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Dec 02, 2021

Adrienne Cali Magners AIA

01 Adrienne Cali headshot

2021 AIA Young Architects Award Recipient


Bachelor of Architecture, Philadelphia University

Master of Arts in Historic Preservation, Savannah College of Art and Design

Professional interests:

Historic preservation, adaptive reuse, new additions, community involvement, renewed urban centers, main streets

When did you first become interested in architecture as a possible career?

I first became interested in architecture at age 12, after experiencing my godfather design our family home and watching it come to life during construction. Several years later, my first summer internship in architecture focused on concept design for the rehabilitation of an abandoned lace factory. It was there that I fell in love with factory buildings and the stories of people using them. I studied a book about MASS MoCA, a mill building renovated by Bruner/Cott Architects, to get inspiration for the project. Eight years later, I ended up working for Bruner/Cott and still adore historic buildings. As I gain more experience in my profession, I continually re-evaluate what architecture is, what it means for people that use buildings, and what historic preservation means to me.

If you could give the you of 10 years ago advice, what would it be?

If I could give advice to myself 10 years ago, it would be that I am my own best advocate. Over the course of my career, I’ve learned that you must be the one to advocate for your time, salary, and what you want out of your career. Early on, I would internalize overwhelming feelings of not being able to align my professional and personal aspirations. With the help of my principals, I was able to talk about my experiences, make changes to my schedule, and adjust my own expectations. Speaking openly on behalf of myself was necessary to feel happy and balanced in such a demanding profession.

Which one of your current projects excites you the most?

We are planning a multi-phased exterior restoration of the Arlington Street Church at the corner of Boylston and Arlington Streets. Last week we conducted a conditions assessment of the failing brownstone from a boom lift about 150 feet in the air. It was amazing to see the size of the stone that was installed in 1860 on the 200-foot-tall tower! The engineering and construction of the church is awesome to see first-hand, particularly when climbing up the series of ladders on the interior to the observatory level. It is exciting to have access to obscure areas in the city – almost like being in the movie National Treasure.

05 Arlington Street Church credit Aerial Genomics

Arlington Street Church. Photo by Aerial Genomics

What do you hope to contribute from your work?

I want to help people realize the potential existing buildings have, particularly when they are at the center of new development. Existing buildings make new architecture more interesting to me. They are a timeless connection to our past that use solid building materials which are expensive to build with today. With creativity, we can adapt and adjust existing buildings to suit modern needs and programs—some ways could include building an addition, installing an elevator, upgrading to meet current building codes or modernizing the envelope for better energy efficiency. Bruner/Cott is known for moving existing buildings on the site to realize the greatest potential for redevelopment.

What does equity mean to you?

To me, equity means giving everyone an equal opportunity and access to jobs, housing, food, and other universal human needs. Access is difficult to overcome, since people theoretically have the same availability for basic human needs, but money sets us apart. An equitable world is one where there are no stereotypes or prejudices. With true equality, women and people of different ethnic backgrounds, whose perspectives can benefit how we live and work, would be represented in positions of high power.

What is the most effective step you’ve taken in your work toward a more sustainable built environment?

Reusing existing buildings is at the top of my list, but I think all architects can push for small steps with every client—using renewable energy, low-carbon footprint, recycled materials, reducing building waste, insulating and weatherizing to create a tight building envelope, natural ventilation and local control of building systems. These thoughts are always in the back of my mind—use less and use local.

04 Lesley University Lunder Arts Center credit Richard Mandelkorn

The Lunder Arts Center at Lesley University. Photo by Richard Mandelkorn

What is the greatest potential for architecture to shape a neighborhood community?

Architecture shapes natural gathering places for the act of community—sharing, gathering, talking, shopping, and eating. By designing landscapes and architecture that is inviting and supports the community’s needs—from town greens and civic plazas to the beautiful piazzas of Italy—architecture forges connections and strengthens a place’s identity, as well as its social and cultural values. Historic preservation is important in this situation of connecting with history and having a sense of place.

Where do you find inspiration?

As an architect with a passion for preservation, I find inspiration by looking to the past to understand how our cities and towns were developed, how they changed over time, and what they might look like in the future. I’m interested in city plans, what buildings were constructed first, how innovation changed the streets and landscape, and what might be the next big change to the built environment.

What would you like to see change about Boston’s built environment?

In Boston’s built environment, I’d like to see more public access to the waterfront. I am disappointed with the view and activity at the water’s edge near Christopher Columbus Waterfront Park. I enjoy the harbor walk, but I would like to see more people engaging and interacting with downtown Boston’s waterfront—it feels closed off, private, and uninviting. I enjoy walking around the waterfront side of the aquarium to watch the jumping seals and sit on the granite blocks on the wharf. It seems like a secret because there often aren’t many people around. If spaces like these are better known or easier to find, I think it would improve the visitor experience and benefit of access to water around us.