Training News

BAC Apprentices Experience Design/Build at IMI Masonry Camp

An intense week of crafts and collaboration “plants a seed”

Journal: Issue 5 - 2008

Week 1 Apprentices with IU President John J. Flynn. Kneeling, from left, Maurice Brown, 9 PA, William Knight, 1 MN/ND, Scott Allvord, 5 PA, Paul-Leon DeSaulniers, 3 NY, Brandon Strait, 4 IN/KY, Dewaun McNeil, 21 IL, Gregery Lasley, 4 IN/KY, and Joshua Booth, 1 WA. Standing from left: Richard Luffy, 9 PA, Michael Pizzi, 1 PA/DE, Jermaine Phillips, 4 NJ, Steve Powers, 9 MI, Juan Salazar, 1 NY, Mark Brown, 1 MI, Vincenzo Commisso, 2 NY, Emerson Coleman, 3 MA/ME/NH, David Lesko, 7 NY/NJ, Philip Schon, 5 NJ, Charles Insley, 21 IL, Harry Sanchez, 3 NY, and Raul Hernandez, 21 IL.

Exposing BAC craftworkers to all of the masonry crafts early in their careers and showing them how buildings go from concept to reality is the premise of IMI’s innovative Masonry Camp program. By pairing apprentices with tomorrow’s designers, they also learn a valuable lesson in collaboration and mutual respect.

Each year, a select group of BAC apprentices and architectural interns spend a week at the John J. Flynn BAC/IMI International Training Center, getting hands-on lessons in brick, tile, stone, plaster, terrazzo and PCC/restoration. They also participate in a design/build challenge.

By mixing them up in teams representing both professions, participants get a sense of each other’s jobs, and a chance to share their occupational perspectives. “It’s an experience that all architects and masons should participate in to truly understand the intricacies of the other’s trade,” said William Knight of Local 1 Minnesota/North Dakota.

Apprentices and architects get to experience all the BAC crafts and the skilled training available through IMI. Here, Richard Luffy of Local 9 PA, Erik St. Pierre of S/L/A/M Collaborative and Matthew Owczarczak of Kideney Architects try plastering.

For BAC members, it’s a golden opportunity to try other crafts, under the guidance of top BAC/IMI instructors. “Their skill was amazing,” said Harry Sanchez of Local 3 New York. “They showed me how to do things I never thought I could do.” For Brian Watters of Local 3 Massachusetts/Maine/New Hampshire, “It was fun to experience all the different trades in BAC and to learn about their history.” For many apprentices, the program sparked the desire to take advantage of other opportunities available at the Flynn Center. “I would like to return every year for cross training,” said Shad Hill from Local 8 Illinois.

For the architects, it’s a treat to try all the crafts, and an eye-opener to see how much training and skill it takes. “This is really beneficial to us as architects,” said New York architect Diane Tien from Perkins & Will. Pittsburgh architect Bianca Beadling from Burt Hill agrees: “I’ve definitely gained a new perspective and appreciation for the craft and the craftworkers.”

Apprentices Turn Into Architects

A special studio session exposed apprentices to the process firsthand, when they created their own designs. “It’s nice to think outside the brick,” notes Vincent Commisso of Local 2 New York.

A deeper appreciation of the design process comes when the mixed teams gather in the design studio, and start percolating ideas for their design/build challenge. Before Masonry Camp, collaboration between the professions was a foreign concept for many participants, but it wasn’t long before the benefits were readily apparent.

Apprentices experience the architects’ craft in the design studio. Team members (left to right) Ron Viola of SOSH Architects, Erik Brauer of Local 5 NJ, Gino Rosino of 13 NV, and Joshua Susitti of 8 WI collaborate on their design.

“A better understanding of the processes involved in designing a building helps make me a better craftworker,” notes Paul-Leon DeSaulniers of Local 3 New York. “It plants a seed that will grow forever.”

Josh Susitti of Local 8 Wisconsin learned that “working with others will give you more ideas and solutions.” For William Brady of Local 4 New Jersey, interacting with architects “was mind-opening. Before I might have said, ‘we can’t build that,’ now I’ll give it a try. I also learned to pay attention to the details.”

The apprentices practiced drawing details, site plans and elevations and offered practical advice on how the designs would translate into actual structures. For beginning architects, it is a priceless education. “It made me more aware of my design and the impact it will have on the people responsible to construct it,” said architect Gabriel Cheung from Burt Hill.

Architects Turn Into Builders

The role reversal is complete once the teams have settled on their designs, and started building one element. That is when the architects, most of whom have never held a trowel, really appreciate what the masons bring to the table. In fact, many say that working directly with masons affected them profoundly, and they wish that their colleagues could experience it – some even think it should be required of all architects. For Ohio architect Matt Clarkson from The Collaborative Inc., “it was great to see the pride and competitive relationships the masons have in their craft and with each other.”

A Common Love of Masonry

The experience also fosters an appreciation for the beauty and versatility of masonry, another key objective of the program. “It will change how I design buildings and what materials I use,” said Jamie Bucci from SWBR Architects in New York. Jennifer West from Boehm Architecture in Boston agrees. “This experience will definitely influence my design process going forward.”

The passion for masonry and its potential applications was further stoked by guest speakers Carlos Jimenez from Carlos Jimenez Studios in Houston and Mark Robbins, Dean of Syracuse University’s School of Architecture.

Thinking Like a Team

The ultimate lesson learned at Masonry Camp is what both sides have to offer, and how much better a project can be when they collaborate. “It has shown me how important working together is for the future of our industry,” said David Lesko of Local 7 New York/New Jersey.

Masonry Camp, said Scott Allvord of Local 5 Pennsylvania, “is a great way to bridge the gap between the designers and the builders.”

Week 2 Apprentices with IU Secretary-Treasurer James Boland and President John J. Flynn. Kneeling, from left: Jason Syriac, 1 CT, Brian Watters, 3 MA/ME/NH, Michael McCullough, 1 PA/DE, Dan Small, 5 PA, Kenneth Schiavone, 1 MD/VA/DC, and Hocine Bahi, 1 NY. Standing, from left: Edward Linker, 4 IN/KY, Nicholas Clark, 2 NY, Thomas Yerger, 3 NY, Joshua Susitti, 8 WI, Kyle Higham, 4 IN/KY, Shad Hill, 8 IL, Antonio Falsetti, 7 NY/NJ, Michael Mason, 15 MO/KS, Daniel Sikorski, 21 IL, William Brady, 4 NJ, Gino Rosino, 13 NV, Brandon Farley, 5 TN, and Nicholas Mukrdechian, 1 MI. Not pictured: Erik Brauer, 5 NJ.


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