Miguel Rosales AIA
President, Rosales + Partners
In celebration of Hispanic Heritage Month, the BSA is featuring Profiles on Hispanic and Latinx architects in the profession.
Degree(s): Masters in Architecture and Urban Design, MIT
Diploma in Architecture, Universidad Francisco Marroquin, Guatemala
Professional interests: Bridge design and engineering
What is a meaningful way that your culture shapes your work?
Being born abroad in a different culture has shaped my career in many ways. For example, in Guatemala the general public can not express an opinion about projects sponsored by the government like bridges and highways. When I moved to Boston it was very refreshing that a community participation process could help inform decisions about the design of a bridge. Since I grew up without that privilege I always enjoy and appreciate that aspect of my projects. At the end of the day, bridges “belong" to the public and they should have input into the decision making process as future users.
When did you first become interested in architecture as a possible career?
I first became interested in architecture after high school. In Guatemala, my country of origin, you need to select a career path prior to starting college, and I elected to attend the school of architecture at Universidad Francisco Marroquin. I was interested in art and design and becoming an architect was appealing. At the beginning, I believed that after graduation I was going to design houses and buildings… I never imagined that bridges would become my long-term career focus.
How do (or how did) you explain to your parents what you do for a living?
My mother is still living in Guatemala, and she understands that I design and help build bridges across the United States. She has visited me in Boston and has seen many of my projects in the Boston area including the Zakim, Longfellow, and Appleton Bridges. A few years ago, we also visited Revere Beach to see the Markey Bridge, which had been recently completed. She was excited and proud to see my work in person.
Has your career taken you anywhere you didn’t expect?
Yes, as bridge design is not a traditional career path for an architect. When I decided to concentrate on bridges and form Rosales + Partners, I had to complement my education by taking bridge engineering courses and conducting bridge-related independent studies in Switzerland and Spain. I was awarded several research grants to conduct those studies from the National Endowment for the Arts, MIT, and the AIA.
Which one of your current projects excites you the most?
My latest project in Boston is the North Washington Street Bridge, which is being built in Boston Harbor and will connect the North End and Charlestown. The bridge will be multi-modal and will include protected cycle tracks, wide sidewalks, and a dedicated bus lane, in addition to vehicular lanes. It was designed to visually compliment the Zakim Bridge located nearby. Both bridges will be visible together from a distance, particularly from the water and from coastal neighborhoods. The bridge will also include landscaping to separate the different transportation modes, which will be a first in the city. It is expected to be completed in 2023, and it has been exciting to frequently visit the construction site and see my design start to take shape and become a reality.
What are some changes that you have implemented in your firm (or for yourself) to address issues of equity in your profession?
As a designer and owner of a successful firm, it is important to highlight and be proud of my Hispanic ethnicity. Having more role models in the profession that represent various backgrounds, ethnicities, and races helps provide incentive to aspiring young people considering design as a career path.
What is the most effective step you’ve taken in your work toward a more sustainable built environment?
We have designed several innovative pedestrian and bicycle bridges which can help to promote the use of alternative transportation modes. Our most recently completed pedestrian bridge in the Boston area is the Appleton Bridge that connects Beacon Hill to the Esplanade and the Charles River. It crosses over Storrow Drive via a curvilinear set of approach ramps and a long span steel arch that was designed to visually compliment the adjacent historic Longfellow bridge in which we were also involved as preservation architects and bridge designers.
Many pedestrians and bicyclists cross that bridge daily, and it has become a very important link to many users of the park and river as it is the only ADA accessible bridge from Boston to the Esplanade. We also have other pedestrian/bicycle bridges in construction in New York City and Hickory, North Carolina. Another of our projects will soon start construction along the waterfront in Seattle-- that one will connect to the main ferry terminal in the city. The use of large-scale ferries is also a way to reduce vehicular use, and this new bridge will help achieve this goal. Each of these bridges will help the environment by promoting walking, bicycling, and other more sustainable modes of transportation.
Where do you find inspiration?
I find inspiration in nature and try to spend my free time gardening, which I find very relaxing and fulfilling. I have gardens in Beacon Hill and Palm Beach and enjoy taking care of them.
If you could redesign anything, what would it be?
I would like to help redesign the Tobin Bridge. The bridge was designed in an era in which aesthetics and urban design were not a consideration. It is highly visible from a distance, and it is obvious that its appearance and urban integration could be substantially improved. The city of Chelsea, just across the Mystic River, sits under the shadow of that structure and for decades has been isolated and negatively impacted by the utilitarian bridge. It would be amazing someday to have the opportunity to help change this unfortunate situation.