Award-winning architect: computers changed everything, but human touch still crucial

SOUTHFIELD – Technology has forever altered the practice of architecture, but architects will always need a deep human connection with their clients to make projects successful.

That was the word Thursday night from John A. Vitale, president of Royal Oak-based Stucky Vitale Architects, as he received the 2017 Distinguished Alumni Award from Lawrence Technological University’s College of Architecture and Design.

In his lecture that followed the presentation of the award, Vitale outlined the many changes in the profession since he earned a Bachelor of Science in Architecture in 1976 and a Bachelor of Architecture in 1980 from LTU.

“The digital revolution has transformed architecture,” he said – noting that the ability of computers and software to create completely accurate three-dimensional models of designs, spin them around, and “fly” through them has made it far easier to communicate design concepts to clients.

However, he said, architects still should “always listen to the client. I can’t stress that enough.” And that goes beyond merely being attentive, he said – it involves a deep understanding of the ideas the client is trying to convey.

Vitale joined the firm he now leads in 1986 after working at Giffels Associates Inc. in Southfield. He became president of the firm in 1997.

Stucky Vitale has 20 employees and has been involved in numerous high-profile projects in the Great Lakes area, including the conversion of an industrial building into the headquarters of now-defunct Borders Inc., the Palladium in downtown Birmingham, the headquarters of Asset Acceptance Corp., the Pontiac domestic violence shelter HAVEN, and others. A current major project is the design of a 70-story mixed-use skyscraper in downtown Columbus, Ohio.


Lawrence Technological University students, alumni and friends await the Distinguished Architecture Alumni lecture Thursday night on the LTU campus.

Lawrence Technological University, www.ltu.edu, is a private university founded in 1932 that offers more than 100 programs through the doctoral level in its Colleges of Architecture and Design, Arts and Sciences, Engineering, and Management. PayScale lists Lawrence Tech among the nation’s top 100 universities for the salaries of its graduates, and U.S. News and World Report lists it in the top tier of best Midwestern universities. Students benefit from small class sizes and a real-world, hands-on, “theory and practice” education with an emphasis on leadership. Activities on Lawrence Tech’s 107-acre campus include more than 60 student organizations and NAIA varsity sports.

(In the photo above, John A. Vitale, winner of the 2017 Distinguished Architecture Alumni Award from Lawrence Technological University, is flanked by Nicole Gerou, a 2013 Bachelor of Science in Architecture and 2016 Master of Architecture graduate of LTU and chair of the LTU Architecture Alumni Cabinet, and Constantine G. “Guss” Pappas, a 1977 Bachelor of Science in Architecture graduate of LTU, a Fellow of the American Institute of Architects, and principal at CGP Architecture in Royal Oak. Pappas won the LTU Distinguished Architecture Alumni Award in 2006.)

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