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Profile: Kamran Zahedi

Name: Kamran Zahedi
Job title and company: President, Urbanica Design+Development,
Degree(s): BS in Architecture and Civil Engineering, Massachusetts Institute of Technology

What are you working on now?
Following the realization of 226 Highland Street—Boston’s first E+ housing project in Roxbury—we are moving forward with a similar focus. When I say “E+,” I mean that the project generates more energy than it consumes. This is a very exciting model to pursue and expand in scale. We have a couple of energy-efficient residential developments on-going in the Fenway, Roxbury, [and] Jamaica Plain, and a new hotel and residential project in Roxbury. 

I am very excited about the hotel/residential project because it promises to infuse vitality to a part of town on Washington Street that desperately needs it. It is also very exciting because we are working in collaboration with an experienced and successful hotel developer on the project. We always look for these types of partnerships, as [they leverage] the combined expertise of both parties. 

226 Highland Street is the first net-zero, housing project to be completed in Boston. Designed by Interface Architects, this project generates more energy than it consumes over the course of the year.

What inspired you today?
People. You might assume that I would say that buildings are the blocks to a vital city. Not even close. It’s the people. They are the building blocks to a vital city. And because I am always exploring “peripheral” areas in which to develop, I always meet new people. It’s meeting different people every day that inspires me.

Where is the field of architecture headed?
Building more sustainably is obvious. But finding ways to build more efficiently and less costly are critical concerns, too. We want to bring good housing to emerging areas, but the reality is that it costs virtually the same whether you are building in downtown Boston or Roxbury. Finding smart ways to bring good architecture to everybody is what is important to me.

691 Mass Ave. is a forty-unit infill project built in the South End. The building looks to its neighboring buildings to provide the framework for the design of the principal elevation.

What do you hope to contribute from your work?
We generally focus on parts of town that are in need of redevelopment. I have always been interested in investing in these types of areas. Ideally, a few well-designed projects can act as a catalyst for new investment and growth, and dramatically improve an area. Infill projects are of particular interest to me. If we can develop a mix of good energy-efficient housing and commercial uses, we will have made a nice contribution to the city. I think a good example of this is our project on a vacant lot at 691 Massachusetts Avenue. Here, we took an empty urban site in the lower South End and filled it in with a contextually driven, comtemporary residential building. Since its completion, other developers have zeroed in with new projects that are revitalizing the area. I like to think that our project helped to get this started.

Your favorite Boston-area structure?
I had the pleasure of serving as a juror for the Harleston Parker Medal last year, which recognizes the most beautiful [“piece of architecture, building, monument, or structure” built within the previous 10 years “within the limits of the City of Boston or of the Metropolitan Parks District”]. It gave me the opportunity to carefully study and visit some exemplary work around town. The new Dudley Square Municipal Center, aka the Ferdinand Building, really stands out for me. The combination of the new building within a historic shell is so well done. And it is very heartening to see the City of Boston invest in a part of town that needs it. 

Who would you like the BSA to interview next?
Nader Tehrani of NADAA or Kairos Shen at the Boston Redevelopment Authority.