David Hardy, the new president of the Mississippi State Board of Architecture, says his determination helped him get through the architecture program at Mississippi State University.
He chose architecture because he loved to draw and had always had an interest in construction.
“My father was a small general contractor so it grew out of a combined interest in those two things,” He enrolled in the program at MSU in the fall of 1984.
The professors, he said, were sometimes “brutally honest” in their criticism, even crushing models the students made to make a point.
“The message was to not fall in love with an idea and to keep an open mind for other ideas that have greater benefit for the project,” he said. Still, he said, “It’s a harsh message for a 19-year-old college student.” Not surprisingly, the dropout rate for architects is fairly high, he said.
But his determination served him well and he graduated in 1990. Hardy is a principal with Eley Guild Hardy Architects, which has offices in Jackson and Biloxi. He is a member of the American Institute of Architects and is certified by the National Council of Architectural Registration Boards.
The state board which he now heads regulates the professions of architecture, landscape architecture and interior design. The board has five members appointed by the governor to serve five-year terms.
“Our mission is to protect the health, safety and welfare of the public. That is our primary charge,” he said.
Jenny Wilkinson, executive director of the state Board, called Hardy a natural leader and a focused and dedicated board member.
“As president, he is successfully leading the Board to accomplish its mission,” she said.
Board members essentially serve as volunteers, but Wilkinson said, “You would never know this by the tireless efforts David and the other board members put forth.”
The Mississippi board is a member of the National Council of Architectural Registration Boards which manages the mandatory intern development program that all graduate architects must go through to be eligible to take the licensure exam.
“Once the applicant passes the exam, the board issues them a license to practice in the state of Mississippi,” he said.
Newly licensed architects are having a tough time finding an opening in the current job market. “Thirteen percent of all new graduates are just not finding jobs,” Hardy said.
Mississippi has always been a tough market for architects, he said, because it’s so rural. But in Hurricane Katrina’s aftermath, the state saw one of the largest building booms in history. “But about three years ago all that work just dropped off like a cliff. Many firms downsized including ours in response to the market conditions,” Hardy said.
However, the architecture board continues to see people apply for licensure in the state, mainly those practicing in other states who want to do work in Mississippi. Doing anything without a license is a serious offense.
And there are serious fines to go along with the offense. In its fall meeting, the board reported that it issued 10 cease and desist orders to individuals not licensed in the state who had practiced architecture, used the title or offered services. Disciplinary actions include fines up to $60,000 for violations.
Still, there are repeat offenders. “We see three or four serious cases a year,” Hardy said.
Even with all the regulations, the line between architecture and engineering gets blurry, and the boards of both professions are working to clear things up. “It’s all in the interest of doing a better job to insure people are practicing within their area of expertise. That’s number one.”
Architects and engineers also are dealing with buildings and building codes that are more complex, especially in the coastal counties since Katrina. “The bar has been raised for the practice of architecture and the practice of engineering. But the more stringent building codes are a good thing for the public,” he said.
Hardy recalled the 2005 hurricane as “by far the milestone against which my career will be measured because of the sheer volume of work that ensued in the aftermath of Katrina.” He worked on the governor’s recovery committee and was involved with the post-storm design charettes along with architects from around the country.
“You are seeing the final results of that work only now,” he said. “It was that monumental of a task.”
Hardy said he is proud of his and his firm’s work on the Mississippi Gulf Coast Coast Coliseum and Convention Center’s $60 million expansion which was interrupted midway by Katrina. The entire building had about five feet of water from Katrina.
“It is such a highly public venue. Everyone across the Coast and in the state can recognize that facility. It’s very satisfying to know you had a hand in making a great place that many people in the community can enjoy.”
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