Mar 28, 2016 | Atlanta, GA
Fifty to 100: At any given time, that’s how many construction projects — big and small, indoors and out — are typically underway on Georgia Tech’s campus. Frank Lamia watches over this ever-changing scenic view while painting a few of his own.
A registered architect and avid watercolorist, Lamia is associate director of Construction Services in the Design & Construction Department of Facilities Management. He is now in his 15th year at Georgia Tech, after 25 years in private practice.
Back in those days, he traveled quite a bit to job sites. Working at Georgia Tech, he also travels to job sites — just not as far.
“It’s all right here — you can walk to almost everything,” Lamia said. “To see construction in process every day, that’s very satisfying.”
About 25 people work in Design & Construction, and Lamia oversees 12 managers on the construction side. “I work with a really good group of people,” he said. “All of them are smarter than I am — the best thing I did was hire smart people!”
Most projects are contracted out, Lamia said, and they can run from replacing a door to constructing facilities, such as the Engineered Biosystems Building, from the ground up.
Regardless of size and scope, Lamia said, their job is to manage the process and make sure projects are completed on time, within budget, and with minimal disturbance to campus operations. “Construction is disruptive — whatever you do, it’s going to impact somebody,” he said. “So we really try to minimize the impacts.”
Lamia likens Tech to a small city, and streetscapes are his favorite type of project because they have the “biggest visual impact.”
In his time at Tech, he has worked on projects ranging from construction of the 5th Street Bridge to the Architecture Building Auditorium.
“I think we’ve made the campus a lot more livable — much better looking and easier to access, particularly for pedestrians,” he said.
Originally from Michigan, Lamia earned his degree in architecture from Lawrence Technological University near Detroit. He had enjoyed art classes in high school and saw architecture as a practical way to pursue that interest.
“I don’t know of too many curriculums that require you to take a certain number of art classes and calculus and physics,” he said. “So you get a balance of those things.”
One course Lamia particularly enjoyed was watercoloring. He continued to dabble in it for many years after he got his degree, but as the drafting table gave way to computer-aided design, and as detailing duties gave way to management responsibilities, his “off and on” hobby became more “on.”
“I like to draw,” Lamia said. “That’s why I do watercoloring — you’ve got to draw it, then paint it.”
The great thing about watercoloring, Lamia pointed out, is that it easily fits into his busy schedule, which, in addition to working full time and then some, includes jogging regularly and traveling here and there with his wife, Maggie, who also works at Tech.
“There’s no real setup to it,” he said of the medium. “It’s not like oils where to make it really productive you’ve got to devote a block of time. With watercolors, you can just sit down and do it, walk away for three days, and come back.”
Lamia has a website to showcase his work (www.custwatercolor.com), but he has done little to promote it.
“I’m not at a point where I can,” he said. “I’m here, I’m working. I did it so people who ask what kind of work I do can go and look at it. I’ll start promoting it when I have time, when I retire, but not right now.”
Lamia’s not ready to hang up his hardhat just yet. Retirement is several years off. For now, he’s still fascinated with his part in Tech’s ever-changing landscape.
“This is a great opportunity because of the variety and the wonderful nature of the work,”
he said. “I feel very fortunate to be here.”