In Their Own Words: Michael Arad

To Know Him Was To Love Him

I was a student of Doug’s, and he will forever remain my mentor. Few people can make us see the world through their eyes, and Doug’s eyes were filled with wonder. He could convey his delighted amazement that a sewer that was built before Hadrian was emperor was still in use till a couple of decades ago; “Do you understand what that means?” he seemed to say. From now on, would you not think of every street and sewer that ran below it as having a connection to the past and the future? From one civilization to another. Could you suddenly see yourself in Rome? Yes, that Rome, of two millennia ago, and that Rome of the renaissance, and the one before, and the one after, and the one that is yet to be. Do you now see the human condition through the prism of urban form? For him, urban form was a form of human manifest destiny and every city in this world a remarkable case study, and every act of building an opportunity to make this world a better place, a place that betters humanity.

Doug was a man who was keenly aware of edges, boundaries and thresholds and wanted you to understand how important they are; he could convey so much disappointment in a phrase such as ‘landscape buffer’ and make you see its failure to connect a built environment to a greater whole, to an effort that was greater than the sum of its parts. A gentle and at times not so gentle chiding for failure to contribute, to be part of, this democracy and its ideals.

While he wanted to make us more aware of those edges, those boundaries that unite and divide us like Frost’s proverbial wall, he wanted to break down the walls of professional segregation that he thought were not just pointless, but harmful. He did not see boundaries between disciplines; architect, landscape architect, city planner, structural engineer, traffic engineer, this designer or that engineer, they were all ways and means of communicating ideas, and the less they talked to each other, the more impoverished the conversation.

Michael Arad, AIA Partner

Handel Architects, LLP