Bobby Main AIA
Architect, Silverman Trykowski Associates
In celebration of Pride Month, the BSA is featuring Profiles on LGBTQ+ architects in the profession.
Bachelor of Architecture, Wentworth of Institute of Technology
Master of Architecture, Wentworth Institute of Technology
What does Pride Month mean to you?
It’s a month where we as a community can come together and both celebrate our accomplishments and also reflect on our community’s shared history. But also, continue the dialogue on what we have yet to do within our broader community.
Do you have any words of advice for LGBTQ+ students or emerging professionals who don’t see much representation in the field of architecture and design?
We’re out there! Boston in particular is a city that is surprisingly rich with LGBTQ+ architects and designers. I would be remiss if I didn’t use this opportunity to plug the LGBTQ+ knowledge community that I’m the co-chair of. Come to one of our meetings (currently held virtually) and meet some new friends.
You have been a strong advocate for LGBTQ+ designers, what steps can firms make to create a more inclusive environment?
A big topic of discussion right now in the industry (and the world at large) is one around restrooms. There are some really interesting initiatives out there, such as Stalled! who are looking to redevelop the entire idea of how we think about restrooms and redesigning them in a more-inclusive way for everyone, regardless of age, gender, disability, race, or religion. Take some time to look into these ideas and see if they may be applicable to projects you’re designing. The building and plumbing codes are changing and supporting these kinds of initiatives will help to bring more widespread awareness and adoption of them. While you’re at it, consider your own office’s restrooms: are they gendered? Do they need to be? Is there a way to redesign (or possibly even just re-label) them in a way that is more inclusive to people who may not fall along the standard gender binary? Though you may not have any employees who currently openly identify as non-binary, addressing topics such as this in a proactive manner will work to solidify the goals of fostering an inclusive environment to all as a core part of your office’s culture.
Did you have any mentors that have influenced you, or helped guide you?
Seeing out LGBTQ+ members of my high school and college faculty and staff always made me feel reassured that I can be an out and proud person and also succeed in my career.
When did you first become interested in architecture as a possible career?
I was always a builder and tinkerer growing up - K*nex, legos, erector sets, marble racetracks, you name it. My father - an elevator mechanic in New York City - would occasionally take my mom and I on service calls on weekends where I’d see not only so many different buildings up close and personal, but also got to venture into the parts of the buildings that most people don’t even think about. Seeing all these spaces made me want to know more about how everything all worked together. Basically, I knew what I wanted to do even before I understood how to make a career of it.
If you could give the you of 10 years ago advice, what would it be?
I waited at least nine or so years into my professional career to start taking the Architect Registration Exam. While I gained valuable experience in that time, once I started to study again, I realized I had forgotten how to do it effectively since it had been so long since college! It took me a long time to get back into the education-mindset. So my advice to myself and anyone reading this would be to not wait and start taking your ARE’s.
Who or what deserves credit for your success?
I was fortunate to attend a public school district with a very strong vocational program, which allowed me to take architectural drafting courses while still in high school. I knew I was interested in pursuing a career in architecture so this allowed me to further develop my interests from an early age. Taking first place in the Skills USA / VICA state architectural drafting competition was a great sign that I was on the right track, and it helped give me the confidence I needed to pursue all those college applications.
What is your favorite Boston-area building or structure?
The Christian Science Center plaza. It was my go-to place in college whenever I needed a few moments of reflection.
Which one of your current projects excites you the most?
I’m working on concepts regarding the potential repositioning of a former mill building and nearby parking garage into creative, flexible space for modern office, technology and R&D users. It’s exciting to work with a client who’s interested in big picture ideas on how to transform these buildings into spaces that allow for increased collaboration, not to mention saving two long-standing buildings in good condition from a wrecking ball and preserving them for decades to come.
Do you believe that architecture/design can save the world?
Certainly not by ourselves. But, we are in a unique position to influence methods of design and construction that reduce our overall carbon footprint and preserve the world we live in for generations to come. It’s important to understand that the resources we have available to us are not infinite and that we should make the most of them.
What do you hope to contribute from your work?
I want to create spaces that help people - whether by making the place they live or work more comfortable or even just a place that makes someone enjoy being present in that space. I want to do it in a way that minimizes the impact to the world around us.
What does equity mean to you?
It means that every person, regardless of their situation, has access to the resources they need to be successful. It’s not a ‘one size fits all’ solution, but solutions that are individually tailored to people to address each person’s unique needs.
What are some changes that you have implemented in your firm (or for yourself) to address issues of equity in the profession?
Coming out of COVID, our team is actively discussing how best to go forward in terms of what the office of the future is going to look like and how to strike the right balance between in-office time and flexible work time. While there’s no digital substitute for that long, collaborative team meeting over a set of drawings, over the last year we’ve learned to collaborate in new and exciting ways that allows more flexibility. This can easily extend itself to allow firms to hire people who may have mobility issues, or who may need to be remote for a period of time to deal with a sick family member, being new parents, or other unique personal situations. Providing more options to collaborate in ways that work to the strength of each employee allows them to bring their best to their work.
I’ve also recently begun work to get our firm JUST Certified, an endeavor that I also participated in at my previous firm. Working to obtain JUST certification makes you comb over your office’s policies, compare them to an ideal environment, and self-reflect and evaluate ways to improve your firm’s operations to bring it to a more equitable level.
What do you see as the largest barrier to a zero-waste building, city, and world?
Getting the full buy-in from all parties involved: clients, users, consultants, product manufacturers, contractors… I’ve been very fortunate to have worked on many projects with forward-thinking clients, but there always tends to be somewhere along the process where the product, technology, or outcome just isn’t where we need it to be yet. As architects, it’s our job to keep on all parties involved to continually produce more sustainable products.
Whom do you most enjoy partnering with on a project?
I’ve always found that the most successful projects are the ones where the client is able to convey their project ambitions in a clear and passionate way. While projects are never without their unique challenges, being able to collaborate with your clients on a common shared goal makes all the stress and hard work worth it in the end.
What are you reading right now?
“Scrappy Little Nobody” by Anna Kendrick.
Have you had a memorable experience while working on a BSA initiative that you would like to share?
Participating in “Canstruction" a few years ago was a fun and unique way to bond with colleagues to design and then actually build our own creations. We learned a lot about the limits of foamcore and the aggregate weight of canned tuna that year! Best of all, all the ‘building materials’ were donated to a food pantry at the end, so it all went to support a great cause.