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Mar 01, 2017

Leaving las presidency

Barnes header

Header image: Women in Design symposium, ABX 2016. Credit: Ben Gebo.

My term as BSA president is probably best remembered as the shortest ever, as well as the generator of possibly the longest term—Robert Brown’s. This was a consequence of the new job I got while I was just coming up to speed as president.

One of the innovations that I contributed to was the tradition of a board retreat early in the year, the first one being held that year (2001) at Chatham Bars Inn on Cape Cod. The retreat was established to enable the board to determine its own agenda for the year, and to take a deep, quick polar-bear dive into aligning the new BSA board leadership team. It was my accepting the job of chief planner for the Boston Redevelopment Authority (BRA) that forced Robert into the top spot before he had a chance to look around the presidential landscape and realize what he was being handed. Thank you, Robert! At that retreat, I was encouraged to take the BRA job by Tom Keane Hon. BSA, then BSA’s public director and its first post-Richard Fitzgerald, executive director.

I chose to step into the unwieldy world of the BRA, carried along in that direction by the civic-spirit habit I’d developed through BSA service. Most of what I might’ve accomplished as president had already been done when I stepped away—I’d led the Washington Street Connections community charrette, thanks to Lee Cott FAIA’s recruitment magic, as well as the next BSA charrette called A Civic Initiative that culminated in the creation of the Massachusetts Smart Growth Alliance—which today continues doing its good civic work as an NGO. I’d also had a hand in shaping and funding a new Women in Design organization that thrived for many years and spawned a number of initiatives including the annual Women in Design conference within Build Boston/ABX and the Women in Design Award program. All this was done in the inclusive, expansive, supportive, creative, civic-hearted, and good-humored “let’s put on a show” way that was (is?) the BSA’s special gift to Boston from those of us who drank that vitamin-rich Kool-Aid.

The people I worked with and came to know as friends and advisors and collaborators through the BSA, many of whom are past presidents, are among the finest and most effective colleagues I have had the good fortune to work and play with, people who defined through their actions the leadership of architects in pursuit of excellence in Boston’s built environment.

Rebecca G. Barnes FAIA, 2001 BSA president