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Behind the List with Michael R. Bell of Breslin Ridyard Fadero Architects

Designing the Lehigh Valley one project at a time

Michael R. Bell, principal of Breslin Ridyard Fadero Architects in Allentown, says the firm has worked on projects for 13 of the Lehigh Valley's 17 school districts. - (Photo / Christopher Holland)

Behind the face of any construction project is a team of architects that works to deliver top designs and collaborate with construction managers.

A major player in the architectural scene in the Greater Lehigh Valley is Breslin Ridyard Fadero Architects in Allentown.

Here to talk about the firm and industry is Michael R. Bell, principal of the firm.

LVB: Breslin Ridyard Fadero Architects has been in business for more than half a century. What have been some of the most notable projects that the firm has completed on a local level? And to what do you attribute the firm’s success?

Michael R. Bell: The Allentown Public Library (1976, expansion 1990) and Lehigh Valley International Airport (Wiley Post Terminal 1997, renovations 1999, 2010, 2011) immediately come to mind along with numerous buildings the firm has designed for DeSales University. In 2018, the new Nitschmann Middle School, sitting along Route 378, was completed for the Bethlehem Area School District and the groundbreaking was recently held for a new elementary school for the Allentown School District on the former Ritter & Smith property. As specialists in educational facilities, the firm has completed projects for 13 of the 17 school districts in the Lehigh Valley.

The success of the firm is attributable to the commitment to quality that Robert Breslin, the firm’s founder, demanded and built the firm around: quality of design, quality of documentation, quality of construction. It is the firm’s reputation for quality that has afforded us the privilege of working with our clients to complete the projects above and all of the projects in our portfolio.

LVB: What is your guiding philosophy as a business leader?

Bell: I believe we are called to serve others in all aspects of life. In a graduation speech delivered by the legendary football coach Lou Holtz, he offers three simple rules to live by: 1) “There’s never a right time to do the wrong thing, and there’s never a wrong time to do the right thing … Just do what’s right.” 2) “Do everything to the best of your ability with the time allotted.” 3) “Show people you care.”

LVB: What is the best piece of career advice that you’ve ever received?

Bell: When I was about 10, one of my hobbies was drawing house plans. One day my mom said to me “You know, when you grow up, you can get paid to do that.” The rest is history. On a more serious note, Robin Breslin, the firm’s president, has always said, “You’re only as good as your last project.” This is critical. The best marketing for tomorrow is doing a good job today.

LVB: If you could change one thing about your industry, what would it be?

Bell: Time. We live in a world where we want things fast. The planning, design and construction of buildings require crucial resources. For many entities, the structures they build are the most significant investments they make, are expected to last much longer than other investments and have the greatest impact on our environment. The educational facilities we design will serve communities for many generations to come. To complete a project that will serve the client well for years to come requires time to collaborate, time to make good decisions, time to document and time for quality construction.

LVB: What motivates you to get out of bed every morning to go to work?

Bell: There are two motivations. First, one of the great things about this business is no two projects are alike. Each day offers the opportunity to be creative, confront challenges and learn. There are no boring days. Second, the people I am surrounded by both inside and outside of the office. I get to work among amazing people, many I have been working with for over 20 years.

LVB: What are some of your personal interests outside of the workplace?

Bell: I devote much of my time outside of the workplace to supporting my three children in their various activities. I teach part time in the architecture program at Northampton Community College and am active in my church, serving on council and the call team. I’m an avid Eagles fan and enjoy Indycar racing.

Christopher Holland
Christopher Holland is a researcher for Lehigh Valley Business and blogs on arts and entertainment in the region.

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