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Mar 18, 2016

Josiah Stevenson FAIA

Josiah Stevenson headshot

All Images courtesy of Leers Weinzapfel Associates

Job title and company: Principal, Leers Weinzapfel Associates
Degree(s): MArch, BA

Professional interests: I am interested in the place and meaning of civic buildings in our cities, in creativity with cost-effective design, and making sustainability a part of the experience and awareness of a building’s users.

What are you working on now?
I am working on an addition to a Boys and Girls Club in Allston, a theater in a historic building in Lowell, the construction of a courthouse in Greenfield, and some visioning for a prominent college.

A new theater addition to the West End House Boys & Girls Club in Allston

How do you explain to your mom what you do for a living?
I say I design civic and academic buildings and buildings for community organizations.

What inspired you today?
At this writing, Venus, Jupiter, and Mars are in conjunction, high in the sky at dawn. I run at the beach at that time, and it is way more cosmic than it sounds.

When you’re working, do you discuss or exchange ideas with your colleagues?
Of course. We are a very collaborative office, and we designed the space to facilitate the exchange of ideas. We have regular “design lunches” to present and get feedback from the entire office on a specific project in design.

Middlesex Community College Performing Arts Complex
Restored and reconstructed 1876 railroad depot to create a new performing arts complex

What are you reading?
Seveneves by Neal Stephenson; [it’s] about the world in 5,000 years. (Sorry, I am a sci-fi nerd.) Next: Heroic by my Wentworth teaching colleague Mark Pasnik AIA; Michael Kubo; and Chris Grimley.

Do you sketch by hand or digitally?
I sketch conceptual ideas with a fat pencil, and I look at more detailed issues in Sketch Up. I love doing both, but I wouldn’t call the latter sketching.

Has your career taken you anywhere you didn’t expect?
Probably everywhere. I didn’t expect to become, as some might say, a courthouse expert. I am very happy and fulfilled to have worked on a lot of nonprofit/community work that has a big impact on communities.

Middlesex Community College Performing Arts Complex
Model showing theater nested inside existing building

Where is the field of architecture headed?
Positive: We see more images than ever due to the myriad architecture websites, blogs, and e-mags. I think this has raised the design level of your average building just by architects looking at more images. Negative: They used to say a few corporations will run the world one day, and in our profession, it seems like [that] is coming true. The large firms are doing great; the shrinking middle is not.

Can design save the world?
Yes—I have seen it happen on some of our projects with nonprofit clients.

What do you hope to contribute from your work?
Hopefully people will use these spaces and create great memories within them.

Greenfield Trial Court, Greenfield, MA
New addition to the historic courthouse housing courtrooms and a law library

Who or what deserves credit for your success?
Living in Japan and my knowledge of carpentry have had an influence on my way of seeing things go together and on my interest in how details support the design idea. I am also continually learning from my colleagues.

Your least favorite college class?
Easy: Statistics.

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

Your favorite Boston-area structure?
Carpenter Center.

Whom would you like the BSA to interview next?
I would be interested in reading interviews with designers and professionals we all may work with, like fabrication, lighting, and landscape designers, to name a few. I would also like to hear from academics.

If you were on a late-night TV show, what would your 30-second plug be?
This guy can juggle and recite Robert Frost at the same time.

If you could sum up your outlook on life in a bumper sticker, what would it say?
Live long and prosper. However, I would never put it on because it might jinx the whole thing.

Greenfield Trial Court, Greenfield, MA
New daylight courtroom