47 Years of Architecture with R. Micheal Coleman

Mike Coleman, Principal Architect at COR3 Design

Principal Architect R. Micheal Coleman (aka Mike) has 47 years under his belt of architecture and we took an hour to pick his brain on some of his favorite projects of his career, as well as what he enjoys most about working at COR3 Design. 

Mike was born at the Donaldson Air Force base in Greenville, SC and knew he wanted to build things–either as an engineer or an architect–as early as high school. He graduated from Clemson University and received his architectural certifications based on the previous model of licensure prior to the 1990s, where apprenticeship and experience superseded specific schooling requirements. 

Throughout his nearly five-decade career, Mike had the opportunity to work on nearly every kind of architectural project. He designed almost every human and animal habitat at the Greenville Zoo, worked on a skyscraper (though he says it was far less exciting than one would think, with the same thing repeated floor after floor), and did a project with the Army Corps of Engineers drawing emergency plans for a national mobilization effort to build a base swiftly, if needed. 

While architects today ubiquitously use CAD (Computer Assisted Drawing), Mike drafted by hand in his early career. However, a project designing a cigarette factory for Philip Morris that was a mile long and a quarter of a mile wide brought his first introduction to the concept in 1983. The cigarette maker bought a computer CAD system that included a main frame with 16 terminals just for the architectural firm to design their building. 

From that early adoption of CAD software, Mike became a pro, ultimately teaching and instructing other architects how to use it as the technology improved to become like it is today. 

Throughout his career, Mike has worked for 1800-person firms, run his own small firm, and served as a technical director for a large regional firm. In 2015, he joined COR3 as their Principal Architect and it has been his favorite role yet. “At COR3, it is kind of the best of all of the worlds I have been in. It is a small firm that has a family atmosphere and you always know what is going on. They have remained competitive in terms of salary and benefits, and it feels like a joint, team endeavor to serve our clients,” he said. 

When asked about his favorite genre of architecture, he referenced Billy Joel’s song, “It’s Still Rock and Roll to Me.” As the lyrics go, “Everybody’s talkin’ ‘bout the new sound. Funny, but it’s still rock and roll to me.” 

That’s how Mike views architecture…it changes and adds a different spin from year to year, but it is still the same process and art form to him that it always has been.

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