40 Under 40 The Class of 2015

Christopher Novelli

Architect, Studio One Inc.; Age 36

Christopher Novelli

Christopher Novelli

Chris Novelli says he’s been drawing, designing, and stretching his imagination for about as long as he can remember.

“I would draw little floor plans of my room and rearrange the furniture on a monthly basis almost,” he recalled of his grade-school years. “I had no idea what an architect was … I was just trying to find different ways to make my room better.”

He soon came to fully understand what an architect was, and after drafting classes in high school further fueled that desired to create, he attended the Wentworth Institute of Technology in Boston. Fast-forward several years and one intense internship at Studio One Inc. in Northampton, and Novelli is now a fixture at that company.

He’s been an integral part of a number of intriguing projects, including historical preservation and adaptive reuse of the Colle Opera House in Turners Falls, a long-abandoned landmark transformed into offices for technology companies; design and renovations of the both the interior and exterior of Our Lady of Mt. Carmel Church in Springfield for its 100th anniversary; design and construction of the new Hubert Place for WestMass ElderCare, an affordable senior-living facility in South Hadley; and, most recently, design and construction of the new Magazine Commons for Mental Health Associates, affordable housing for people with disabilities who were displaced from their homes by the 2011 tornado.

Each of these projects and countless others came with specific challenges and, usually, a very high degree of difficulty, said Novelli, adding that clearing such obstacles and devising solutions to complex problems is just one of many things he loves about his profession.

“You get to be creative on a daily basis, and there’s incredible variety — each day is different,” he explained. “One day I’m working on something that’s totally creative and artistic, the next day I’m working through technical details. The next time I’m on the job site working with the general contractor, and the day after that I’m giving a lecture at UMass. There’s always something new and different going on, and I really like that aspect of my work.”

Meanwhile, Novelli makes ample time for his family — wife Lisa and children Ethan, Samantha, and Jocelyn — and his community, Wilbraham, donating time and imagination to both the town’s Vision Task Force and Vision Action Committee. Indeed, drafting a blueprint for effective work-life balance is just another challenge he’s embraced.

— George O’Brien
Photo by Denise Smith Photography