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Aug 09, 2023

Janaya Hart AIA

06 Janaya Hart Elkus Manfredi

Janaya Hart.

Photo courtesy of Elkus Manfredi Architects.

Senior Associate, Elkus Manfredi Architects

Professional or personal website


Bachelor of Architecture, Cornell University

Professional interests:

Sustainability, healthy materials

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

In high school, my strengths aligned with what I understood as architecture. Perspective drawing in art class and building bridges to test their strength in physics were captivating to me. I watched my parents renovate my childhood home, which also sparked an interest. There was no project too big, even if it meant jackhammering through Roxbury pudding stone to self-construct a fence in the backyard or hanging out of the window to put a new coat of paint on the shutters. Summer programs and internships ultimately sealed the deal.

How do (or how did) you explain to your parents what you do for a living?

There are parts of my work that overlap with my parents’ professional interests—whether in contracting or the arts—that are easily transferable. Throughout college, I brought home plenty of work over Thanksgiving and spring break, so they’ve seen it all! In my professional career, it’s more so explaining how involved we are in the whole process of design, from permitting to completion.

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

Ten years ago I was entering my fifth year of architecture studies. I would tell myself to take it easy and get more sleep. Those all-nighters will catch up with you later! And start counting my internship hours toward licensure now! I didn’t know that was allowed at the time.

Who or what deserves credit for your success?

Primarily my parents for acknowledging and encouraging my curiosities and putting me in the right places to explore. My older sister for leading by example and always setting a high standard. Anyone who took time out of their busy day to teach me, lead me in the right direction, and answer any questions I had. There were several teachers throughout high school who noticed and nurtured my curiosities, by either providing opportunities for further exploration or talking to me about my options in this field.

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Cedar Street row houses.

Photo by Matthew Dickey.

What is your favorite Boston-area building or structure?

I’ll go the sentimental route and say the historic marble front row houses on Cedar Street in Roxbury. My grandmother lived in one of the condos when I was growing up, and I loved spending time there. The marble exterior, mansard roof, and intricate detailing of the windows will always be ingrained in my mind, and I love that it has maintained its character over time.

Has your career taken you anywhere you didn’t expect?

I’m from Boston, and my career has actually kept me here. Most of my friends and family assumed I would have moved to LA or New York City by now. But my work and love for the city, and the constant evolution of both have kept me around.

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Crafts Street Elder Housing

Image courtesy of Elkus Manfredi Architects.

Which one of your current projects excites you the most?

I’m currently working on a multifamily senior housing project in Newton that will be designed to Passive House standards. It has been exciting not only because of the enhanced energy saving and comfort components but also because the team for this project has been quite collaborative and receptive to new ways of thinking and implementation. This attitude is encouraging and absolutely necessary given how advanced Boston’s energy codes are becoming.

What has been your most proud moment as an architect/designer?

A colleague and I had the opportunity to revisit one of our multifamily residential projects and talk to the tenants about their experience living in the building. It was fantastic to hear how much of an impact we can have on someone’s everyday life through design and the built environment. Watching tenants using the space that I helped create is really an honor.

If you could collaborate with anyone in the profession, who would it be and why?

There is so much talent at Elkus Manfredi Architects, within architecture and throughout all the studios and departments. I hope to work with as many colleagues at all stages of their careers as possible. I’m also intrigued by cross-pollination with those in other professions who are doing work that relates to the field of architecture: it could be a scientist studying biomimicry and how that carries over to building materials or someone with an understanding of artificial intelligence and how it is starting to influence our efficiency and workflow.

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7INK front facade.

Photo by Raj Das.

Have you won any award(s) from the BSA or another establishment? What elements from that project would you like to see shape the future of the profession?

The 7INK inclusive living residential building, as part of the larger Ink Block masterplan, won the Project of the Year award from the New England Chapter of the Construction Management Association of America and was also featured in Interior Design magazine. It’s a unique typology, which addresses the need for housing that targets Boston’s younger population.

Tell us about your path to architecture and how it has impacted your career.

My path to architecture was fortunately very streamlined, given that I had selected a career path as early as high school. However, my first-year studio in college required unlearning what I thought architecture was and forced a conceptual way of thinking. It was the first time working hard wasn’t enough. I had to step outside my comfort zone, think differently, and learn to defend my work. Although essential to my development, the new approach was presented as a challenge and led me to question my fit in the architecture program. It wasn’t until beginning my professional career that I found purpose and validation in my strengths as an organizer, action taker, and well-rounded technical team member. As an architect now working in the profession, I look to mentor students as they venture through college and begin their careers. I hope to also lead by example and demonstrate to others who might have college experiences similar to mine that architecture is a feasible career that welcomes a blend of approaches.

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7INK coffee bar

Photo by Connie Zhou.

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

Constantly continuing to learn. Implementation of the information is usually the toughest part. I’ve accepted that progress is slow, and we have to keep proposing ideas to create new norms that will eventually prove successful. Staying on top of the sustainability developments is overwhelming, but championing one or two new ideas each time you begin a new project is a huge step forward.

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

While we work to make net-zero buildings more mainstream, the challenge will lie in retrofits and planning for existing buildings to follow suit—in particular, residential areas made up of fully occupied duplexes and triple-decker homes. Urgency also varies across the United States and across the world. Execution of a net-zero world doesn’t work unless we all participate and believe in achieving the goal. There is enough research and successful precedents to prove that it’s possible. I think unification is our biggest barrier.

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

A neighborhood community starts with the people. People gravitate to and make “place” out of their environment—to live, work, or play—but only where they feel welcome. We need to pay attention to the types of retail, activity, and recreation that successful neighborhoods offer to encourage a diverse population to feel comfortable to explore, shop, start a family, or open a business. It begins with encouraging interaction, making spaces more physically open, and finding ways to consider safety without creating barricades. This works in concert with landscape design, signage and marketing, affordability of both housing and retail, and community programming and events.

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7INK entry.

Photo by Connie Zhou.

Where do you find inspiration?

Roxbury, where I grew up. There is a sense of community, recreation, and history there that we work hard to emulate as architects, often creating brand-new spaces and attempting to establish their identity. Also, communities like Jamaica Plain, specifically around Centre Street, which is an example of how a place can evolve and stay relevant without losing its character.

What are you reading right now?

The PHIUS [Passive House Institute US] Certification Guidebook.

What was your least favorite college class?

Calculus, for sure. I didn’t have AP courses in high school, so it was a requirement. The curriculum changed when I was in first year, so I was able to drop the class and took a summer course in cryptology, which was actually pretty cool, to make up the math credit.

If you could redesign anything, what would it be?

My college thesis, which was an elevated residential community with adaptable market space at the ground floor. The concept of creating what I called an “eco-active village” is something I still strongly believe in, so I’d love a second chance at executing the idea. Maybe many years from now when I retire I’ll revisit it!