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Jan 25, 2024

Rebecca Berry AIA

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Rebecca Berry

Photo courtesy of Rebecca Berry.

President, Finegold Alexander Architects

Chair, BSA Foundation

Professional or personal website:

www.faainc.com

Degree(s):

BS Art & Design, M.Arch – both from MIT

Professional interests:

Sustainability, adaptive reuse, religious architecture, projects that serve their communities

BSA involvement:

Chair, BFA Board of Trustees

Former BSA/AIA Board Secretary

When did you first become interested in architecture as a possible career?

When I was 14, my art teacher at school in Northern Virginia put my name in to attend a design discovery camp at the National Building Museum. We spent three weeks exploring graphic design, urban design and architecture. I was hooked…

How do (or how did) you explain to your parents what you do for a living?

What a great question. I herd cats! But seriously, like many architects, I spend my days working with clients and colleagues to solve problems – from how to integrate sustainable practices into a design, to where to insert new vertical circulation into an existing building, to thinking about how to elevate the experience of someone entering a synagogue.

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

You will get through the total lack of sleep that comes from having two kids under two and make sure to set up that meeting suggested by a fellow architectural leader with women in your same spot – you will become each other’s sounding boards, support structure, and mentors.

What do you hope to contribute from your work?

Spaces and places that fulfill the community’s needs and uplift – from spaces for gathering, to study and reflection.

If you could collaborate with anyone in the profession, who would it be and why?

I would have loved to have worked with Samuel Mockbee. He and his students turned the most ordinary of objects and materials into simple, beautiful and singular architecture. But thinking about folks who are with us, we pursued a project a few years ago with Snow Kreilich and Hood Design Studio. I hope another opportunity presents itself…

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Photo courtesy of Rebecca Berry.

What does equity mean to you?

Equity means creating a profession where all voices are heard, can contribute to the conversation around the power of design, and where everyone has access to the design tools needed to help create a future that is sustainable, resilient and embraces beauty.

What are some changes that you have implemented in your firm (or for yourself) to address issues of equity in your profession?

After I served as the BSA / AIA Board Secretary, I made the deliberate decision to shift to the Foundation Board, as I wanted to get back to my roots in direct community service. One of our innovation partners is the group Families for Justice as Healing. Working together with this group here in Boston will, I believe, bring an entirely new perspective to the concept of community centered design.

What is the most effective step you’ve taken in your work toward a more sustainable built environment?

The creation of FA Energy, our Firm’s new division that is focused on the process of decarbonizing our existing built environment.

What do you see as the largest barrier to a zero-waste building, city, and world?

Effective waste to power technology with on-site carbon capture. That and materials we can only now imagine.

What is the greatest potential for architecture to shape a neighborhood community?

Identifying and listening deeply to the members of the community – architects need to put our egos aside and work alongside and in true partnership with the people that will inhabit the spaces we are designing.

Where do you find inspiration?

All around us – the color of the sky, the shape of shadows across the mountains, the way light enters a space, the rhythm and detailing of historic structures, and in the moments when people find an answer to a fundamental question about our universe.

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

To borrow from Warren Miller: “If you don’t do it this year, you will be one year older when you do.” This applies as equally to all of life as it does to alpine skiing!

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