MENTOR INTERVIEW: Michael Lawrence – Communications

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Mike Lawrence Talking with WaterShed Team Members
Photo Credit: Amy Gardner

Millions of people step through the doors of the National Museum of Natural History every year, coming from all parts of the world to marvel in the spectacular sites the museum has to offer. Many of its guests are repeat visitors, as there are always things to see or re-visit, always something new to learn. That is primarily due to the hard work of Michael Lawrence, who has been Chief of Design since 2007 at the museum, and who has over 13 years of experience in planning and designing exhibits. Michael is also a registered Architect of over 22 years, making him an ideal mentor for WaterShed.

While the house takes shape on site, Michael has helped the team shape their graphics and develop visitor information behind the scenes for the hundreds of people who will descend on WaterShed during the competition. A first time mentor for Team Maryland, Michael talks about the rewards of helping out with their 2011 entry below.

What has been your favorite aspect of working on WaterShed?
ML: Witnessing the creative and passionate environmental commitment of the team.

What do you hope the students take away from working with you on WaterShed?
ML: Since I primarily worked with the team involved in delivering information to visitors, I hope my experience in developing communication graphics at the Museum gave some insights into how audiences can be enticed to engage with an exhibit.

What have you learned from working with the students this year?
ML: Architecture school is still as grueling, exasperating, and rewarding as I remember…

How important are competitions like the Solar Decathlon in respect to the future of architecture, building technology, and construction?
ML: I think they can be enormously informative to a wide and growing audience but I wonder if they reach the real power-brokers when it comes to housing: the mega home-builders like Pulte and Toll Brothers. True impact will be felt when whole developments are designed and built incorporating Solar Decathlon concepts.

What do you hope people will take away from WaterShed when they visit it on the Mall in September?
ML: How wonderful it can be to live gently upon and fully within the natural world.  

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