Sounding Board

Who was/is your mentor?

I have always admired the work of Hugh Newell Jacobsen, FAIA. His work is beautifully detailed, clean-cut, uncluttered with every room in perfect proportions. I heard him give a lecture years ago at an Arkansas State AIA Convention, and then I ran into him later in the Dallas Airport. I introduced myself to him, telling him how much I enjoyed his lecture and his work, and he was very flattered. Robert A.M. Stern is another internationally recognized architect I admire. His work is classical in detailing, yet with a contemporary twist to it. His furniture designs, as well as his selections of paint and light fixtures, add handsomely to his work.
Anthony Leraris, AIA, partner
Architecture Plus, Fort Smith, Ark.

My mentor was, is and always will be my father. My dad (Carter Huffman of C.D. Barnes Associates, Grand Rapids, Mich.) took the time and patience to teach me the skills and work ethic required to have a chance at becoming successful not only in today’s competitive building industry, but also in life in general. My goal is to strive to become more like him every day.
Andy Huffman, estimatorand project manager
D&K Engineered Construction, Grand Rapids, Mich.

My mentor is A. Hayes Town. He was an architect in Baton Rouge, La. His synthesis of the classic Acadian cottage (with its raised front porch and exterior stairs), Spanish courtyards and exterior French doors with Creole-influenced full-length shutters achieves an original confluence of seemingly disparate yet elegantly balanced themes and forms.
David Zammit, AIA, owner
David Zammit Architects, Olive Branch, Miss.

Attending remodeler and builder conferences put many ideas in front of me that I was able to glean tidbits from and kept my business improving. At one of the first shows I went to I heard Walt Steppleworth. He was the first to explain markup, cost, profit and what I had to charge to stay in business. His mentoring kept me in business and started me making a good profit. His company HomeTech gave me the tools and mentoring to improve my estimating skills.

Others I could point to would be Linda Case and Victoria Downing who have opened my eyes on several occasions to the everyday problems of the business and their solutions. I’ve always found these three people are ready to listen and offer suggestions. They are the core of our industry’s professionalism. The fact is that you have to be open to new ideas and be able to listen to the ones that will help you. Then implement them.
Joe Billingham, CR, owner
Billingham Built, Erwinna, Pa.

My mentor is Doug Traver with Traver Construction. I met him through NARI a few years back when I first joined the association. We were just very compatible and became good friends right away. He encouraged me to take a leadership position in NARI, and I became a board member and leader of the Contractor’s Council. He also does design/build remodeling. We both learned volumes from each other and worked together to develop systems to run our jobs more effectively. He has a degree in architecture and I have one in construction science & management. We were able to teach each other. He has more experience in construction, being 17 years older, but he appreciates my greater computer skills.
Chris Black, president
CB Construction Co., Dallas

My mentor is Robert A.M. Stern. Stern takes the traditional approach to architecture and adds his personal style to each building, creating his own architectural language. Stern is never typecast to a particular style; however, one can always pinpoint a Stern-designed home. His architecture is almost artistic and whimsical, while still respecting the classical foundations of historical architecture. He knows how to push the envelope — creating timeless, unique architecture, and paying respect to all details, interior and exterior. His design philosophy is based on balance, vistas, massing and proportion, and is always unique to its context. These ideas and concepts are important and influential to how I approach all of my projects.
Paul Samartino, Associate AIA, lead designer
Dominick Tringali Architects, Bloomfield Hills, Mich.