Name: Cynthia Murphy LC, LEED AP BD+C
Job title and company: Lighting designer, Available Light
Degree(s): BFA, University of Utah; MFA, Indiana University
Professional interests: Dynamic and interactive lighting controls, effects of artificial lighting on occupant well-being
One of my favorite things about being a lighting designer is the wide variety of projects that I get to work on. On any given day, I might need to work out lighting solutions for an indoor coral reef, spinal-cord-injury patients or the guy down the street who just wants a cup of coffee. Every living thing needs the right light in order to thrive.
Some of our current projects include:
The Sherman Fairchild Laboratory renovation designed by Payette received an Illumination Engineering Society Award of Merit. Available Light designed the lighting. (Photo copyright: Payette. Image by Rachellynn Schoen)
My mother has always loved theater, so she already understands the transformative character of light very well. Onstage, light has the power of illusion, making people and objects appear, disappear or fade in and out of focus. It can instantly transform an environment from a lofty cathedral-like hall to a warm, intimate cottage. Lighting also has the power to communicate information directly to an audience, including the location, passage of time, visual style and even the mood of the characters. More subtly, lighting works with the subconscious: directing the audience where to look, how to feel and when to anticipate change. Above all, theatrical lighting is an art, conveying aesthetic beauty.
Architectural lighting is also an art because light is still light, onstage or off, and it still has the same power to impact the human experience. For me, architectural lighting is a much more exciting challenge than theatrical lighting because we are lighting the stages on which real people will play out the drama of their lives. Clarity, style, mood and especially beauty are just as important in a building as they are on a stage. The only difference is that real-life narratives are unscripted, so we have to come up with comprehensive, adaptable lighting systems that account for the wide variety of needs and challenges that occupants will face throughout the stories of their lives.
I was inspired (and humbled) by a poster advertising the Ansel Adams exhibit that is at the Peabody Essex Museum right now. I can’t wait to go see it.
“Smart-<insert any topic here>
Name: Aisha Densmore-Bey Assoc. AIA
Job title and company: Principal/owner, Aisha Densmore-Bey, Designer
Degree(s): Bachelor of Architecture, Florida A&M University, 2000
Professional interests: Too many to list, but they include architecture, museums, interior design, lighting, graphic design, branding (strategy and development), set design, film direction and cinematography, painting, and on and on.
I just finished a brand package for a small start-up, which was really fun, and I also worked with a small school that is relocating to Hyde Park. I am a new business; the primary thing I am working on is marketing and learning how to run an office. I like wearing many hats.
I don’t have to explain it because my uncle (my mother’s older brother) was in architecture. She knew more about [the] stresses [I would have] and strain I was going to go through before I did.
I downloaded this image of pink clouds; [it was] very random, but it made me want to use it in some way. I started thinking about creating an exhibit on architecture and the dream world, some type of fantasy thing. Usually even in our dreams we are in the built environment in some way.
“Starchitect,” just because the word is loaded with contempt and what I honestly feel is jealousy. I once heard someone say that the profession will evolve so that there won’t be any more “starchitects,” but that’s not human nature. People are always going to want what or who is in demand and create conditions for that to happen. On the one hand, architects grumble that the public doesn’t understand or appreciate what we do, and in the same breath we complain when architects become too famous. Then suddenly their work is self-indulgent, doesn’t respond to context, blah, blah, blah.
I wouldn’t kill the buzzword as much as I would get rid of the contemptuous feeling behind it. I am really over the negative and superior attitude that some designers tend to have. Unfortunately, a lot of that competitive and critical culture is developed in architecture school. You may not agree with another architect’s design philosophy or style, but don’t trash [him or her] for sport. The profession is hard enough without trying to tear each other down, famous or not.
I work alone a lot, so I relish the chance to hear a different perspective. I have a few friends who have started their own practices, and it’s good to check in with them. I also like Boston because the city is rich with design talent, and ideas are overflowing. I love talking to people who have been in the design field for 30 years to the students who are just entering design school. I always learn so much.
Ugh! I am trying to concentrate on the study materials for the AREs, but I just bought the book GUSTO: A Journey through Culinary Design [by Sandu]. It’s fantastic. I have a whole stack of books I’ve bought and have not been able to read yet. I can’t wait to be totally done with the AREs, then I can go back to reading for enjoyment. I read everything, but I really adore the theater, and I love reading plays. August Wilson, Shakespeare, Sophocles, Jean-Paul Sartre and Suzan-Lori Parks are all great playwrights.
I sketch by hand. I feel more connected to the work that way. That is the one thing I tell any students I have: “Learn how to sketch by hand. Your computer may not always be there, and you need to be able to communicate your ideas quickly, without SketchUp.” Plus, sometimes it takes longer to create a sketch by computer than it does just to use an old-fashioned Pilot pen and trace or a sketchbook.
I didn’t expect to be recognized by the AIA, or at least not this soon. That was pretty freakin’ awesome! I am still waiting on a project that would require me to go overseas. I’ve been abroad plenty of times, but it has never been work related.
I would be the last person to answer that question. Things change so rapidly. My hope is the profession can be more inclusive and realize that everyone has a story to tell and something to contribute. I hope for more diversity.
That question implies that design is some great mysterious entity that descends from the heavens. Design is really pedestrian and is just what it is. I see it as the great part of human creativity to solve problems. Now, that being said, I really love the Design Like You Give a Damn [book] series—people using design as a catalyst to help improve quality of life.
With the work I am doing now, I hope to help people realize their dreams, like helping start-ups. Sometimes I feel almost like I get more than I give. I love what I do. At the end of the day, I don’t think about what I am contributing; my aim is just to do good work that endures.
Besides my mother . . . I will say tenacity and time. Every bump in the road, every positive and negative experience (there have been quite a few of each) has been a lesson. Many people have been an influence on me, but I must give credit to a few of my most important mentors: Neil Hall AIA of The Hall Group in Miami, was my first mentor, a class act, and is still the type of architect [whom] I want to emulate. Allen Ambrose AIA of Ambrose Design Group in Hartford, Connecticut, was the best teacher, and my time at his firm was the happiest I have ever been in an architecture office. He was incredibly encouraging and wanted me to learn. Peter Kuttner FAIA of Cambridge Seven Associates is just a phenomenal person in general. He has had my back repeatedly.
Structures. ’Nuff said.
Stop worrying and comparing yourself to everyone else. Things will work out exactly the way they need to.
It’s more about moments than structure for me. I love the ICA because I am a museum person, and I love [its] Mediatheque room and Founders’ Gallery that look out to the water. The Christian Science Center is beautiful to walk through on a summer evening. The John D. O’Bryant African-American Institute on Northeastern’s campus is great, simply because of its strong cultural identity.
Fijoy Fisiy—she is a remarkable MArch candidate at the BAC, and I really see her going places—and Meejin Yoon, from Höweler + Yoon Architecture. Meejin is all kinds of fabulous.
Hold on to your hats, and put the kids to bed. Aisha’s here.
Spread love. Be kind. Eat well and laugh often.
Late last month, governor Deval Patrick visited BSA Space as part of the celebrations for the first issue of ArchitectureBoston magazine published under its new editor, Renée Loth. The governor, who admitted he once considered becoming an architect, toured the gallery, met the BSA staff and answered some pointed questions from incoming BSA board president Mike Davis FAIA, LEED AP. (Here, the governor examines a model built by KVA Kennedy and Violich Architecture in 1992 showing a proposed bridge that was to cross under the Central Artery between Rowes Wharf and International Place.)
Patrick said a big part of his remaining term as governor would be devoted to rebuilding the crumbling infrastructure in the state. And, in a remark that should please most designers, he said he didn’t believe “function and beauty’’ were mutually exclusive. “What is the next Zakim Bridge?” he asked, not entirely rhetorically.
Photo by Ben Gebo.
Name: Peter Kuttner FAIA
Job title and company: President, Cambridge Seven Associates (C7A) BSA President, 1998 AIA Director and VP, 2007–2011
Degree(s): MArch (University of Michigan)
Professional interests: Drawing, museums, film, photography, sailing and family
We have a large team working on a wonderful pair of museums in Saudi Arabia—both a new aquarium and a new science museum. It’s exciting because we’re the cultural attractions in a new city springing up in the desert. Also, we’re creating the whole experience, designing both the buildings and the exhibits. We’re basing the science on a framework of alchemy and its history as a precursor to contemporary science. It’s also quite a challenge explaining to a Saudi building official not to worry about a two-story fire vortex by artist Ned Kahn in the science museum or discussing the program requirements for Komodo dragons in the aquarium.
My mother always understood architecture but was dismayed by the paycheck. When my younger brother Phil decided to go into architecture at Clemson University, she called me with the plea to convince him he actually had a calling for civil engineering. My only recourse was to lie to her about my salary. It worked, and few years ago Phil’s firm and C7A worked together for the first time on Discovery Place in Charlotte, North Carolina.
I’m frequently amazed by toys. I have an enormous collection of science toys on my window wall, which often suggest ideas for art or exhibits. Today at the office we were contemplating the Airzooka, a toy air cannon that shoots a “ball” of air up to 40 feet. It’s the perfect thing for a children’s museum we’re doing in Louisiana, where we want to let kids interact with an artist’s mobile high in the space.
I have to say I’m bothered by our use of the horrible term “iconic element,” as if we might slap a little Bilboa-esque titanium or a corner tower onto every project we do. Of course, there is our ongoing angst about the misappropriation of our own title “architect” by almost everyone (software architect … architect of the new peace accord … etc). I don’t think we can just grab it back, but perhaps we might exchange it for some other architectural words we don’t use as much anymore. Perhaps “reglet” (reused by the government to mean a tiny regulation)? Or “scupper”? (No one seems to have a use for it.)
I certainly do, and it’s also one of the real benefits of being very involved in the AIA. In the past few years on the AIA board, and as a vice president, I’ve been able to participate in workshops with emerging professionals, attend the recent AIA Communication Summit in Kansas City with architectural journalists and educators, and join the annual Knowledge Leadership Assemblies held by the AIA Knowledge Communities. These are all amazing events, where you’re surrounded by a wide range of ideas—some brilliant, others disturbing. AIA and BSA design juries are another great opportunity to discuss ideas. I chaired the 2008 AIA National Honor Awards jury and wound up discussing more than 500 projects with a dozen very interesting folks from around the country.
I often try to read books related to the location of projects, and I was sidetracked by a recent tour of universities in Sweden into reading the Girl with the Dragon Tattoo trilogy. Now I’m actually back in the middle of reading Cold War Confrontations, about U.S. exhibitions and their role in the cultural cold war. It’s a story of world’s fairs and the national exhibitions since World War II by Jack Masey and Conway Lloyd Morgan. Telling the story of American culture through a building experience is a complex challenge.
I’ve loved the back and forth. Steve Oles inspired me back in the ’80s as he began to investigate the computer. I sketch a lot by hand and keep an inexpensive scanner by my desk to edit and color in Photoshop and present in InDesign. Sometimes I’ll rough something out in SketchUp and populate it, hand trace the printout and scan it back in. Lately I’ve been trying my hand at drawing on my iPad, but I’m already on my third stylus, and it still feels a little like drawing with a Q-tip.
Below is one of my BSA cartoons from 1995, on the computer-drawing revolution:
The simple plan my wife and I had was to move from Ann Arbor, Michigan, to Colorado for a short spell and then settle down in the San Francisco area. However, jobs were scarce in the OPEC (Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries) crisis years in 1977, and Boston beckoned, and we were instantly hooked on this community of ideas.
Design won’t save the world, but the world needs architects. Good design can create healthier, thriving communities and experiences. No design, like bad design, throws obstacles in the way of our ability to change and grow.
I pledged early in my career to focus on education, in whatever form that took. I started with an emphasis on academic architecture but became very intrigued by informal learning settings. As a result, now much more of my work is in museum architecture and exhibits. I believe our projects are all about storytelling in the best, most immersive, possible way. I hope my work excites and engages children and their families to learn just a little more about whatever museum experience of ours that they encounter.
I’m big on the whole concept of mentors and influential people in a creative career. My father was with International General Electric, so I went to high school in Istanbul and Ankara, Turkey. My art teacher there, convinced I should go into architecture rather than physics, took me on a tour of Topkapi Palace, and I’m mesmerized by the spatial experience and views of the Bosphorus to this day. By the time I came to Boston and C7A, I loved that a collaborative practice could give me a smorgasbord of mentors, and Paul Dietrich, Terry Rankine FAIA, Peter Chermayeff and Chuck Redmon FAIA each had very different things to teach and share with a young architect. This year that collaboration turns 50, and it’s still teaching me things.
I’m a fan of the Boston architectural dating service that seems to put old and new buildings together. It’s the urban conversation between the two that really excites me, and the public space they create. I’d have to say my favorite couple is Trinity Church and the Hancock.
I’d like to hear from Rebecca Barnes, briefly BSA president, who must have an interesting point of view from both coasts, and experience from private, public and academic perspectives. I’d also like to hear about Hansy Better Barazza AIA, LEED AP because of her Awesome grant (and because I loved lounging on her Big Hammock).
I’m only slightly embarrassed to say I already do have a bumper sticker:
“The ‘A’ in Kuttner stands for Action!”
(I might change that to “Architecture!”)
Cambridge Seven Associates is a leading sponsor of exhibits at BSA Space.
Name: Frederick A. (Tad) Stahl FAIA DCP (hon)
Job title/company: Designer/Stantec
Degree(s): BA, Dartmouth College; MArch, MIT
Current personal interest: Protection and enhancement of residential life in downtown Boston neighborhoods
Current professional interests: Beacon Hill Civic Association; Boston Architectural College; Historic New England
Beacon Hill Civic Association
I co-chair the Beacon Hill Civic Association Planning and Oversight Committee, which is responsible for identifying, monitoring and engaging in development or redevelopment proposals in the city that may have an impact on the quality of residential life in our downtown neighborhood. We work collaboratively with our colleagues in the West End, Downtown North, the North End and Waterfront—which today comprise more than 40,000 residents—to preserve and enhance the quality and character of urban living. Committee members serve on numerous city, state and agency citizen-advisory groups related to proposed institutional, commercial, residential and transportation projects and proposals.
Boston Architectural College
The Boston Architectural College (BAC) is the only American school of design based on concurrent learning within both academic and professional practice settings, although this system is more common in Europe, particularly in the Netherlands. It currently offers six professional [degrees] and one undergraduate degree to more than 1,000 students, is a leader in distance learning and is very active in support of community benefit projects throughout Greater Boston. It is intimately connected to the design professions in Boston through its hundreds of professional volunteer teachers and participating employers. My own experience of the academy and actual practice convinced me many years ago of the great effectiveness of this approach to design training.
Historic New England
I assist in the organization and preservation of the archives of my architectural practice that are in the custody of Historic New England. Understanding, appreciation and preservation of the architecture of the modern era is now well established and is given priority in several significant libraries, archives and recent exhibitions.
My mother was a product of the pre–World War I Edwardian era, and her professional interests were in the field of medicine; she had little opportunity to learn about design as a discipline or consider that my choice of career might be architecture. I think she would readily understand what I am doing now, but she was originally quite unfamiliar with what the life of an architect might be, once having asked me if I had sold any drawings recently.
The City of Boston inspires me every day, for the most part having taken advantage of its remarkable heritage of urban development and the architecture of the past. The depression years had left a deep imprint on the city, which began to lift only in the 1960s and ’70s; today there is abundant energy and opportunity for a rewarding life experience for this and future generations in our unique urban fabric.
Starchitect. The profession has been exemplified far too long by virtuosos who astonish and entertain us with novelty and distortion, neglecting the fundamental principles that support humane and sustainable planning, design and construction. The alert citizen frequently exhibits a better understanding of the values we should incorporate in our work.
Branding. We are gradually losing our way in a thicket of logos and slogans that proffer images without substance and where the meaning, if any, of what they represent becomes increasingly distant and inaccessible.
Of course; my professional team was real family to me; we were all volunteers who wanted to work together.
Concrete Planet [by Robert Courland]; also, iconic crime fiction of the 1930s—Raymond Chandler, Dashiell Hammett, Damon Runyon etc.
By hand, but without any significant artistic ability. I like to think I can draw an eloquent straight line.
Sydney, Australia, to consult on the redevelopment of the Walsh Bay wharves; Washington, DC, to consult on the rehabilitation of Union Station. These assignments came my way as a result of the successful restoration and revitalization of the Faneuil Hall Market buildings, for which I served as architect and planner.
Much of the profession is being absorbed into the global corporate complex, and this trend will undoubtedly continue. I am optimistic about younger, smaller firms whose versatility, flexibility and creativity are more readily engaged and applied.
Design is a result of its cultural context and imperatives, which does not bode well for such a mission; we generally get the architecture and design our culture deserves. I agree with POGO.
In planning and urban design, a coherent and intelligible civil order, responsive and supportive of urban life; in architecture, a consonance with universal principles of natural law, cultural responsibility and intellectual rigor. The metropolis is both the ancient and contemporary prime source and support of civilization; it is now the habitat of more than 50 percent of the globe’s population. Boston is first among American cities to have had this consciousness, and despite its loss for much of the 20th century, evidence of revitalization is abundant.
On reflection, I must credit my extreme good fortune for a great deal of what I consider success; more specifically, that I met and grew to know, in person or in their thought and work, remarkable representatives of Homo sapiens. I sometimes envision an architectural frieze, analogous to that of the BPL, to honor those whose thought, words and works have inspired me, as follows:
We do stand on the shoulders of giants:
Sir John Soane
Theo van Doesburg
Jose Lluis Sert
Hugh Morrison (history of architecture/Dartmouth College)
Eugen Rosenstock-Huessy (social philosopher/Dartmouth College)
Lawrence B. Anderson (chairman of architecture/MIT)
Douglas Stephen (colleague and mentor/London)
James Lawrence and Joseph Richardson (professional godfathers)
Hans Busso von Busse (studio classmate/MIT and lifelong friend)
Bill LeMessurier (professional colleague/collaborator)
Chemistry. I could find no way to visualize a chemical reaction, and the formulas were a foreign language without apparent grammatical sense.
Continue to make the best of whatever comes to hand.
Faneuil Hall Market buildings—Alexander Parris, architect
Boston City Hall—Kallmann McKinnell & Wood Architects
BU Law School Tower—Jose Lluis Sert, architect
Tim Love AIA of Utile
Question authority and conventional wisdom; cultivate curiosity, patience and perseverance; teach yourself to think and to see; search for the universal beyond the superficial.
Citizen! Take Responsibility!
Name: Ted Szostkowski AIA
Job title and company: Principal, Director of Higher Education Studio, SMMA/Symmes Maini & McKee Associates
Degree(s): Bachelor of Arts in English Literature (Knox College), MArch (Harvard Graduate School of Design)
Professional interests: Designing places for creative action, whether at the scale of the workstation, the room, the building, the campus, the urban district or the city
1. Business development and strategic planning for the firm’s Higher Education Practice, with an invited competition for a humanities building along the way.
2. My first career was as an elementary-school teacher, and I value the commitment, effort and art necessary for public education. I’m trying to promote the idea of an “Innovation School for the Innovation District” as a concrete manifestation of “reanimating” the commitment for excellence in Boston’s public school system, which should strive to be as successful in its realm as our local colleges and universities are in theirs.
She died 50 years ago, but if I could, I would remind her of the day she taught me “how to see” as the first step in learning how to draw. Like any epiphany, one keeps returning to it. I had just brought home my first drawing from kindergarten: “My House.” From what I could tell in looking at the work of my classmates, we all responded with essentially identical pictures using the same archetypes that years later I would find cataloged in [Gaston] Bachelard’s The Poetics of Space: the sun in a cloudless sky; a gabled box with a big door knob; an apple tree, ripe with red fruit, to one side; to the other side, the child author rendered in ovals and stick limbs; all three—tree, house, child—about the same size.
After looking at my drawing, my mother started a long and tender conversation with “Tell me what you see,” which then led to a walk down our block. What discoveries! No buildings within sight had peaks; they were all flat-roofed, three-and-a-half-story walk-ups; my yard was a fenced rectangle of dirt with no trees, apple-bearing or otherwise. She then stood by a doorway and asked me to compare the heights of a person, a door, and the building in which we rented one of six units: “Tell me what you see.” Then, inside, in front of a mirror, she asked me to look closely at my image as I moved around: What were the parts of the body, and how were they connected? “Tell me what you see.”
Finally, she took out a piece of paper and in pencil began to draw a human figure, stopping at each part to ask: What is the shape of a face? Is the body smaller or bigger or the same size as a head? and so on. We talked about necks and elbows and knees as she completed the figure. Then, with a surety of line, she sketched a horse, finally rendering the animal in a chiaroscuro technique. I couldn’t believe that such life could come out of a pencil and that my mother was its creator. She then folded the drawing, the last one I ever saw her make, and put it away as if to say our conversation about drawing was not about her talents but about my seeing.
From that day on, I fell in love with drawing and would immerse myself in delineating the world. My English wasn’t yet good enough to explain to my teacher that I was not “going outside the lines” but casting shadows and trying to escape flatness and render volume with my thick crayons. In short order, there was the report home about “Ted not finishing his artwork,” which was schoolspeak for not completing a drawing within the administratively allocated time period for “art.” I think my mother succeeded in explaining to the teacher that I was trying to draw “what I see” and why not let me keep at it until the piece was complete.
I would explain to my mother that sometimes I finish drawings, and some remain incomplete.
Conversations with my wife, as they always do
“We regret to inform you that your firm was not selected.”
Yes, as much as they can stand.
The Quark and the Jaguar: Adventures in the Simple and the Complex, by Murray Gell-Mann. At one point, Gell-Mann coins a term that I think perfectly describes architects—“Odysseans”—playing off and synthesizing Nietzsche’s “Apollonian/Dionysian” distinctions of the analytical/intuitive, left-brain/right-brain styles of thought.
Lviv, Ukraine. A letter from a former client, the Ukrainian Catholic University, explained they were seeking to develop a university that would educate the next generation of ethically grounded leaders for their newly democratic country and asked if this would be of interest. The issue of language and the power of the word emerged in all its fullness: At the initial interview, where the electricity failed just as the introductory slide was being projected, and my former partner Michael McKinnell FAIA and I were asked to discuss architecture without the comfort of images; where one was aware of the need for precision and the weight of every word proferred in the mode of dual translations; and in the presence of numerous photographic memorials to the victims of the Gulag, so many of them poets whose uncompromised words were taken as an extreme threat to the previous authoritarian regime. It was a profoundly cleansing experience compared with the vast cataract of our daily commercial and political speech.
What’s well documented now are the extremes of the consolidation of firms featuring broad service offerings; global economic presence; and sheer size on the one hand, and the small, tactically re-combining design firms on the other, with specialists staking out specific niches in between. Toward sustainability, of course, with a major choice between a “lite green” reformist and technocratic posture that, while addressing the issues of resource depletion and pollution, still maintains the possibility of a “utopia of abundance” vs. a more fundamental reimagining of global sufficiency, limits, environmental adaptation and social interdependency.
Saving the world requires political action. One of my teachers proposed the distinction between the personal realm, where one could choose to be as politically and socially engaged as desired, and the professional realm, where the architect’s social responsibility is to “design a good facade” (hard enough to do and who else can do it?). I’m sure there’s a powerful fantasy that a techno-urban Steve Jobs is out there; it’s quite possible that Living PlanIT’s radical approach to creating an “eco-city”—“iCity”?—with economics based on partnerships rather than land, and a “cradle-to-grave” reimagining of the building-design/building-construction/building-maintenance industries, can provide such design salvation.
On the issue of the interface between design and politics, I’m reminded of an architectural presentation of housing designs that was bookended by early- and late-career projects: the former was an affordable-housing project featuring a highly developed section providing views of neighbors’ entrances, common pathways, common spaces, etc., fostering a local and democratic community; the latter, a Middle Eastern villa, sited on created land in the shape of a palm tree, designed so there would be no views whatsoever of the neighboring villas. Which client is in greater need of a “democratic” architecture, if that’s what is necessary to “save the world”?
Yvor Winters stated in his Function of Criticism: Problems and Exercises that the first responsibility of a critic is to feed his family. I’ll wager the same holds true for most architects. I’ll get back to you on the other things after the recession is over.
First, serendipity. Second, a wonderful education with inspiring teachers, an experience extended by periodic and rejuvenating jury participation at our area’s schools of architecture. Third, at every stage of my career, the example and personal generosity and encouragement of my architectural colleagues, and their constant emphasis on improving the quality of design.
Languages. This was the period of the transition from a text-based pedagogy to an aural one. I had previously flourished in the visually based textual environment and absolutely floundered in the language lab setting. I more or less still know the Cyrillic alphabet.
Spend more time with your children.
The Swan Boats. Following eight years in elementary education featuring numerous readings of Robert McCloskey’s Make Way for Ducklings, I came to Boston in the bicentennial summer of 1976 to attend Harvard GSD’s Career Discovery Program in Architecture and made the Public Garden, the site of the story, my first tourist stop. This included a ride on the Swan Boats so I would be able to describe the experience firsthand to my last group of students, as I afterward applied to and entered the GSD in 1977. In time, I would return to ride with one daughter, then two, with both eventually participating as ballerinas in the annual “Return of the Swans” event. Of more personal signification than [Robert] Venturi’s “Duck” and more carbon-neutral than the Duck Boats. What other mode of transportation owes its inspiration to Lohengrin?
Brian Healy AIA, Sheila Kennedy AIA, Jonathan Levi FAIA and Tim Love AIA—unique voices in our design community, and all wonderful teachers as well.
“Please send your pledges and architectural commissions in to the address shown at the bottom of your screen.”
“Whiskey for My Men, Beer for My Horses.”
Name: Betsy Pettit FAIA
Job title and company: President, Building Science Corporation
Degree(s): Bachelor of Environmental Design (Miami University in Ohio), MArch (North Carolina State)
Professional interests: Affordable housing, retrofits
Deep-energy retrofits for single and multifamily homes
She is my biggest fan, and since I come from a family of architects and builders, she gets it.
The crisp, blue sky and brilliant leaves. I love autumn in New England!
Green this and green that. Everything is green!
Yes. We all move around the office from desk to desk when we need to figure something out.
Michael Pollan’s Food Rules: An Eater’s Manual, The Marriage Plot: A Novel by Jeffrey Eugenides and The Social Animal: The Hidden Sources of Love, Character, and Achievement by David Brooks
I love my iPad, but I always sketch by hand.
Yes! Although I started out working in architects’ offices, I went on to work for a developer, and then for the Commonwealth in the public-housing division, and finally to my own company with a building-science engineer as a partner.
Survival of traditional architecture firms will be based on their ability to provide full building services, which would include analysis of the sustainable nature of a project, energy modeling and enclosure design in addition to aesthetically beautiful buildings.
Well, beautiful design certainly makes living worthwhile! And designers can and have changed the world.
I hope that the younger generation of architects gets a head start on learning the important things about how buildings work. I hope that I have been an instrument of change for bringing a more holistic view to our profession.
Who else, my mother!
It had more to do with the instructor than the subject matter; it was “Active Solar Hot Water Systems.” And that leads me to the point that a good teacher can make or break a subject for the participant. It took me years to finally decide I really wanted to understand that topic.
I really love the John Hancock Tower and its juxtaposition with Trinity Church—the whole Copley Square experience.
I would love to see Mike Davis FAIA, LEED interviewed next.
Life is long and full of surprises. Don’t sum up your life in 30 seconds! You have the ability to be many things to many people.
Live in the present, and be passionate about what you are doing.
Name: Leslie Saul AIA, IIDA, LEED AP
Job title and company: President, Leslie Saul & Associates
Degree(s): Bachelor of Fine Arts and Bachelor of Architecture, Rhode Island School of Design
Professional interests: the place where architecture and interiors interface/overlap/communicate
Current projects include providing architecture and interiors for a large, rambling, new shingle-style house in Newton, Massachusetts. (Watch the construction progress on Facebook.) We are also finishing the furniture selections and specifications for the almost 200,000-sf Paul Rudolph–designed Carney Library at UMass/Dartmouth with Austin Architects [handling the renovation] and designLAB architects [executive architect, handling the addition]. Other projects include redesigning the interiors of Cambridge Homes, an assisted-living facility in Cambridge, Massachusetts, and corporate interiors for the new Boston offices of Perseus Books Group and Da Capo Press. We are so lucky to be busy.
Today I was inspired by a retirement-age person working as a restaurant server. This “older worker” was moving quickly, though stiffly, and he had a smile on his face with every step.
There are so many architectural buzzwords that I would prefer to eliminate, including “materiality” (couldn’t we just talk about the materials we use without the buzzword?), but it’s really the pretentious use of strings of these types of words that is my pet peeve. Go to the AIA website to vote for your favorite Architect Barbie dream house. One of the finalists’ submissions is almost incomprehensible with paragraphs filled with these words. It’s Barbie, for cryin’ out loud!!
I am currently reading a book of short stories, Letting Loose the Hounds, by Brady Udall that I picked up at a grocery-store book exchange (really terrific), three somewhat-current issues of the New Yorker and the end of Unbroken by Laura Hillenbrand (an inspiring book about survival). The stack on the side of my bed is high. I prefer to read for pleasure and not about business, but I have to admit that I am also reading Mold and Moisture Mildew Prevention, an NCARB monograph.
I always sketch by hand. John Dyer used to gauge the amount of design work in the office by how many Pentel Sign pens and rolls of trace paper we ordered. It’s hard to imagine that as a gauge today, yet I still find it easier to sketch an idea in front of the client by hand, with a Sign Pen and plenty of trace paper. For me, it would not be as easy to pull out the laptop or tablet and load SketchUp and then generate a sketch digitally and still be able to include the client in that process. My clients can mark their comments right on my sketches, and I can keep sketching until concept consensus can be reached. Trace paper is not precious, so I believe that it’s a better tool for idea generation. The next generation of designers may disagree. Whatever works for you is best.
I never imagined when I was in architecture school at RISD in the ‘70s, that I would own my own architecture and interiors firm in Boston and that I would have the opportunity to collaborate with so many outstanding architects and designers (both as employees and clients) over the years. I didn’t expect to have so many loyal, creative and wonderful clients, many of whom are now my friends! I did realize that art and design was my calling when I was 13, and I do realize that it is a gift to do what you love every day.
I feel that the world of architecture is on a path of bifurcation: The large will get larger, and the rest of us will struggle to get great commissions. Another trend that worries me is that some architects care more about the photo for their portfolio than about the users of the space. Read Architects Must Consider the Humans Who Will Inhabit Their Structures for more about this topic.
I don’t think that architecture can save the world, but we do strive to make the world a better place to live, heal, learn, work, play and pray (to be spiritual and build community), one project at a time. These are our seven sectors: private homes, senior living/skilled nursing, corporate interiors, academic facilities/libraries, retail/restaurants, fitness/health, and churches/synagogues. It’s always fun when our sectors overlap: a chapel in a nursing home, a corporate gym, a bookstore at a college, etc. We started thinking about the consequences of our work on our planet in the 1970s, so it is really thrilling to see that sustainability is mainstream now.
I hope that my work contributes to a better life for the people who occupy/use them.
Some of the people I credit for my success are my little mamaleh (my mother), who let me draw on a wall in my bedroom, who taught me to write thank-you notes and who I still have fooled into thinking that I can do no wrong; my father, who taught me about integrity and about treating everyone with respect; and my husband, who encourages me to pursue my dreams and who enables me to work like a crazy person!
I had no “least favorite” classes in college. I loved them all, especially the 8:00 am structures class.
I would give the 10-years-younger version of myself the following advice: Take care of yourself, and find a better business model than the standard “fee for services” approach of most architecture practices. Maybe if I start thinking about that today, I’ll figure it out by the time I retire.
My favorite Boston-area structure is Community Rowing’s Harry Parker Boathouse on the Charles River, by Anmahian Winton Architects. It’s a truly worthy recipient of the BSA’s Harleston Parker Award.
Please interview Diane Georgopulos [FAIA, MassHousing]. She is delightful and brilliant!
Name: Diane Georgopulos FAIA
Job title and company: Architect for MassHousing
Degree(s): MArch from MIT
Affordable housing developments in Allston, Brighton, Jamaica Plain, Boston
I tell her I review plans and specifications that developers bring to MassHousing when they want to build or rehabilitate a project for affordable housing.
Playful squirrels tumbling over each other
As often as I can
Henning Mankell’s Kurt Wallander police mysteries; The Hare with the Amber Eyes by Edmund de Waal; Wolf Hall by Hilary Mantel
Only by hand
I am delighted that I got to be involved in so many activities involving terrific, creative, generous people.
Global firms that operate continuously across many time zones and local firms that work in only one time zone will service the needs of their clients at all scales. Whether a firm survives will depend upon profitability. Beauty will always count.
In combination with other things, design is essential to saving the world.
Providing people of limited income with better housing
Parents who loved me even when I did bad things; teachers who encouraged me to reach higher, work longer, strive harder; friends who make me laugh, especially at myself
Several years ago while listening to NPR on Saturday afternoon, I heard an interview with Warren Buffett’s daughter who was recounting her mother, Suzy’s, 5 Rules for Success: “Be on time. Pay attention. Don’t lie. Do your best. Don’t be attached to the outcome.” I don’t think you can improve on those rules.
The McKim, Mead and White BPL; the Saarinen Chapel at MIT
Betsy Pettit [FAIA, President , Building Science Corporation]
Design improves your life by coupling utility and beauty.
The road to Hell is paved with good intentions.