Springfield architect receives prestigious national award

Stephen Sharp. Contributed photo

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Stephen Sharp. Contributed photo

Local architect Stephen L. Sharp has earned a prestigious honor from the American Institute of Architects.

The partner and principal of Springfield’s McCall Sharp Architecture has been elevated to the AIA’s College of Fellows, which helps advance the profession through mentoring young architects and being of service to society.

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Out of more than 90,000 AIA members, less than 4 percent become fellows, and Sharp will be one of just three practicing fellows in the Miami Valley.

Sharp will be invested in June at the famed St. Patrick’s Cathedral in New York City.

“It’s a special recognition I’m proud to have earned,” said Sharp, who has been with McCall Sharp for 30 years.

Take a drive around Springfield and Sharp’s signature can be seen in various buildings he’s helped design or update. These include the Clark County Public Library Main Branch, the Heritage Center of Clark County annex, Rocking Horse Center, The Dome and numerous others.

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Jury selection is awarded due to service. Sharp said he was elevated to fellow on the basis of having a ripple effect, helping young people interested in pursuing an architect’s license to have more opportunities to get there sooner and with less debt.

According to the National Council of Architectural Registration Boards, it takes about 12½ years to become a licensed architect, which is more time than it takes to become a medical doctor.

“It’s changing fast,” he said.

Sharp’s contributions include working on a re-accreditation team to help students get licensed at least three years earlier.

Closer to home, he’s working with Sinclair Community College to establish a program to get those interested in the field started relatively inexpensively and then transfer to a school such as Miami University.

Even if students don’t go on to become licensed architects, there’s still demand in construction.

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“What people are just now beginning to realize is there are ways to go to work on construction sites,” Sharp said. “They need new people coming in. They have to work hard but it’s a good way to get in the profession. My ripple effect is the Miami Valley. We have to keep chipping away.”

When he was an undergraduate at Miami, only four women were in his class of 120 students. None finished the program.

Now nearly two in five new architects are female, and some of the programs Sharp is working on could help more women and minorities enter the field.

“It should be open to anyone who is talented enough,” he said.

Sharp also works with a group focused on what his field will look like in 2050.

McCall Sharp’s employees build elaborate computer simulations for customers’ projects. Sharp acknowledges the advantages of those, but considers himself somewhat old school, preferring to think with his hand, sketching things out.

“A computer can beat people in chess,” he said. “It can design a building. But without the human brain it will be a very sterile building.”

Sharp pondered what would be a dream project.

“I like to do projects I can walk to from my office,” said Sharp. “When you think of a small community like this, we have some great buildings. I always have investiture in nice places.

“I’d like to think I’ve had a positive effect on the community and put my stamp on it.”

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