Design for Innovation


Interview with Tom Schnell

I told Tom the title of the project we’re highlighting for 1978. His response? A huge belly laugh. When he was able to control his hilarities, he told me it was on East Main Street and that the process of this project was “really funny.”

The union president, Ralph, was looking for building space so Wandel & Schnell, Architects were recommended. They found a building that fit their needs and moved in. A few years later, they wanted more of a meeting space, so a meeting room was added. After that, they wanted more office space, so more office space was added on top of the meeting room. “I understand they turned the meeting room into offices again, though, so…” Tom said.

“That Ralph was a real negotiator,” Tom said. “He would negotiate you down to the last bit and he would always pull my leg.” He called Tom one day to tell him the price Tom was asking was way too high and Tom told Ralph he couldn’t go any lower. “Ralph hung up, but then he called back minutes later, laughing and telling me he was just testing me.”

On the first addition to the building, Tom and Ralph had lunch with Terry McClellan, part owner at Miles McClellan. After four martinis, Tom stood up and said it was time for him to go home. Later that night, Tom got a call from Ralph. “Well, we got a deal,” Ralph told Tom on the phone. “What’s the deal?” Tom asked. Ralph told Tom that he and Terry worked it all out.

“They literally came to an agreement on a napkin. There was no contract; they just built the thing,” Tom told me, laughing irrepressibly.

He told me the biggest challenge they faced within the walls of this project was that it was done in so many stages. “We had to learn how to build on top of, next to, and around existing buildings, but we did something right; they kept coming back,” he told me. “We had a lot of lunches at bars. Don’t print that.” Whoops.

1978 Pop Culture Facts

In 1978 there was a huge blizzard paralyzing Columbus, but by that time 98% of homes had a television and if the power wasn’t out (I don’t know; I wasn’t born), Columbusians were probably watching Saturday Night Fever, or they were playing Space Invaders (new big video game). Meanwhile in the state of Illinois, a trial mobile cell phone run was issued.