Michael Lingerfelt, President of AIA Florida and former Disney Imagineer, recently spoke to high school students about design. Below, read our Q&A with Lingerfelt about design education.
Katherine Stalker, AAO (KS): As a former Disney Imagineer, I’m sure it was easy to capture the student’s attention. What did you present and how did the students respond?
Michael Lingerfelt, AIA FL (ML): The presentation centered around the fact that math, science, and the arts are some of the skills Disney "Imagineers" use to create the attractions. I included images common to any Disney guest and explained how math, science, or the arts were used to create the experience.
KS: Could you speak a bit about the importance of fostering creativity in young people?
ML: Creativity is one skill that will never be replaced by a computer or shipped overseas. The companies, and their employees, that succeed in the modern economy must be more "Right Brain" centered. One only needs to look at the contrast between Microsoft and Apple. At Disney, the Project Managers, Accountants, and Engineers used the Microsoft “industrial” computers, while the Creative folks all used the Apple free-flowing “artistic” computers.
KS: Your future successor, AIA Florida President-elect Peter Jones, also works with high school students at Indian River HS. What type of work does AIAFL perform in communities?
ML: The Florida Association of the American Institute of Architects is committed to leading the shaping of Florida's future. Obviously, the students are our future and we need to challenge them to "be the best they can be" so they can compete in a world economy. I saw recently where the United States school system is now ranked 19th in the world. I remember meeting a hotel receptionist in the Netherlands that spoke five languages fluently and that is commonplace in Europe. Architects are trained to be problem solvers and to visualize the outcome before it is realized physically. Who better to tackle the issues of education, transportation, crime, poverty, or overcrowding than architects?
KS: What suggestions do you have for architects who are interested in K-12 design education?
ML: Explore the innovative ways that students learn, listen to their dreams, listen to the educators, and don't be afraid to design those spaces that uplift the human spirit and enhance the learning environment.
KS: What are your thoughts on how to communicate the importance of design and inspire young people to appreciate, and possibly go on to practice, architecture?
ML: Architecture is the music of the soul that humanity experiences. It can be like a funeral dirge that brings down a person’s spirit or like a brilliant piece of orchestral music that causes a person’s spirit to soar. What other profession allows one to share their imagination in a way that helps humanity? I have spent a career building some of the most visited places in the world. It has taken me all over the world and constantly demands that I learn new ways to practice my craft. It is the blend of Math, Science, and Art… Architecture!