Seven Generations A+E (7GAE) is thrilled to congratulate Steve VandenBussche, AIA, LEED AP, recipient of the AIA Southwest Michigan 2022 Impact Award.
“Steve exemplifies every aspect of the Impact Award,” says Karl Kowalske, AIA, NCARB, ACHA, EDAC, President, 7GAE. “It has been a privilege to learn from him for the past 17 years of his career.”
As Vice President of Practice for Seven Generations A+E, Steve leads vision planning and project design with passion, empathy, humility, and a unique talent for collaboratively exploring and modeling spaces in real time.
“I honestly do not know another design architect like Steve,” says Jeremy Berg, AIA, NCIDQ, LEED AP BD+C, CEO, Bodwé Professional Services Group, which includes 7GAE. “He truly has design superpowers. Steve has an uncanny ability to have conversations with both team members and clients to build consensus around design principles, and then turn around and use technology to create amazing designs.”
In addition to his design skill and technical expertise, Steve leads conversations locally and nationally through speaking at dozens of conferences, including ASHE PDC Summit, AICAE Conference, ASU Construction in Indian Country Conference, and the AIA Healthcare Facility Conference, among many others. With this aspect of his work, Steve gladly shares his time as a responsibility to teach and inspire others and, in particular, to bring attention to the needs of the communities and populations he serves.
Over the course of more than 25 years in architecture, from graduate school at the University of Michigan through his nascent years with multiple firms across Michigan to his leadership role at 7GAE, the common thread for Steve is his belief in the power of design to make a positive impact on the world. “He works tirelessly every day to bring this passion to underserved communities as well as the next generation of designers,” comments Kowalske, “Everyone who has the privilege to connect with Steve is better for it.”
Steve’s focus on serving communities, as well as a little serendipity, brought him to 7GAE. “I attended Grad School with Steve in the 90’s,” explains Berg. “In 2014, I relocated to Kalamazoo and had no idea Steve was living and working in the area. We reconnected via LinkedIn and I convinced him to join me. He was energized by the unique and a bit unknown opportunity to work for a tribally-owned firm, and Steve has been instrumental to our success ever since.”
Highlights of Steve’s career include the award-winning Kalamazoo College Admissions Center, the innovative and expansive Mille Lacs Band of Ojibwe D1 Health Clinic, and the Mental Health Department expansion for the Veterans Administration Hospital in Ann Arbor, which opened the door to many more essential VA projects. In addition, Steve has skillfully led projects for the Pokagon Band of Potawatomi, the tribe that owns Bodwé Group as part of the Mno-Bmadsen family of companies, most notably the Pokagon Native Justice and Peacemaking Center, which has sparked national attention and conversation with other Indigenous communities about what native justice means for their people. Recently, Steve enthusiastically led a multiple firm collaborative design session for the Eastern Cherokee Language Speakers Academy, another unique opportunity to contribute to cultural sustainability. This project was also recognized at last night’s ceremony, having received the AIASWMI Honor Award for Conceptual (unbuilt) Design.
“I have always enjoyed working with Steve,” recalls Troy Clay, CEO, Noo-Kayet Investments, “both as CEO of Mno-Bmadsen and now as a client. Steve’s disciplined and creative design acumen aligns a project’s design vision with the final product. His advice and candor keep a project on task while instilling creative elements that make it pop. My congratulations to Steve on this well-deserved recognition from the AIA.”
Today, Steve’s influence continues to expand. “We have embraced Steve’s design approach at 7GAE,” says Berg, “and across the Bodwé family. Without his leadership on many major projects, we would not be enjoying the success and growth we are experiencing.”
“In leading this family of companies on behalf of the Pokagon Band,” adds Julio Martinez, CEO, Mno-Bmadsen, “one of my most important responsibilities is to ensure we have the right people in place and then get out of the way and allow them to flourish. Steve is a shining example.”