THE U.S. General Services Administration (GSA) has appointed Leslie Shepherd, an 18- year agency veteran, as its chief architect, dispelling rumors that the post would go to a traditionalist architect from Indiana, Thomas Gordon Smith (“Jury Is Out on GSA's Choice for Chief Architect”).
Shepherd, who has a B.Arch. from Texas Tech University, started in the agency's San Francisco office. Before that, he ran his own architectural practice in Albuquerque, N.M. From 1997 to 2001, he served as deputy under the GSA's previous chief architect, Edward Feiner, and he was director of the agency's federal buildings and modernizations program from 2001 to 2005. Since Feiner's retirement in early 2005, Shepherd has been the acting chief architect, overseeing nearly 200 federal building projects valued at $12 billion.
Shepherd says he hopes “to maintain the headway we've already made with design excellence, and take it to the next level, in terms of meeting sustainability goals, and keeping on schedule, on budget.” Staying on budget “has been tough for us and the entire industry” in recent years, he says.
As chief architect, Shepherd, 49, will head the celebrated Design Excellence Program that Feiner established in 1994. The program streamlined the GSA's design-review process to attract more architectural talent. Feiner enlivened the once-moribund federal portfolio with commissions by such progressive architects as Richard Meier, Carol Ross Barney, and Thom Mayne, as well as by blue-chip classicists like Robert A.M. Stern and Scott Merrill.
“Les is extremely dedicated to the [Design Excellence] program,” says Feiner, now a director at Skidmore, Owings & Merrill's Washington, D.C., office. “And he's well balanced in terms of his outlook. He does not have a prejudicial agenda for any particular style of architecture or a particular period.”
In September, The Wall Street Journal reported that the GSA would appoint Smith, a proponent of classical architecture who teaches at the University of Notre Dame, as chief architect. Instead, the agency gave the job to Shepherd and awarded Smith a salaried architectural fellowship. The GSA also hired another practicing architect, Robert Fraga, to manage its capital construction program.
In an e-mailed statement, agency spokeswoman MaryAnne Beatty wrote that Smith will “[work] with the Office of the Chief Architect to ensure that the … full range of design approaches are incorporated early in discussions…. Both [Smith's and Shepherd's] appointments will ensure that the full spectrum of architects will be hired to do work for the GSA.”