Ask architect Sanford R. Bender to list some buildings he admires, and one the ones on the top of his list is a waste water treatment plant at the Omega Institute in upstate New York. What's so wonderful about a waste water treatment plant? "They even run yoga classes there," he said, "because there are a lot of plants and there's no odor. That really inspires me."
Bender, a Newtown architect who has been out of work since April 2010, believes in green design. Too many buildings, he said, ignore the environment and wind up using too much energy for light, heat and cooling.
Bender has twin passions, music and art. His degrees were in fine arts and he expected to teach art, but those jobs have always been tough to land. So he moved into architecture through drafting and wound up working on a variety of buildings from an indoor shooting range to a housing unit for youthful offenders to the initial drawings for jury waiting area in Philadelphia's court house.
One of his most meaningful projects was designing the Olney Readiness Center for the Maryland Army National Guard's soldiers departing for Iraq and Afghanistan and their families. The facility includes a cafeteria, gym, offices and gathering spaces. "I developed a compassion for the soldiers who had to deal with the problems of sudden being in service and how this affected their families," he said.
He also enjoyed the opportunity to be a team leader on a design project optimizing green building in Philadelphia's Foggy Bottom and Bartram Garden areas. The project, which included a river cruise and trolley tour of the region, was a partnership of multidisciplinary teams from the AIA Community Design Collaborative, the Delaware Valley Green Building Council, Schuylkill River Development Corp., the Philadelphia Horticultural Society and the Philadelphia Water Department.
Anyone who has ever been unemployed knows that it's a daily battle to keep from sinking into depression. Music, long an important part of Bender's life, is particularly important now. He composes pieces for clarinet and violin, plays banjo and guitar and belongs to an eclectic folk band called Wild Mustard. Bender occasionally leads community classes in guitar or banjo, and sometimes has private clients. "I really enjoy teaching," he said. "The time just flies by."
Update: As of December, 2011, Bender has landed a promise of on-call work for the federal government to serve as an architectural consultant in disaster relief situations. But, so far there haven't been any disasters, so he's still unemployed.
The Inquirer is not endorsing this individual as a job candidate; potential employers should do their own background checks.