Since it’s our 25th anniversary year we want to celebrate each of the people who make a difference every day at our firm. Each spotlight will give greater insight into who we are, what we do, and how we live. Using a Q&A format to give fun details, you never know what you may learn about the people who work at Studio G!
Our first spotlight is Owen Weinstein, a designer who reached the 1 year milestone with Studio G this month.
What are a few projects you have been involved in that made an impact on you and why?
I am proud of my involvement with Michelle Obama’s White House kitchen garden redesign. I think a commitment to healthy eating and sustainable agriculture should be givens for the first family as an example to the nation. I was honored to be able to help with the design and construction of the new garden features, including an incredible table set that I was deeply involved with. It is nice to know that Michelle Obama’s vision has some substantial and well-designed elements to ensure her legacy on the White House Grounds.
I am also excited about a line of water infrastructure research I am currently working on. I started the project during my postgraduate fellowship at University of Virginia and it has been supported by Studio G since I came to Boston. I have been developing small-scale civic interventions to make water infrastructure more visible, accountable and joyful in the city. Last fall, with encouragement from Studio G, I traveled to Buenos Aires to present the work at an international water infrastructure conference. The conference was a great chance to get feedback from people who work all across the water industry—from engineers and policymakers to environmental advocacy groups.
I have worked on a lot of different types of projects at Studio G, but the recent E+ Marcella Highland proposed concept design was a highlight. Weighing the tensions of designing Net Zero while deeply affordable housing in a materially respectful way was an engaging and enjoyable challenge. I worked quite a bit on the row house component of the proposal, it was a nice moment of reflection as someone who grew up in a row house to think about how much the way I grew up has influenced my design and spatial norms and expectations.
What drew you to Studio G originally?
Values and character. It can be hard to get a sense of what a firm cares about when you are looking for a job. Studio G’s values were so clear from the website, during my interview and now working here, all have lined up with my initial impression. Studio G in my experience has been consistently guided by a strong sense of social responsibility. I am constantly surprised and impressed by how fairly Studio G treats its employees, and the efforts went to make the most socially, environmentally, and economically responsible projects we can. I am particularly excited by some of the discussion coming out of our commitment to the 2030 challenge, which is helping us to formalize and track a lot of the good work we are already trying to do anyway.
What are your hopes for our industry?
Greater depth of social, and environmental responsibility. I think about this a lot. I’m not sure exactly how to change the industry to be more proactively responsible. Disrupting some of the self-referential loops in academia would be a good place to start. It would also be important to see some real leadership from professional organizations like the AIA and NCARB. BUT I am optimistic about the types of systemic changes that could increase designers’ abilities to work with social and environmental drivers at the forefront. I think that’s coming.
If you could do another job for just one day, what would it be?
Choreographer. My freshman year I had a wonderful professor David Lee Smith who told us to “dance” with the building our studio was in. I took him quite literally and tried to move through space like it was a dance partner. It was really fun and gave me valuable insights into the building that I don’t know how else I would have learned. Ever since then I have wanted to work with choreographers to make place specific dances to explore how humans can interact with architecture in dynamic ways.
What is your favorite thing to do in the wonderful city of Boston?
I love the harbor islands. I think it’s amazing that a city park is on these beautiful/bizarre islands. It is so accessible to get out to them and once you are there it feels like you are in a completely different world. They hold a remarkable history of how Boston has grown, built and changed and they are such a pleasant place to spend a weekend. Admittedly, it is even better if you live on a boat and can take your home out to them.