Skip to Content

Profile: Henry Moss AIA, LEED AP

Name: Henry Moss AIA, LEED AP
Job title and company: Principal, Bruner/Cott & Associates
Degree(s): Bachelor of Arts, Harvard University; MArch, Harvard Graduate School of Design; DArch (Honorary), Boston Architectural College
Professional interests: Contemporary design for urban revitalization, large historic building complexes—especially midcentury modern campus architecture—and designed settings for contemporary art

What are you working on now?

An invited “ideas” competition for Fort Mason Center in San Francisco (we are finalists), Jose Lluis Sert’s Holyoke Center, Boston University School of Law, Phase III at the Waltham Watch Factory and several exciting new initiatives at Mass MoCA

Waltham Watch factory in Waltham, Massachusetts; photo by Rick Mandelkorn.

How do you explain to your mom what you do for a living?

My sister and son are landscape architects, so she is well rehearsed with family members’ obsessive takes on the built environment. She doesn’t see much difference between work on historic structures and new buildings. She thinks I draw pictures of buildings with pencils, and I guess I do.

What inspired you today?

An essay by Zadie Smith about changes to her old neighborhood in northwest London. She used two interesting word pairings: cultural vandalism and cultural taxidermy. In the work I have to do during the coming week, it will feel like skateboarding between those two extremes.

What architectural buzzword would you kill?

“Green”; I like numbers.

When you’re working, do you discuss or exchange ideas with your colleagues?

Constantly. With our best work, it is impossible to say who the designer was. Nevertheless, I am able to have a lot of influence.

What are you reading?

The Inner Sky: Poems, Notes, Dreams by Rainer Maria Rilke [and] Thinking the Twentieth Century by Tony Judt

Do you sketch by hand or digitally?

By hand—blue Pentel, or HB lead-smeared with color pencils

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

As an architecture student, I had no idea that existing buildings “existed,” at least as an avenue for new architecture.

Where is the field of architecture headed?

In the United States and Western Europe, it seems to be getting better and better, especially contemporary modernism with an overlay of hard thinking about resource conservation. Our cities seem also to be getting much healthier, although advances are difficult in secondary industrial centers. Formally, I am intrigued by the part that transparency plays in recent architecture for urban settings. I am not sure that we have caught up with this phenomenon critically. This is no longer just a matter of nakedness in the protected precinct of the Farnsworth House.

Can design save the world?

We can demonstrate ways to act constructively. Save the world from what? Religious warfare, unknown viruses, the heat death of the planet?

What do you hope to contribute from your work?

A richer experience for people who come into contact with sites and buildings where my colleagues and I have worked; examples of new ways to think about existing places

Who or what deserves credit for your success?

Amazingly, people have trusted me enough to try things that they would not imagine themselves.

Your least favorite college class?

Expository writing. There was no suggestion that writing is connected to thinking.

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

Stay connected to both design and construction. I have.

Your favorite Boston-area structure?

I love the Boston subway and surface-rail public-transport system, particularly those passages when trains emerge from underground to re-engage the street and sky: the Red Line at the Charles River, the Green Line at Huntington Avenue. I also like the view of the city from Boston Harbor, where I can imagine that the entire prospect is one complicated building.

Who would you like the BSA to interview next?

Edward Glaeser, Harvard economist; if you already have engaged him, consider landscape architect Richard (“Skip”) Burck ASLA.

If you were on a late-night TV show, what would your 30-second plug be?

People should expect an enormous amount of new building and urban growth during the next 50 years when all hell will be breaking loose within the global climate. The cost of denial will be huge, but we can act more effectively if we start planning for changes in architecture and transportation now.

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