David Hacin FAIA
President and Founder, Hacin + Associates
In celebration of Pride Month, the BSA is featuring Profiles on LGBTQ+ architects in the profession.
BA scl, Princeton University
MArch, Harvard University Graduate School of Design
It means inclusivity, universality and, mostly, visibility. It’s very important that we all be constantly reminded of all the many groups [and individuals] that make up our city and community and ensure that no one feels marginalized or left behind for who they are as human beings.
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?
Be visible and comfortable with yourself! Most people are drawn to people who project self-confidence about their true self, and you are likely to find out there are more connections and representation around you than it might seem at first. Your boss may not be LGBTQ+, but their sister or son or best friend may be and there could be more understanding and support than you think.
My father was an architect in Switzerland, so I grew up with architecture in my blood and all around me. He always wanted to make sure I was pursuing the profession for the right reasons, so I was very happy when he recognized that I was as passionate about it as he was and started actively encouraging and mentoring me. A high school trip to Fallingwater sealed the deal. I was hooked.
Relax a little. Be yourself. Hard work and a commitment to quality yields results over time.
Many places. Abu Dhabi, Paris, Wyoming. But what I really didn’t expect when I graduated from the GSD was that I would be so committed to Boston itself, a city where I had no prior ties at all. After almost 40 years here, I have fallen completely in love with the city and my South End neighborhood and feel very fortunate to have ended up in New England. For someone who didn’t know exactly where or how he fit in growing up, I found the perfect place to live and practice. In the end, getting married to my husband Tim in the state that pioneered marriage equality feels like I hit the jackpot
I love them all but I’m very excited about our proposed development at the Benjamin Franklin Institute of Technology in the South End with Related Beal. The project adds affordable housing and senior living options to my neighborhood while leveraging the private development to preserve historic buildings, create public open space and, most importantly, allow the BFIT to build a new, state of the art facility in Nubian Square. It’s also at my doorstep so I have high hopes for the building design and for strengthening the local business and retail district.
That’s a very big question but, for me right now, it means equal access to opportunity and to understanding what those opportunities can be. There cannot be true equity in the architectural profession until every young person growing up in any and every community can imagine themselves as an architect or a designer. Right now, too many young people have no exposure to design as a career at all. It’s not even on the radar. That’s very troubling to me because it is indicative of so many other inequities.
What is the most effective step you’ve taken in your work toward a more sustainable built environment?
Like many firms [hopefully all], we are taking a close look at how to be better advocates for sustainable practices to our clients and collaborators. We have set up an H+Green task force and are trying to push beyond the new standards that communities like Boston have been implementing. However, our practice has always been deeply imbedded with preservation and the adaptive reuse of existing structures, which is foundational to the very definition of the word ‘sustainable’. Reuse the past; Build for the future and build to last.
I genuinely believe that communities are shaped by countless factors that eventually ‘add up’ to something special and unique – of which architecture is only one. Recognizing and strengthening the best qualities of a neighborhood with a series of thoughtful, incremental interventions [a great restaurant, a new park, a well scaled housing development, a community amenity or service] is usually more powerful and authentic than one big, top down move. On the other hand, a truly great and well programmed piece of architecture can give a community identity and purpose. In short, it depends.
It’s usually not the words themselves but how architects use them to explain their work. I recently tried to read some parts of a Venice Biennale catalogue and had to ask myself whether the architects and academics writing these project descriptions wanted to be understood by the public at all. That is a problem. We should be aiming to demystify and clarify, not the opposite.
The Electoral College system.
I would like to see more emphasis and investment in the public realm. If Boston really is America’s “most European” city, maybe we should take a page from their commitment to building better streets, pedestrian areas, bikeways, parks and public infrastructure. Private development and developers should not have to bear that burden without a strong public financial commitment.