to live, work and shop as our city grows after decades of stasis.  This growth and activity benefits many but has the downside of threatening many of our places of value, our historic context and the character of the neighborhoods that existing throughout the city.

These potential impacts are important to me and most Philadelphians.  Our goals should include retaining and improving existing older buildings, whether they are of specific historic significance or for their general fit into the lives of our communities.  It is also a significant sustainable design goal to save the embodied energy that went into creating our rowhomes, factories, schools, churches and even apartment buildings. This can include preserving green spaces, too.

-Why is it so important to you?

These challenges are part of what drives me to dedicate time, effort and expertise to help my local community find ways to preserve the buildings, structures and natural settings that define our neighborhood.  Once you have witnessed the loss of a structure, nearly without warning, you cannot easily ignore the impact of these actions on our lives.  In West Mt. Airy we have started an Historic Preservation Initiative and I jumped in to help select the sites, review the research, describe buildings and prepare nomination information.

-How do you think your skills and experience as an architect impact your work as an advocate?

Thankfully, the City has a process for nominating local buildings to the Philadelphia Register of Historic Places, which provides a major level of protection against demolition while providing recognition of their value. 

As Architects, we have so much to offer our neighbors as they wrestle with these goals.  Our ability to understand floor plans and drawings, the skill to help describe building elements and evaluate which features may be noteworthy, and being able to describe these observations in narratives, these talents are truly appreciated by other folks working towards the same goals and are not to be taken for granted. 

Even without special education in preservation, our experience with how buildings are designed and built, the aspects that may be timeless and those that could be changed is beneficial.  Sometimes we can offer aesthetic observations about colors, materials, and quality of work that others can use to understand and communicate in a positive way.  Other skills used in project management, planning and urban design always contribute to a larger team effort.  There is so much that Architects can do to advocate for preservation, sustainable design, and conscientious planning for our communities, just give it a try.

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