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Mar 21, 2024

Emily Paparella AIA

06 Emily Paparella headshot Elkus Manfredi Architects

Emily Paparella AIA, LEED AP, CPHC

Photo courtesy of Elkus Manfredi Architects.

Professional or personal website:


Bachelor of Design in Architecture, University of Florida

Master of Architecture, Massachusetts Institute of Technology

Professional interests:

In my master planning, campus planning, and architecture work, I am most engaged by cities and how to improve the experience of cities for everyone. I’m especially interested in low- and zero-energy building design and Passive House building principles, which I see as the future of the built environment. I also am focused on mentoring my junior colleagues, both within the firm and through professional organizations.

BSA involvement:

I’ve been involved with the BSA’s Women in Design community in different ways since I became a BSA member, learning from my mentors and mentees and paying it forward as much as I can to both the organization and more broadly, to women in commercial real estate.

01 Harvard Soldiers Field Park David Kurtis

Emily Paparella worked closely with CEO & founding principal David Manfredi on the master plan and redesign for the comprehensive renewal of Harvard University’s 478-apartment Soldiers Field Park complex, a four-building component of Harvard’s affiliate housing portfolio. All four phases of the project are LEED ID+C: CommercialInteriors-v3 Gold Certified.

Photo by David Kurtis.

Who or what deserves credit for your success?

I was very lucky as a child to have parents who really instilled in me a very strong sense of a work ethic and persistence – whatever you do, you do a good job and you never give up. At my firm, David Manfredi has been the leader that I look to for how to do great work, solve problems, and serve clients. And most of all, I have done the hard work myself of continuing to grow and learn, and maintaining the mindset that I can be better at this work every day.

How do you believe architecture/design can have the greatest impact shaping a community?

Architecture has to create places where everybody can belong. Architects have the skill set to listen and respond, as well as to solve problems. I think that’s important. We know through our work that a mix of different elements is part of creating a sense of community, but ultimately, we must create places that have identity and aren’t boring, places that people really love and want to come to. I think that’s how we have an impact.

02 Lantera At Boston Landing Robert Benson

Emily Paparella led the planning and design of the 17-story, 295-unit Lantera luxury apartment high-rise. Lantera is the residential component of New Balance’s Boston Landing, a seven-building mixed-use wellness district that was master planned by Elkus Manfredi Architects.

Photo by Robert Benson.

What do you hope to contribute from your work?

What I hope to contribute is definitely aspirational. As planners and architects, we have the opportunity and skill set to reduce emissions and embodied carbon in the building sector, and I want to help advance the technology of architecture to do that.

Also, I hope to make better places for people. Along with the driving need for more inclusive and community-focused design, buildings should elicit spirit and joy. I hope to design bold buildings that inspire people! As architects, we know how to solve problems and get the job done, but we always need to keep challenging ourselves – what else are we doing to inspire the people who experience our work?

What are some changes that you have implemented in your firm (or for yourself) to address issues of equity in your profession?

Elkus Manfredi established the IDEA Committee (Inclusion, Diversity, Equity, and Awareness) in 2020 to focus the firm’s efforts on building a more diverse, inclusive, and sustainable internal culture. I was a member of the first IDEA committee as we were developing our mission and figuring out what the work entailed and how to do it.

For me, two important things have emerged over the last four years that IDEA has been part of the firm. The first: the firm making the decision that issues of equity, inclusion, and diversity are important enough to devote considerable resources to it in a consistent and steady way over time. The commitment itself has been a crucial part of the progress we’ve already made.

Secondly, the committee was starting with the “E” of Equity and figuring out how to get there. What we’ve learned is that the “I,” Inclusion, is the key. During the committee’s first year, we did a lot of research about inclusion and Maslow’s hierarchy of needs. It turns out that having a sense of belonging – feeling included – is one of our most basic needs right after food, water, shelter, and safety. It all starts with inclusion, which is then the path into being more diverse, which in turn is the path to a more equitable world.

The need for inclusion is not something that architects have always named and had awareness around. If you’re going to work on something, you have to know what you’re working on. So now, having named the need and having awareness, we can work on it. It all sounds so simple, but a sense of inclusion really is a tangible quality and it’s the way into diversity and equity.

03 Simmons Learning Center Gwen Ifill Entrance Peter Vanderwarker

Emily Paparella is Elkus Manfredi’s Project Executive leading the planning and design of the 20-year, three-phased “One Simmons” initiative, a strategic reimagining of the Simmons University campus. Phases 1 and 2 of the project are complete, with the final phase, a large mixed-use student living and learning center scheduled for completion in 2026.

Photo by Peter Vanderwarker.

What do you see as the largest barrier to a zero-waste building, city, and world?

There are a lot of barriers – cultural, cost, and time. We know that the culture of consumption is an uphill battle. But in the building industry specifically, there are strategies that can enable us to make progress toward zero waste.

We recently collaborated with the City of Boston, RecyclingWorks Massachusetts, and the BSA/Carbon Leadership Forum Boston on a deconstruction project for the Zero Waste Boston program. The new Simmons University Living and Learning Center required the deconstruction of an existing academic science building, where our goal was to divert as much as possible from landfills. We learned that deconstruction and waste diversion need to be included in the specifications, and the associated costs and timelines need to be accommodated in the schedule. Another hurdle was identifying opportunities and logistics for diversion of the materials. Through collaborations with 17 organizations – including non-profits, schools, and artists – we were able to divert 12.2 tons of waste from landfills by removing and reusing over 1,800 items, including furniture, lab glassware, books, and household items.

04 Simmons Reference Library Connie Zhou

Phases 1 and 2 of the "One Simmons" initiative are complete and include a modern library (shown) and health science facilities. This strategic renovation project also yielded greater utilization of existing academic spaces by adding more student-facing spaces, and bringing them up to today’s building safety and ADA standards.

Photo by Connie Zhou.

If you could sum up your outlook on life in a bumper sticker, what would it say?

Drink coffee and do stuff!

05 Emily Paparella With Team Elkus Manfredi Architects

Named a principal of Elkus Manfredi Architects in 2023, Emily Paparella (center, seated) guides her teams with a collaborative and inclusive leadership style.

Photo by Ben Cheung.