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Profile: Chad Reilly AIA

Steven Burke
Image: Chad Reilly AIA.

Name: Chad Reilly AIA
Job title and company: Vice President, Managing Principal, HDR’s Boston Architecture Studio
Degree(s): Master of Architecture, University of Texas, Austin; Bachelors in Visual and Environmental Studies, Harvard College

What are your professional interests?
Professional growth and development; alignment of individual passions for architecture with what it takes to run a successful business; and defining and reinforcing a sense of purpose in everything we do as professionals.

What are you working on now? 
My running joke is that, as managing principal of HDR’s Boston architecture studio, I work on nothing and everything at the same time. One of my primary areas of focus at the moment is strategic communications. As a large and diverse company, HDR has been successful throughout New England across many of our market sectors. But our expertise in healthcare and education|science|technology seems to have flown under the radar. I am determined to change that.

How do (or how did) you explain to your mom what you do for a living? 
Everyone else in my family has a law degree or a business degree or both, so I have always been the outlier. When we finished the Art of the Americas Wing project at the Museum of Fine Arts in Boston, I think it started to register that I don’t work on traditional-looking houses.

What inspired you today? 
An article shared on LinkedIn by Paul Nakazawa, associate professor in practice of architecture at Harvard University Graduate School of Design. It was about the National Memorial for Peace and Justice in Montgomery, Alabama, and lead with the title, "The single greatest work of 21st-century American architecture will break your heart."

What architectural buzzword would you kill? 
Ideation.

What are you reading? 
"The Idea Factory: Bell Labs and the Great Age of American Innovation," by Jon Gertner.

Do you sketch by hand or digitally? 
I mostly “sketch” in Excel—but I can produce some great-looking spreadsheets!


Photo courtesy of HDR © 2015 James Lane.

Has your career taken you anywhere you didn’t expect? 
I never expected to not be actively drawing and designing. One of the primary reasons I entered the design industry was the fulfillment that comes from seeing the physical manifestation of one’s endeavors. Having worked in management and operations for a number of years, what attracted me to my role as managing principal at HDR was the charge of taking an office and local culture that already existed and playing an active role in leading its growth. I saw the challenge of growing an office as closer to the kind of design thinking that inspired me to become an architect in the first place.

Where is the field of architecture headed? 
In more directions than anyone can count. With an accelerated rate of change in design and fabrication technology, information management and onsite energy generation, there are many in the profession who are paralyzed by the fear of liability and now run the risk of following in Blockbuster’s footsteps into obsolescence. Architects who have committed themselves to redefining the value and purview of architecture are redefining the profession and taking it in directions it has never been.

Can design save the world? 
The world is too complex to be saved by any one noun or verb. It seems, however, that an effective design process—one that engages a wide variety of constituents, explores a broad range of possibilities before presuming that the first solution is better than all the others, and inspires blue-sky thinking while also addressing pragmatic realities—might just give us a road map toward a less divisive public discourse.

What do you hope to contribute from your work? 
To work with professionals at every level, from right out of school to nearing retirement. I hope to contribute to their professional growth, development, and sense of fulfillment by creating an office environment that strives to be unrivaled and values the diversity and passions of each member of the team.

Who or what deserves credit for your success? 
My parents, who encouraged me to pursue a profession that I would enjoy. They supported me, even though I never took the economics class that they wanted me to, and even though they had no real idea of what a career in architecture would entail.

Your least favorite college class? 
Intro French. I had already taken three years of the class in high school, but somehow totally bombed the placement test.

If you could give the you-of-10-years-ago advice, what would it be? 
As you chart the course of your own career, you will probably find out that it will not go exactly the way you envisioned when you were in school. There will be some things you enjoy and some things that you are good at. If what you enjoy is also what you are good at, you can’t hope for more. If, however, they are not the same, only you can decide what path to take. Be prepared to work three times as hard to prove or develop your talent at the things you enjoy, and be prepared to trade fulfillment or other forms of advancement and reward. Or be open to growth and opportunities that might lie along a path that you never considered. Either way, you have one career journey, so listen to advice from people you trust. But don’t let anyone else decide the path for you.

Your favorite Boston-area structure? 
The HDR-designed new Government Center T Station has had an incredible impact on the commuters who pass through it each day. It brings an appropriate level of civic pride and dignity to City Hall plaza and creates a sense of arrival at what should and rightly be one of the most prominent—and busiest—subway stops in the system. The surrounding landscape and redefinition of the plaza have created a wonderful place of respite in what has always been a harsh urban environment.

Who would you like the BSA to interview next?
Steve Flanagan, vice president of business development and strategic recruiting, Lee Kennedy Co.

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


Photo courtesy of HDR © 2015 James Lane.