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Juster Pope Frazier Has Designs on Continued Growth

Kevin Chrobak

Kevin Chrobak says the name Juster Pope Frazier is a brand that resonates within many sectors of the economy.

Kevin Chrobak joined the then-Shelburne Falls-based architecture firm Juster Pope Frazier in 1983, after a short stint with rival Architects Inc. and just a few years after graduating from the Pratt Institute in Brooklyn.
He would stay with the company, eventually buying out the men whose names appeared on the letterhead — Norton Juster, Earl Pope, and Jack Frazier — as each one eased into retirement, and in 2006, he assumed the title of principal architect.
While this is now truly Chrobak’s company, he says he’s never thought of changing its name or even adding his name to it. And he gets rather philosophical when explaining why.
“This is a brand — in some sense it’s like Xerox,” the Palmer native said with a laugh, while explaining how and especially why he believes the name Juster Pope Frazier, or JPF, as it’s also called, resonates within the industry and certain sectors of the economy, such as education. “I never felt the need to have my name on the door.”
But Chrobak is doing more than keeping the firm’s signage consistent. He’s also working hard to “extend the culture,” as he put it, of the first-generation partners, and incorporate their values into the company.
“Jack, Earl, and Norton established this business under the notion of doing very good work for very good clients — and also keeping their own lives in mind, their employees’ lives in mind, and keeping things reasonable,” he said. “They were kind, caring people, and very creative. I’ve tried to maintain that same point of view.”
That culture he described is now embedded in the company’s mission statement. Written on the backs of the company’s T-shirts — and on the home page of the firm’s website as well — it has three simple tenets: ‘live inspired, do good, and create beauty.’
“Norton’s the ‘live inspired’ aspect — he wrote The Phantom Tollbooth,” said Chroback, referring to Juster’s children’s adventure novel, published in 1961. “Jack was ‘do good’ — he was always very cognizant of giving back — and Earl was ‘create beauty.’ So that mission statement really guides the practice and how we behave with each other and with our clients, but it also reminds us of culture; maintaining that continuity is important.”
Still, while paying homage to the past, Chrobak and his staff of eight are obviously focused on the present and future. They’re consistently adding new projects to a diverse portfolio that includes everything from the Eric Carle Museum in Amherst to the headquarters for the Channing L. Beete Corp. in Deerfield; from the fire station in Longmeadow to the new science building nearing completion on the campus of Elms College in Chicopee.
That brand Chrobak mentioned earlier has certainly helped the firm win a succession of projects at Nichols College in Dudley, St. John’s High School in Shrewsbury, and the Holyoke Health Center, among many other clients, most of which are repeat customers.
But a bigger factor, and one that helped the firm ride atop the destructive wave otherwise known as the Great Recession, has been its ability to work with clients to create a vision and then take it off the drawing board, he said.
This is a process, he said repeatedly, and one that can be challenging at times, but is generally rewarding for those on both sides of the table.
“It’s fascinating work, and clients really enjoy the process — they feel excited by it,” he explained, adding that he expresses that emotion himself. “It can be a very creative collaboration, and I think it’s something that’s very unique to their lives in many instances.”
For this issue and its focus on architecture, BusinessWest talked at length with Chrobak about his firm’s history, relationship-building efforts, and designs on continued growth.

Lines of Work
As he discussed the many nuances of his chosen field of architecture, Chrobak contrived a few analogies to describe the all-important relationship between the firm and the client — and the process for making a vision become reality.
“I like to think of architects as the director of a movie,” he explained, while relaying one of his often-repeated views on how a successful collaboration works. “The client is the producer, they create the story, but we’re the director that helps them realize their vision.
“Another analogy I use is that we’re translating French, or any other foreign language, into English,” he went on. “We’ll interpret something in their language and put it into our language. We’ll take their words and create a building with three-dimensional form.”
He even compared what goes on between a client and an architect to a long-term relationship, noting that, from the start of design talks to the end of construction, a firm can be on a specific job for three or four years or more.
Summing all this up, he said architecture is as much about design as it is about discussions between the firm and the client about what’s important to the latter and how they identify what Chrobak called the “icons of their site.”
“We view clients as being two things — a physical entity and a site,” he told BusinessWest. “In our thinking, the site is as much a client as the actual [business]client. You try to draw influence from what people are telling you, but you’re also drawing influence from where you’re building as well.”
As examples, he cited two local projects: the Eric Carle Museum, which was designed after a good deal of dialogue and collaboration between the firm and the picture-book artist whose name is on the building, and the nearby Wesley United Methodist Church in Hadley, which has a look borrowed from the tobacco barns that helped give that community its identity.
“It’s based on classical Christian basilica form,” Chrobak said of the church, “but it’s detailed in a manner that’s evocative of the classic Connecticut Valley tobacco barns. You might be tempted to say that a church and a tobacco barn don’t go together, but within that context, it makes all the sense in the world.”
By mastering the art of translating clients’ words and carrying out the role of director, Juster, Pope, Frazier, and, yes, Chrobak were able to build and refine that brand the principal architect described earlier.
Its standing in the market not only helped enable the firm to ride out a recession that nearly crippled many firms, but has positioned it to thrive at a time of stern competition for both public- and private-sector work.
Juster Pope Frazier once did quite a bit of both, said Chrobak, noting that, in the former category, the firm has designed a number of schools, fire stations, and other municipal facilities. But in recent years, as competition has intensified and margins have become razor-thin, the firm has focused its energies almost exclusively on the private sector.
And this strategic move was a big factor in JPF’s ability to essentially avoid the whitewater of the recession and stand today as a larger company, revenue-wise, than when the slide began.
“We didn’t really experience the downturn that everyone else did,” he explained. “We always had a client base that wanted to build because costs were down during those times; contractors were aggressively seeking work, and so their numbers came down dramatically.”
One of the clients looking to take advantage of those circumstances was Nichols College, he said, adding that the institution has become JPF’s biggest customer. The firm has undertaken a number of projects for the school over the past decade, and is essentially redesigning the core of the campus.
Initiatives have included two new suite-style dormitories, a new, 30,000-square-foot student center, an academic building, a dorm renovation, landscape improvements, and other work, with more likely in the future as the school continues an aggressive building program.
Nichols is a prime example of how the firm has been able to gain repeat business from clients, said Chrobak, adding that several institutions fall into this category, including St. John’s High School in Shrewsbury — JPF did work there 15 years ago and is currently designing an arts and academic building for that campus — and Elms College.
The new science building at the Elms will be dedicated this fall, he noted, adding that its design reflects and respects the architecture that defines the campus and especially its signature building, Berkmans Hall.
“That’s a classic, beautiful building built in the middle of the Great Depression,” he said. “We built adjacent to it, and because it’s such a distinctive and beautiful piece of architecture, we felt we needed to be somewhat reverent of that work and not impose our own look.”
This brings him back to the notion of relationships, collaboration, and those analogies he created to describe how a firm and its clients should work together to create something meaningful and that works at the site in question.
“I’m particularly in tune with this because I grew up locally,” he said, referring to the importance of designing a building that works for the client and the location. “It’s a privilege to create buildings that are going to be there for years in a place where you grew up; it’s not something I take lightly.”

Blueprint for Success
That sentiment also applies to the culture — and the brand — established by the first generation of ownership at JPF, said Chrobak.
The name over the company’s door — figuratively, because it’s not there literally — represents more than the three original partners, he told BusinessWest. It reflects a way to do business and live a life.
And so does the mission statement.
More than words on a T-shirt or copy on a website, that statement shows how determined this firm is to recognizing its legacy and, more importantly, building on it.

George O’Brien can be reached at [email protected]

Architecture Sections
Architects Are Seeing the Light — and So Are Their Clients

Kevin Chrobak

Kevin Chrobak feels that the public is increasingly motivated by the industrial design of products from companies like Apple and manufacturers with a high design aesthetic.

Kevin Chrobak, principal architect for Juster Pope Frazier LLC, doesn’t have a single light on in his conference room, or in his spacious office area that seems to ooze creativity. He doesn’t need any on a bright day.
His Northampton-based studio, located in a former brick mill building dating back to the 19th century, has the large full-story windows reminiscent of a time when the workday was governed by the sun.
“A lot of the concepts of this building, and others like it, was that you wanted a lot of daylight and a lot of volume of space, so the notion of ‘day lighting’ was a concept from before 1900,” said Chrobak. “For example, its 8:30 in the morning and there’s not a single light on, and it’s perfectly adequate.”
Day lighting, a new buzz term in the architectural realm but a concept that actually grew out of the Industrial Revolution, is back in vogue. But not just because of the cool aesthetics; rather, designers are drawn to the reduced costs for lighting, heating, and cooling when advanced, energy-efficient windows replace those that are more than 100 years old — which, in Chrobak’s case, they did.
Greg Zorzi, left, and Christopher Novelli

Greg Zorzi, left, and Christopher Novelli see a return to city living in downtown structures, prompted by the younger generation’s demand for intelligent use of existing resources.

In addition to redesigning old or historic structures, Jonathan Salvon, principal at Kuhn Riddle Architects Inc. in Amherst, has seen a trend toward more-modern design styles. His firm is known for designing the new UMass Amherst marching band building, the Amherst Police Department headquarters, and the new broadcast facility for New England Public Radio (NPR) in the Fuller Block on Main Street in downtown Springfield.
“Organic forms, in general, are currently quite popular at the moment with generally modern architecture,” said Salvon. “And I mean modern with a capital ‘M.’
He was speaking of a rebirth of architectural Modernism, which roughly spanned the time between World War I and the early 1970s, and is generally characterized by simplification of form and an absence of applied decoration.
While Chrobak doesn’t see a specific ‘look’ today, he does see imitation, and more client attention to the carefully designed look of popular commercial products.
“There’s a saying that some of the best ideas out there are stolen, but you do see influences start to creep from one project to another,” said Chrobak. “There certainly is influence that runs from magazine to magazine, and I think the public is becoming more cognizant of design as being important in their lives.”
This, he feels, is motivated by the industrial design of products from companies like Apple, and manufacturers that have a very high design aesthetic. “That has helped to bring higher awareness of design in all different disciplines.”
Other advances have taken the act of designing architecturally to a whole new level. The advanced technology of computer-aided design, more affordable green-building products, urban awareness, and understanding new work/life behaviors have all contributed to expanding the choices that today’s architects have to make, both in form and function.
As the construction industry claws its way back from the most severe recession in decades, BusinessWest talked with area architects about the trends, and attitudes, shaping their industry. Overall, they are invigorated to see the public more demanding of creative design and energy-efficient function, which is giving way to a new generation of sustainable and smart structures that will reshape Western Mass. buildings, and even cities, in the years to come.

Trickle-down Effect
Any talk these days of architecture or construction will immediately become a conversation about green building. Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) is a voluntary, market-driven program that provides third-party verification of green buildings. It provides building owners and operators with a framework for identifying and implementing practical and measurable green-building design, construction, operations, and maintenance solutions.
Even locally, as with every new program, costs eventually do come down, due to competition and becoming an industry standard.
“There was a time when doing a LEED building was a premium cost, but the industry has ramped up to meet the demand,” said Salvon. “So it’s not the premium that it used to be.”
Greg Zorzi, president of Studio One Inc. in Springfield, agreed.
“We’ve done a couple of LEED projects recently, and I don’t think there was a substantive percentage more that the owner paid to get a LEED building,” he said. “And if they did pay a bit more, they’re going to achieve that back in the energy savings.”
Globally, on the leading edge of the green-building movement is a strategy called biomimicry: using patterns in nature, particularly in biological systems, to inspire innovative and more-efficient designs within architecture and engineering. While global interests are not immediately adopted by those in the Western Mass. area, or even the New England region, the efforts are important.
Christopher Novelli, an architect at Studio One, sees biomimicry at this juncture as more limited to what he called ‘paper architecture’ — student work or architects’ projects that are mostly experimentation with the design of buildings that will never get built.
But design movements have to start somewhere, and there’s a trend, Salvon said, toward more attention to organic design or, rather, more care toward natural materials in either the form of the building or in the materials within. His examples: bamboo flooring, grass or bark-like wall coverings, and unique ceiling products that mimic outdoor scenery.
But to get some of those designs takes experimentation and advancements in technology, specifically computer-aided design and computer-driven routering that didn’t exist a decade ago.
Zorzi told BusinessWest that the future emergence of unique types of biomimicry, or new organic-design products, requires students and architects to write computer code and bypass the traditional design process. Thus, the design is then carved out from large-scale computer-aided machines.
“The computer code has its parameters and sort of creates itself, but that opens the door to experimenting with new forms, which find their way into more traditional building here,” Novelli added.
“Where the more experimental buildings tend to be constructed,” Zorzi added, “is based on where the money is — Dubai, Tokyo, Singapore, for example.”
Salvon agreed. “Some of the newer elements are due to high-end computer-modeling software with deep-pocketed backers, and allow for fabrication that is different than conventional construction.”
While this extremely advanced technology has not yet entered into mainstream architecture and construction, it is an emerging technology that will change the way architects and contractors work in the future, Zorzi added.
“But, yes, computers are influencing everything,” said Chrobak, whose firm is known for its designs of the unique Eric Carle Museum in Amherst and the Elms College Center for Natural and Health Sciences, which is currently under construction in Chicopee.

Staying Power
“A common theme in our market is that a lot of work is renovation work — so how do you take a new design aesthetic and work it into an existing building that may be more than 100 years old?” Salvon asked rhetorically, as many of his clients have as well.
“Not just design, but sustainability has become extremely important, maybe moreso due to the downturn of the economy; folks want their building to be more efficient,” he said.
One of the more obvious energy-efficiency products has been glass.
Its usage has typically been a symbol of energy inefficiency, as heat exchange in large, translucent surfaces is higher than in insulated walling. But new glass systems are changing that.
As an example, Zorzi noted ‘curtain-wall’ systems that are the essence of the high-performance envelope. While not a new concept, what the systems are made of, and what they do now, certainly is.
“Years ago, you wouldn’t be able to achieve having full walls of glass,” he said. “There would be so much heat loss or gain, and as stylish as it is, it wouldn’t be functional.”
A glass wall today would have a ‘double-skin’ system — two layers, filled with a gas that allows the building to passively cool itself. But the quality of the glass, the curvature, and the ability to withstand wind and hold snow loads, said Zorzi, is what makes him marvel at buildings such as Springfield’s new federal courthouse on State Street, which makes heavy use of glass.
In his work, Chrobak also sees a lot of adaptive reuse, and he feels it is motivated by clients’ project costs.
“If you’re building with a shell, it’s often cheaper than building from scratch, so the concept of ‘reuse and recycle’ applies to buildings as well.”
Cities, in general, are seeing an enormous amount of reuse of former manufacturing buildings as well as old apartment buildings.
Both Zorzi and Novelli see a return to city living in those structures, prompted by the younger generation and their awareness of, and demand for, intelligent use of existing resources and the environment.
“Some people think that suburbs are the next ghettos,” said Zorzi.  “When you see that return back to the city and how it relates to architecture in a single building, you have to shift your design focus to create more multi-purpose spaces, mixed-use, and live/work spaces.”
An example is more office and retail on bottom floors and living spaces above. Technology allows people to work from anywhere, and many companies are allowing employees to work from home, which has increased overall demand for office areas in new designs, regardless of the client’s age. “So the designs that we’re doing have to relate to that,” said Novelli.
But city living involves not just the redesign of one building these days, said Zorzi, but entails the entire urban environment around that building, which is a demand of the public.
“I think a good local example of that is the proposed casino,” Zorzi told BusinessWest. “We have MGM Springfield with an outward-facing real urban focus with livened streetscapes and retail shops, and bringing in the local businesses is part of that flavor. Then you had Penn National with an inward-facing focus. You look at the traffic patterns — the traffic comes in, gambles, and leaves.”
“The MGM proposal is very indicative of the trends that we’re seeing, more of a focus on the urban element, rather than the one isolated building,” Novelli pointed out.

Creative Economy
Jonathan SalvonWhat the future holds for architects is a series of new challenges and opportunities.
The American Institute of Architects has put forth the 2030 Challenge, which Novelli described as a step-by-step pledge for architects to design ‘net-zero’ buildings, or those that literally produce their own energy through mini-turbines, solar power, high-performance building products, and, of course, smart design.
“There are always new materials and new approaches,” said Salvon. “And a lot of manufacturers are putting a lot of money into R&D to develop new materials to either meet existing demand or create new demand.”
And as the competition heats up for more sustainable products for both new construction and adaptive reuse, the prices will flatten out and the heyday of those net-zero buildings is nearer than ever.
In the meantime, architects continue to have designs on continued growth in an industry where the future is as clear as a glass wall.

Elizabeth Taras can be reached at [email protected]

Architecture Sections
Architecture EL Seeks a Balance Between Beauty and Function

Kevin Shea

Kevin Shea says his firm has stayed busy in its first five years with a very diverse roster of jobs.

Kevin Shea says many kids grow up watching their dad build a garage or repair a shed. In his case, helping out around the house inspired him to pursue an equally hands-on career.
“I remember seeing old blueprints, and that was of interest to me,” said Shea, owner of Architecture EL Inc. in East Longmeadow. “Architecture actually ended up fitting my personality, that blend of hands-on and creative, mechanical and artistic. It worked out to be a good balance.”
After graduating from Roger Williams University in Rhode Island, he took a job with a small architecture firm for 18 years before deciding in 2008 to strike out on his own.
“I grew up in the Hampden-Wilbraham area, so this is pretty much my region,” he said. “Basically, we’re a small office built on the idea of direct design. The final product is never far from my hands.”
Architecture EL — the acronym stands for Environment Life — is essentially a two-person operation, though the firm will contract to bring on a handful of others for big jobs. “We’re trying to grow to the point where we can bring in some additional staff,” Shea said. “It’s just a matter of waiting for the economy to stabilize.”
In fact, the company has never operated in a thriving economy, launching in 2008, just before the financial crash kicked off the Great Recession, from which the region and nation are still trying to recover. But Shea — who repeatedly used the word ‘fortunate’ to describe the past few years while speaking to BusinessWest — said he has kept consistently busy, with dozens of projects on the docket now, albeit most of them small.
“Our work is commercial, municipal, residential … in Western Mass., most architects are jacks of all trades. And with the economy the past few years, you do whatever comes along.”

Built for Success
Shea has weathered an uncertain economic climate, he said, by focusing on personal service — working closely with clients from design conception through construction and occupancy — but also on that flexibility and diversity he mentioned.
“Historically, my base was strongly commercial. It started with medical and multi-family residential projects,” he said, adding that Architecture EL will take on most any type of proposal. “We’re small, so we’re pretty fortunate to have a nice volume of work and some good diversity.”
He detailed some of the firm’s recent and ongoing work to demonstrate that variety, from a demonstration center alongside the jet-engine fabrication facility at Pratt & Whitney in Middletown, Conn. to the Wilbraham Grange building on Main Street, which is being retrofit into a single-family residence.
In addition, “we’re currently bidding for improvements to the Hatfield Town Hall; we’re expanding their primary town offices and meeting rooms, and we also did a study for an elevator and accessible entry throughout the building. We also did a study for the Historical Society in hopes of fitting out the upper level for a museum.”
He also cited work for the Westfield Museum, which is moving into a historically registered building that once housed a whip manufacturing company. “We’re in the first phase — building envelope improvements, masonry restoration, windows, slate roof — and heading toward the next phase, which will really define the museum space. There’s a mix of historical elements, and it has its own host of issues, but it’s a neat little project.”
Almost all the firm’s assignments come from direct referrals, “people who are actually interested in doing the work, not just guys fishing.” The project log is mostly private work, but there are some public projects as well.
“It’s something different all the time,” he said, “but, at the end of the day, it’s all about solving a problem. Sometimes it’s the budget, sometimes it’s technical, sometimes it’s historical or accessibility … the reality is, it’s all about solving problems with a design solution.
“I think we do a pretty good job pulling everything together — the artistic and the technical sides,” Shea added, noting that some firms specialize in the technical side of the industry, while others were trained at universities that stress esoteric design concepts over functionality.
“My background is strongly rooted in creative design, but also supported by buildability and what will serve the client,” he explained. “And, of course, we look to be as forward-thinking as possible in energy-efficient design solutions.”
‘Green’ design is, of course, a hot trend in architecture and construction these days, but not only on large projects. For instance, homeowners and small businesses affected by the freak weather events of 2011 were also looking to rebuild in greener ways.
“There was a definite uptick with the hurricanes, tornadoes, and snowstorm; people were looking at better insulation, generators, better fuels; solar is certainly making inroads.”
The firm designed a few rebuilding jobs in Monson after the twister devastated that community, Shea recalled. “I felt fortunate to help people rebuilding their house or their business. Those were great jobs because people were really struggling, fighting with their insurance companies, and I felt good coming in and helping them, being part of the solution rather than part of the problem.”

Early Inspiration
As he works to meet client needs and eventually grow Architecture EL into a larger company, Shea recalled that his early life inspired not just his career choice, but his work ethic in general.
“Growing up, we were a small family that lived modestly. We used to fix everything that broke; we didn’t call people,” he said. “If we needed something built, we built it. Now, everyone hires someone to mow their lawn.”
He said a “Berkshires can-do mentality” was instilled in him early on. “It helped me all the way through my career. In college, I worked construction in the summer. They told me I was the first college kid who knew how to work. I’ve been working all my life, building and fixing things, very hands-on, and that just translated to how I tackle my business.”
And that work ethic is paying dividends today. “We get hired based on who we are, our experience, and our contacts,” he said. “We provide a great level of service and quality control. That’s what people are looking for.”

Joseph Bednar can be reached at [email protected]

Architecture Sections
Architects Increasingly Focus on Eco-friendly Design

From left, Aelan Tierney, Charles Roberts, and Ann Wills Marshall

From left, Aelan Tierney, Charles Roberts, and Ann Wills Marshall have all worked on LEED projects at Kuhn Riddle Architects.

New England Environmental (NEE) is an Amherst-based consulting firm that specializes in environmental assessment, restoration, and management. Oh, and setting a good example.

“We saw that project as sort of a laboratory for the kind of work they do, almost an exhibit of sorts,” said Ann Wills Marshall, an architect with Kuhn Riddle Architects in Amherst, which designed NEE’s new headquarters in Amherst with the sort of ‘green’ features that fit the company’s mission.

“They can take clients through and show them what a bioswale is, and a rain garden that uses all native plants and doesn’t require irrigation. It has a tremendous amount of green space,” Marshall noted.

The development will earn Platinum certification — the toughest-to-attain rating — from LEED, or Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design, a program developed in 1994 by the U.S. Green Building Council (USGBC) to encourage environmentally friendly and energy-efficient design, construction, and operation of buildings.

And New England Environmental, which uses both geothermal heat and photovoltaic solar panels for energy, is only one of Kuhn Riddle’s recent LEED projects. Others include the George N. Parks Minuteman Marching Band Building, a 15,000-square-foot facility at UMass; the Ken Burns Wing of the Jerome Liebling Center for Film, Photography, and Video, a 6,700-square-foot addition to the facility at Hampshire College; and the Northeast Veteran Training and Rehabilitation Center in Gardner — which, like NEE, boasts both geothermal and photovoltaic energy.

In fact, LEED has become a major buzzword in the architecture and construction world; the state has mandated eco-friendly design on many projects, while individual cities and towns are increasingly seeking out the long-term benefits of energy-efficient, environmentally non-invasive design as well.

“It’s an involved process,” said Charles Roberts, a principal with Kuhn Riddle. “First, the client has to decide what they want to do, then we sit down with the user groups and our LEED consultants and basically go through the checklist typical for all projects and see what points are attainable. It’s important to do that as early in the design process as possible.”

Those ‘points’ are awarded according to a development’s adherence to five key areas: sustainable site development, water savings, energy efficiency, materials selection, and indoor environmental quality.

Sustainable site development includes the reuse of existing buildings, when possible, and preservation of the surrounding environment. Water conservation may include the recycling of gray (previously used) water or the installation of catchments for rainwater.

Energy efficiency can be increased by orienting buildings to take advantage of seasonal changes in the sun’s position and by the use of alternative energy sources, such as solar, wind, geothermal, biomass, or water.

Meanwhile, developers are encouraged to use as much recycled or renewable materials as possible, or those that require the least energy to manufacture, are locally sourced, or are in themselves recyclable. Finally, indoor environmental quality emphasizes how the building user feels in a space and involves ventilation, temperature control, and the use of nontoxic materials.

New England Environmental

New England Environmental incorporated both geothermal and photovoltaic energy on its LEED Platinum project.

“Good architecture has always been environmentally responsible,” Roberts said. “Development and land-use patterns create stresses on the environment, and as buildings become much more complicated, LEED is kind of an effort to try to think about these pressures and minimize them.”

However, they should not get in the way of basic aesthetic appeal, said Aelan Tierney, an associate with Kuhn Riddle.

“While it’s important to focus on sustainability,” she said, “it’s also important to remember that buildings should be beautiful. So the form can still be beautiful if it’s a green building, or a LEED-certified building. I think there are some people out there who are so hyperfocused on sustainability that they forget about the aesthetics. In our firm, they’re equally important to us.”


Breaking Ground

Other architects are saying the same. Among them is Jim Hanifan, a principal with Caolo & Bienek in Chicopee, which recently completed the new UMass police station, the first LEED-certified building on the Amherst campus, but very likely not the last.

That project earned Gold status, just under platinum in the USGBC’s rating system, which is based on the points assigned for green compliance. Further down are Silver and simply ‘certified.’ The police station features a geothermal heating and cooling system drawing heat and cold from the earth.

“We’ve also got the Northampton police station,” Hanifan said. “They’re going to occupy the building in a couple of weeks, and that’s targeted for LEED Gold as well.”

Another of the firm’s jobs, the new Easthampton High School set to open in 2013, has earned certification from Massachusetts CHPS (Collaborative for High Performance Schools), a LEED-like green-building program for the Commonwealth. Among the considerations are bigger windows to maximize daylight, a photovoltaic array being installed on the roof to harvest solar power, and LED lighting. “It’s similar to LEED in its requirements,” he said of the CHPS designation.

Hanifan said building owners, whether governments or businesses, want to know the long-term savings built into an investment in green design — which can be costly up front. “You’re trying to balance improvements to a building’s system with what the projected payoff will be. Maybe you’ll spend $250,000 on improved mechanical or electrical systems, and you try to project out how many years it will take to pay that back.”

Tierney said the owners of the Northeast Veteran Training and Rehabilitation Center took this into account when they had 28 geothermal wells and more than 8,000 square feet of electrical panels installed. “It’s a large initial investment, but in the end, they’ll save money. In a lot of cases, it’s easier to get capital funding than it is to get operational funding.”

Added Marshall, “I think there’s a leap of faith you have to take, knowing you have these upfront costs, but they will pay for themselves in a very short time.”

And the initial costs can be significant, Hanifan said, noting that some LEED points are easier to come by than others, and not every type of point is attainable. “Some points you won’t get, depending on the building design,” he said. For instance, a developer can earn points for tearing down an existing building and reusing the site for a new structure. “But if it’s a clean site, there’s no way to get that point.”

The LEED certification process itself is costly, which is why some cities and towns will put a priority on green design, but not go for the certification, he added. “So you’re getting the payback for sure and achieving the intent of a LEED project; you just don’t have a plaque on the wall that says you achieved it.”


The Old College Try

The Liebling Center project at Hampshire College is a good example of a broad mix of LEED points, Roberts said, from the use of native plants to cutting-edge air-quality-monitoring systems, to white, reflective surfaces to keep the building cool. It also gained points for its location along a bus route and the installation of bike racks and showers, all of which encourage earth-friendly commuting.

“It’s a good example of a project done on a modest budget,” he said, “and just by doing pieces of all these things, were were able to achieve LEED Gold.”

Hampshire College has been pursuing eco-friendly development for some time, and other area schools have done the same. In fact, the U.S. Green Building Council recently opened a local branch on the UMass campus.

“The university has been working to expand its green-building commitment for more than a decade now,” said Ludmila Pavlova, a senior planner at the UMass Campus Planning Physical Plant, who started the branch. “Here, we can provide education, outreach, and information to the general public about the LEED rating system and green building.

“It’s really important that people who use the rating system talk to the general public, network, and learn together,” she continued. “It’s great to have a location where people looking into green building can come to learn how to become proficient in green building, and turn around and help their communities as well.”

UMass recently made a commitment to build all new structures to a minimum of LEED Silver, and the state already requires all publicly funded buildings of at least 20,000 square feet to be 20% over baseline in terms of energy efficiency. All of which makes plenty of sense to Pavlova.

“People live in buildings and spend most of their time in buildings,” she told BusinessWest. “Forty percent of our energy is embodied in buildings. If we want to improve the environment, one of the first basic places to improve it is in the places where you work and live.

“Our buildings constitute such a huge investment, and so much of our ongoing operations and capital costs go into facility maintenance,” she added. “And so much of our health depends on how buildings keep us healthy — or not.”

That’s just one more reason businesses and communities are increasingly choosing to build green — and often taking the LEED while they’re at it.


Joseph Bednar can be reached at [email protected]

Architecture Sections
Recent Projects Embody Firm’s Commitment to ‘Preserve, Adapt, Renew’

Stephen Jablonski (right) and Brian DeVriese.

Stephen Jablonski (right) and Brian DeVriese.

Architects Stephen Jablonski and Brian DeVriese have crafted an impressive legacy of projects involving schools, libraries, museums, parks, and a host of other structures. But rarely have they been tested by the time constraints they faced last summer when Springfield College tapped them for repairs of three tornado-damaged residence halls. The resulting success story is a lesson in teamwork, setting goals, and adapting to change.

When Stephen Jablonski and Brian DeVriese arrived at Springfield College on June 2, the morning after a devastating tornado ripped through the city, they were shocked by the extent of the damage on campus.
But they had no time to lose.
Due to a relationship that stretches back a decade and includes the award-winning Stitzer YMCA Center, college officials quickly tapped Jablonski DeVriese Architects to work with Erland Construction of East Windsor, Conn. to repair three hard-hit residence halls — International, Reed, and Massasoit — as well as a damaged power house.
There was one big question, however: could the job be done in a mere 10 weeks, or would students expecting to live in those dorms need to find other lodging for the start of the fall semester?
“We worked very carefully with the Springfield Building Department because we didn’t want anyone saying we were going too fast,” Jablonski said, looking back on a hectic summer that, indeed, saw all three dorms ready for students by mid-August.
“The Building Department worked excellently with us,” he recalled. “They could easily have said, ‘are you kidding? The whole city was hit by a tornado; we’re not going to approve anything for six months, but we’ll take it under advisement.’ They were there on site the first day.
“As far as we know, International Hall was the tallest building completely damaged in Springfield,” Jablonski added. “We’re not aware of another taller one in the direct path of the tornado, and it was completely repaired in two months.”
Jablonski and DeVriese sat down with BusinessWest recently to explain how that came to pass, and how the project fits into the philosophy of a firm committed to preserving the past while adapting to the often-harsh winds of circumstance.

Plan of Attack
The first step, of course, was turning that initial shock into a well-defined strategy.
“We had to do damage assessment of the dormitories,” DeVriese said. “We went through every room in every dorm and itemized all the damage. In all three, we had a list of every room and all the categories of damage that we could use as a starting point, helping the contractor develop an estimate for what it was going to take to repair the damage.”
Erland personnel secured broken window openings with temporary closures. But a big thunderstorm rolled through less than a week after the tornado and damaged most of those quick fixes. Meanwhile, Jablonski said, “we had to ask, ‘can we salvage these buildings at all?’ We had an intuition that they were definitely salvageable.”
DeVriese, who recently forged a business partnership with Jablonski, noted that the tornado had blown many of the windows out of the building, ripped solid-core doors off the hinges, and damaged much of the furniture. “Light fixtures were hanging down from the ceilings, and there was a tremendous amount of water inside the building. That was mainly International Hall; there was some of that damage in Massasoit and Reed, but to a lesser degree.”
Once they decided the structures, even International, were salvageable, the architects and contractors had a significant challenge: to complete the work in time to house returning students.
Even as cleanup crews were just starting to remove fallen trees, Jablonski said, meetings were quickly convened involving college officials, insurance carriers and agents, and the architects and builders, during which all parties agreed to cost estimates and orders of new doors, windows, furniture, exterior metal panels, and other materials.
Jablonski credited the college’s insurance carriers for acting quickly — though they did have a financial incentive to do so.
“We said to the insurance company, ‘do you want to approve this list right now and get this stuff ordered, or run the risk of students going to the Sheraton to live off-campus?’” — an insured expense no one wanted to trigger, he said. “Even though they brought in their own experts, we shared a lot of our analysis with them, and that was the success of it. We hit the target and did not have any delayed openings at all.”
After seeing several architectural renderings, the college decided to go beyond simple repairs by replacing the original exterior of the building with higher-quality, better-insulated panels than what had existed before, Jablonski said.
“Most people feel it looks a lot better now than it did, no question,” he added. “The windows are much more high-quality, and we put in much better insulation; there was no insulation behind the enamel, so we put in a nice air barrier. It used to get a lot of wind-driven leaks.”
R&R Windows of Easthampton provided the aluminum replacement windows and new aluminum panels, while the new doors came from Hardware Specialties of West Springfield, Collins Electric of Chicopee made electrical repairs, and Harry Grodsky Co. of Springfield repaired damage to the HVAC system.
“One thing I’ve been impressed with about Erland — they don’t just order windows and start installing them,” Jablonski said. “They put one in, test it for water penetration, for air leakage; actually an engineering company comes to look at it and blast it with moisture and high wind pressure. And if it doesn’t pass, they have a meeting with everyone about what they did wrong, and keep doing different configurations until they pass the test.”
As new windows, doors, and exterior panels were installed, floor tiles were replaced in only a portion of rooms in order to stay on schedule (floors in other rooms were repaired, cleaned, and waxed). And 10 weeks and $5 million after the twister ripped through, little evidence remained of anything other than a summer remodeling job.

Study in Teamwork

YMCA Center at Springfield College

The design of the Stitzer YMCA Center at Springfield College has earned multiple awards for Jablonski DeVriese Architects.

Last June, DeVriese, who had a company in Shelburne Falls, joined Stephen Jablonski Architects as a partner. “Brian and I worked together for 10 years; he was a consultant with me on projects,” Jablonski said. “But we decided it would be a stronger company to have a partnership, so we formed a corporation.”
“My experience has been mainly restoration and renovation types of projects,” DeVriese said, “and quite a number of municipal projects, which requires familiarity with public bidding laws. So I think that, combined, we cover pretty much the whole gamut, public and private.”
With the name change came a new discussion of where the firm should focus its energies.
“As a young architect, I was trained to design everything, and I guess I believe in that,” Jablonski said. “But when we formed a corporation, we took the opportunity to really look at what our strengths are. And it seems like almost all the projects both Brian and I worked on individually, even going back to being employed by other architects, were renovations and restorations. So we came up with the motto, ‘preserve, adapt, renew.’ I think that has a real selling power in New England because there’s so much that needs preservation, adaptation, and renewal.”
The next natural question, he said, was what types of customers they should focus on.
“We’re identified really strongly with three or four sectors,” he explained, including higher education; municipal and government work, which includes schools, libraries, park buildings, and museums; and historical buildings of all kinds, which can cut across many sectors.
The firm also does some residential work, “but in Western New England, we’ve found it’s very difficult to be successful in residential projects; there aren’t enough multi-million-dollar houses going up — certainly, in this economy, there are zero.”
The firm’s various areas of focus give it a diversity that can withstand economic trends, Jablonski explained.
“The nature of municipal work tends to be ebbing and flowing, and recently there’s been a serious ebb, and we don’t know when it’s going to start flowing again,” he said. “The great thing about higher education is, they’re fueled by tuitions and alumni donations and endowments. They’re not independent of the economy, but they’re often able to do things the other sectors can’t.”
The partners like to talk about ‘adaptive reuse’ when describing projects, and the firm’s design of the Museum of Springfield History at the Quadrangle is a good example. “It was an old Verizon office building,” Jablonski said. “Springfield Museums, because of its location, wanted to acquire it, but how could they use this as a museum? They didn’t want an office building.
“When people talk about sustainability and sound design, we feel that one of the best ways to embody that is to take resources that are already there — the bricks were already there, the wood, the windows, everything was there, but it didn’t have a current use. A lot of it is imagination, when something is transformed into another thing, but making sure it’s up to date with modern building codes.”
That museum project led to Springfield College hiring the firm for its complete renovation of Judd Gymnasia, renamed the Stitzer YMCA Center. For that design, Jablonski DeVries Architects received the Paul E. Tsongas Award from Preservation Massachusetts, as well as the Springfield Preservation Trust Award for Restoration/Stewardship.
The project had a museum component, Jablonski said, and the wife of college President Richard Flynn is a trustee at Springfield Museums. “She was aware of our work at the history museum, and really liked it, and said, ‘why not give these guys a try?’”
When that call came again last summer, under much more trying circumstances, ‘preserve, adapt, renew’ was more than a motto — it’s why students at International, Reed, and Massasoit halls didn’t have to find a new home.

Joseph Bednar can be reached at [email protected]

Architecture Sections
At Dietz & Co. Architects, Sustainability Is a Way of Life
Kerry Dietz

Kerry Dietz, says the design work her firm does must meet clients’ needs and budgets and also create a sustainable and comfortable environment for the people who will occupy or work in the buildings.

Kerry Dietz was talking about sustainable building design.
And although many people associate the concept with ‘green’ construction, to Dietz, the word ‘sustainable’ encompasses a wide range of considerations.
“Design is critical and happens at many levels, and the word ‘sustainable”’means a lot of different things to our clients,” said the principal of Springfield-based Dietz and Co. Architects Inc.
At Dietz, it includes the comfort and health of those who will live and work in a structure, the aesthetics inside and out, and the costs to maintain a structure during its life cycle, which is especially important to nonprofits that may not have the resources to do maintenance work in the future. “It also includes the materials, the context a building sits in, and the image the client wants to project, because a building can become a brand (more about that later). “It is all critical to us,” she said.
Her company’s tagline is “design that looks good, does good,” and that value has remained key to the way the firm has approached its projects for the past 25 years.
“People know they can count on us to do quality work and do it right,” Dietz told BusinessWest, adding that the entire staff believes their designs should make a difference in the community. “We have never faltered from that initial desire to create architecture that also serves. We are a company that pledges to be a responsible citizen in everything we do.”
Their projects range from affordable housing, which has always been a mainstay of the firm, to education, health care, commercial, institutional, and historic-preservation work. Part of the company’s success is attributed not only to having employees who are experts in their fields, but also to the fact that everyone working on a project is well-versed in its finances.
“We are an open-book company, and my employees know the budgets on our projects, which includes how much money we are making and how many new jobs there will be,” said Dietz, adding that, when there is a profit, everyone shares in it. “People who come here from other firms are surprised at this, but I believe my employees need to know the rules of the game and what the parameters are in terms of hours and months allocated to it.”

Blueprint for Success
Dietz said architectural firms in Western Mass. have to be generalists. “There is not enough work here to be a niche operator unless you are global in scale,” she explained.
However, one of the firm’s challenges is competing with Boston-based companies. “Every time the economy goes south, they come here. And sometimes they bring a level of expertise we don’t have,” she explained. “For example, we haven’t designed 50 schools, and we have never designed a library, so we will never get one. People want to hire someone who has done the job before.”

Michael Erickson, an architectural associate at Dietz & Co. Architects Inc.,

Michael Erickson, an architectural associate at Dietz & Co. Architects Inc., works on a design for one of their many projects that range from affordable housing to education, health care, commercial, institutional, and historic preservation.

The firm has several specialties, but its bread and butter has always come from work in the affordable-housing industry. “We understand the funding cycles and the regulations. Very often, it means scrambling to put together an application, then having to wait, but we are very familiar with that. Our core value is about serving the community.
“Architectural firms are altruistic to begin with, but for this firm, serving the community is at the core of our values,” she continued. “We tend to attract employees whose desire is to serve, and we do a lot of work for nonprofits. We understand the pressures they are under in terms of funding.”
Another niche for the company is education, especially colleges and universities, said Dietz, adding that the firm is also well-versed in the challenges, fiscal and otherwise, facing both public and private institutions. “Their decision-making and funding sources and flow are totally different from affordable housing.”
When schools receive grants, the work has to be done right away, and most institutions are dependent on state funding and bonding, so any time a financial crisis hits, it affects their budgets immediately, she went on. “But we like doing the work. It ranges from designing new environmental centers to cafés in science buildings, to work in their libraries.”
Banks are also a specialty. The firm designed Easthampton Savings Bank’s new main office and is renovating some of its branches. “We have also done work for United Bank and have been involved in master plans and studies,” Dietz said.

Staying Afloat
In recent years, the firm’s focus has shifted. It is designing less affordable housing and has broadened its base, in part because the economy has made it difficult for nonprofit developers to get funding.
“The heart of the recession was horrid; it was an equal-opportunity destroyer, and we were lucky to survive it. In 2008 and 2009, we had the worst two years we have ever had. Then in 2010 we had the best year we have ever had in our history,” Dietz said.
She attributes the firm’s success to carefully crafted strategic planning, and said its forecasting tools yielded indications that the recession was imminent. “By October of 2008, it was clear we were headed toward a major disaster. And we knew 2009 would be horrible and we were unlikely to get any new work.”
Although many architectural firms laid off employees or closed their doors, Dietz chose to keep all 19 employees on staff. She cut her own salary and reduced employees’ hours, taking advantage of a graduated program within the state’s unemployment system.
“It allowed us to reduce hours without substantially penalizing our employees, which was important, because we still had projects we were working on,” Dietz said. And although it would have cost less to lay employees off, she knew that, by keeping them, the company was positioned well, as there would be clients who would want to take advantage of declining construction prices.
The company has won a number of awards, and individuals within it have also earned accolades. Dietz said one of the firm’s architects received an e-mail from the Department of Public Health stating that her submission for the Caring Health Center, a recent project in Springfield delayed by the June 1 tornado, “was the best she had ever seen in her history.”
“The ability to make these people happy is a huge selling point for us,” Dietz said, adding that it takes a lot of expertise and work to meet complex and detailed requirements.
She added that much of the housing design they do is dependent on low-income tax credits, and they are also knowledgeable about those requirements due to their 25-year history in that arena.

Attention to Detail
An architectural design contains many elements and can become a “brand,” said Dietz, as she talked about the building the firm created for the YWCA of Western Mass. about 10 years ago.
“The organization almost died about 25 years ago,” said Dietz. “They came to us when they were on their last legs and had sites scattered in a variety of office buildings. They told us they wanted a new facility that looked corporate and would let people know their importance as one of the largest human-service agencies in the area.”
So the firm designed a building for the YWCA that “became a reflection of who they are and their vision for the future. Sustainable meant a lot of things to them, including choosing a high-efficiency heating and air-conditioning system as well as exterior materials that wouldn’t require maintenance,” she said.
Dietz said it’s critical to her company’s mission to think about who will use the buildings they design. Office workers need to have enough light and should not be distracted by noise or each other, for example.
“We really try to integrate our philosophy about sustainable design into everything we do; it’s not new to us, and some of the folks who work with me have been thinking this way for 20 years — sustainability is like religion,” she told BusinessWest, explaining that, although the U.S. Green Building Council developed a system of measurements for green building and Dietz and some of her employees are LEED-certified, there are a variety of measures that can be used to promote sustainability.
“We look at the human cost in terms of materials, rather than just the dollar cost,” she said. For example, although many buildings contain vinyl floor tiles, maintaining them requires expensive chemicals, which are not good for the environment; the people who work with them or the employees who will inhale the fumes of the cleaning solutions.

Unchanging Goals
“Since we opened our doors in 1985, we’ve worked to provide an environment that’s both challenging and nurturing,” Dietz said, adding that this begins within the company and extends to the nuances of every project.
“We never lose sight of our ultimate goal: to interpret our clients’ personal vision and create spaces that look great, feel great, and serve the needs of the people who will use these spaces,” she added.
And they do so in a way that creates comfort — and sustainability — now and for generations to come.

Architecture Sections
At Studio One, Knocked Down Doesn’t Mean Knocked Out

Greg Zorzi (right, with Chris Novelli)

Greg Zorzi (right, with Chris Novelli) says it was important to get back to work after the tornado, for the sake of not just ongoing projects, but also Studio One employees.

When remembering the events that took place on June 1 and 2, Greg Zorzi paused and looked out the window onto the streetscape below in downtown Springfield, and when he began to talk again, his words were shaken, yet strong and clear.
Like many in Springfield and beyond, the historic tornado changed Zorzi’s world in a single day. The stately Civil War-era brick block known as South Commons that his parents, the original Studio One architects, had renovated and owned was badly damaged one day, then demolished the next. Among several other businesses were the offices of Studio One architects and planners, as well as the Zorzi home.
Sitting in the offices that became the latest headquarters for this architectural firm that has been in existence in Springfield since 1974, he said that, while the business was dealt a great blow both physically and spiritually, the show must go on.
“I strongly believe in the expression that whatever doesn’t kill you makes you stronger,” he said, smiling. “We had a city water main break about 10 years ago down there, and we were flooded. We thought that was bad!
“But not only was it important for us to get back to work, to get to the projects that we had been working on right after the tornado hit,” he continued, “I’m responsible to all these people who work here. That is what kicked in. We can’t focus on the negative; we have to move forward.”
Talking about what has driven Studio One since the earliest days of the firm, back when his parents, Peter and Melinda Zorzi, were principals, he said that one of the greatest factors in their strength is wrapped in one word, endurance. “You need a tremendous amount of drive to succeed in this business.”
It’s not just all sweat that makes a good architect, he went on. “What we do, and what my father taught me from an early age, was to build goodwill with clients. That means going the extra mile, never mind whether something is an additional service or not. That’s the best advice I ever got. And because of that, folks call us back.”
Very soon after their offices were destroyed, Studio One relocated to 115 State St., and it was here that Zorzi spoke to BusinessWest. In a suite of rooms that doesn’t have the appearance of a makeshift space created on the quick, Zorzi told the story of how he came to be where he is today.
Glossy images of the buildings his firm has designed over the years line the walls, and with that backdrop, he said that the South Commons location may have been part of the firm’s identity — having been its home for over 25 years — but there’s a silver lining somewhere in that story, somehow.  It’s clear that the endurance he talks about will give Studio One a firm footing to set forth on its next endeavor (more on that later), to be started this fall.

Historic Preservation
A solid book of work in Studio One’s portfolio comes from multi-family housing and SRO (single-room occupancy) projects, and this goes back to the days when Greg’s father Peter was at the helm. Projects have ranged from luxury condo units to the redevelopment of historic properties for housing in Westfield, with a range that covers most of Southern New England.
The firm was one of the businesses instrumental in the revitalization of the historic Matoon Street area in Springfield. Years later, historically sensitive new construction took place in that district, and that, Zorzi said, is one area where his firm excels.
Reiterating the notion of goodwill that he mentioned earlier, he said this has been a great asset not just for his clients, but for his business as well. With many projects over the years funded by HUD money, sometimes going the extra mile meant a repeat customer — many times over.

South Commons, pre-tornado,

South Commons, pre-tornado, was Studio One’s home for more than 25 years.

“One of the distinctions of our firm is that we are very willing to work up front with our clients, especially with those HUD projects,” he said. “They might need assistance with funding, or any amount of assistance in getting their project off the ground. Oftentimes we’re not paid a nickel until the construction documents are 100% done. Then we receive DPG [demonstration program grant] monies from HUD — and then we’re paid. We’re way out there though from the start.”
Repeat customers, from HAP Inc. to Domus in Westfield to the Sisters of Saint Joseph, have been a significant component to how Zorzi’s firm has kept busy and how, unlike other firms its size, it has never had to downsize in staff. “Again, from working with my father, this is how I learned how to build a business,” he said.
With his father in a strong leadership role from the start, Zorzi laughed when talking about succession issues when he became president. While Peter is still active in the firm — “he knows so many people in the industry; he’s an incredible asset, and we still get work from his numerous contacts” — it was natural for the child who started running errands at the age of 10 to eventually take over someday.
After graduating from Boston Architectural College in the 1980s, Zorzi went to work for a large firm in the Hub. It was good experience, he said, but he knew he wanted to return to a smaller-sized shop.
“I was still working there,” he remembered, “when I asked my dad one day at a wedding, ‘are you going to ask me to join the firm or not?’ His response was, ‘I thought you were happy in Boston!’ and then, ‘of course!’”

Student Loans
There are many events that can shape the history of a business. While the events that took place after the tornado are a significant obstacle, Zorzi firmly said that this is a hurdle, but not a dead end.
His comments were carefully thought out, and it’s clear there’s a lot of hurt still there. But he repeated again that one word as an overarching answer to all of what transpired: “endurance.”
“When the city demolished South Commons, we were all greatly saddened,” he said. “I thought the city’s approach was heavy handed and capricious, and not thought out. Those buildings were secured. When we found that block in 1980, it was in worse shape than what happened by the tornado — the section of wall that was damaged and knocked down was a non-load-bearing wall.
“But the worst part,” he continued, “is that we’re licensed architects, and we weren’t even consulted on the fate of those buildings. We were told by City Hall that FEMA was calling the shots, but we later found out that was wrong, that the building commission was. No question in my mind, those buildings on the National Register of Historic Places could have been saved. It’s hurtful. I think the city has made some grave errors in judgment, and we’re calling them out on that.”
Then he stood up from the desk and called in his project manager, Chris Novelli. “There might be a good ending to this story after all,” Zorzi said.
It will start this fall, as Novelli teaches a graduate-level seminar in the Architecture + Design Department at UMass Amherst, to be held in Court Square. “It’s going to be a South End reconstruction studio,” Novelli said. “It’s still in the planning stages at this point for scope and focus. And this is not going to be a purely tornado-based program, but rather taking a broader-based look at the South End — the history of it, what problems exist, and how to create development opportunities.
“I think the biggest goal is that the students learn something,” he continued. “But I personally hope that some of these ideas that the students will eventually come up with will help the city leaders and planners see potential for what they can do, rather than trying to get in any developer who is just willing to do anything there.”
Zorzi added that he would like to see business and civic leaders engaged in the session as well, to act as ‘clients’ of a sort for the students’ projects.
“This is about healing. Even if it’s just a vision for what can be, it’s a healing process,” Zorzi said. He was referring specifically to the UMass program, but it was clear that this architectural firm’s president was also thinking about Studio One, and the city he has called home most of his life.