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Profile: Susan Israel AIA

Name: Susan Israel AIA
Job title and company: Principal, Energy Necklace Project
Degree(s): AB, MArch
Professional interests: Public art, sustainable living, climate-change awareness, team building

What are you working on now?

[See] above!

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

Ha ha! Who said I’m making a living! I produce public art to foster environmental stewardship, and lead collaboration and innovation training.

What inspired you today?

Flight of time.

What industry buzzword would you kill?

“Sustainability.” We need something pithier.

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


What are you reading?

The Professor and the Madman: A Tale of Murder, Insanity, and the Making of the Oxford English Dictionary by Simon Winchester.

Do you sketch by hand or digitally?

I sketch by hand; sometimes I make mock-ups digitally.

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


Where is the field of architecture headed?

It seems like it’s getting more and more technical all the time with the rigorous demands of green building and the availability of technology. But that technology is challenging design status quo in a good way.

I think we are diverging on extremes right now, so we’ll see more luxurious, technological, artistic wonders, like in China, and at the same time, some new emerging building methods that simplify because we have to. The 1 percent was always the architect’s client, and they increasingly have relatively more. But there’s a growing movement to try to provide a decent quality of life by Gen Xers. New building paradigms hopefully will replace the have or have-not we’ve traditionally seen regarding an architect’s hand in buildings.

Can design save the world?

Design as a process—as in innovation, creative problem solving, technical solutions—must. Design only as aesthetics: It makes us happier, but it can’t save us, sadly!

What do you hope to contribute from your work?

I hope to make some difference in our climate’s out-of-control spiral, raise public consciousness, and bring people together in a positive way to make change and learn to work creatively and collaboratively.

Who or what deserves credit for your success?  

My parents! Really, hard work, eyes open, all the time. Reaching out to people, collaborating with others—especially those with more talent than [me]. And adversity has helped me think about things differently.

Your least favorite college class?

Ec 10 or Japanese Government.

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

Trust your ideas; take bigger risks.

Your favorite Boston-area structure?

Copley Square as a whole—Trinity Church,  Hancock tower, and old Public Library.

Who would you like the BSA to interview next?

A physicist.

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

An animation of the sea level rising around Boston Harbor.

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

My “Plan A” used to be my “Plan B.”