Feature: Andrea Leers, FAIA, Makes a Place

Andrea Leers, FAIA. Photo Credit: Andrea Leers

Andrea Leers, FAIA. Photo Credit: Leers Weinzapfel Associates Architects

 Andrea Leers, FAIA is a principal and co-founder of Boston-based Leers Weinzapfel Associates, the first woman-owned firm in history to win the American Institute of Architects Firm Award (2007). Ms. Leers has taught at a number of schools including Harvard University, Graduate School of Design; University of Virginia, School of Architecture; and the Yale University School of Architecture. Ms. Leers and Jane Weinzapfel, FAIA are the featured speakers at the 2013 Women of Architecture program, BWAF’s annual lecture series in collaboration with the National Building Museum. Learn more >

Beginnings – What attracted you to architecture and how did you begin your career? Was there an influential experience, or mentor, that helped steer you toward this field?

I grew up in Springfield and Longmeadow, Massachusetts surrounded by modern art and furnishings.  My mother was a former teacher who engaged a highly creative interior designer to help her create a home filled with mid-20th-century classics–furniture, fabrics, tableware.  As my father was a New Yorker, we visited “the city” frequently, always stopping at the Museum of Modern Art (rather than the Metropolitan Museum of Art).  I studied painting throughout high school and thought it would be my future, but at Wellesley College I was drawn into art history.  Toward the end of college, I began to explore architecture as a possible career encouraged by two exceptional women–Dean Theresa Frisch (Art History) and Professor Ingrid Stadler (Philosophy).

Harvard Science Center Additions & Renovations. Photo Credit: Leers & Weinzapfel Associates Architects

Harvard Science Center Additions & Renovations. Photo Credit: Alan Karchmer

What does “architecture culture” signify to you, and how do you go about contributing to, and/or changing, this culture? What are your hopes and dreams for the future of architecture and the built environment?

“Architecture culture” is a broad term used to evoke the gestalt of thinking and building that characterizes a moment in time.  We are emerging from a recent architecture culture of gestural form-making and production of icons–the city as a World’s Fair of pavilions. Current architecture culture is turning toward the creation of continuous territories of landscape, building, and urbanism, underpinned by a re-examination of fundamental programs, and enabled by the power of digital design tools.  We hope to contribute our optimism for creating ensembles of places and spaces where human and social experience can be enlarged and inspired.

Advice for someone interested in entering an architecture-related field?

Taunton Trial Court. Photo Credit: © Anton Grassl/Esto

Taunton Trial Court. Photo Credit: © Anton Grassl/Esto

Walk around your own city, sketch what you see (don’t just take photos), and try to identify what makes the places you like compelling.

Most importantly, follow your passion and trust your intuition. Only you know what is right for you — and do not let money, gender, or race deter you from your dreams.

Favorite site, place, building? Why does this particular location speak to you?

I have a world of favorite places: the intimacy of the poet’s garden Shisendo, Kyoto; the grandeur of Humayan’s Tomb, Delhi; the parks and boulevards of Paris; the Pantheon in Rome; the peaceful beauty of the seasons and landscape at my cottage on the coast of Maine.

Relevant Links: Andrea Leers, FAIA, DNA profile here

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