by: AIA New York
Gregg Pasquarelli, FAIA, Founding Principal of SHoP Architects, has committed himself to transforming the process of design and delivery in support of the highest ideals of architectural excellence. He has been at the center of a collaborative and innovative practice in creating new models for design, master planning, and real estate development. Pasquarelli has led many of SHoP Architects’s most complex and dynamic projects including The Porter House, Barclays Center, the East River Waterfront Esplanade, Pier 17, the American Copper Buildings, 111 West 57th Street, and The Brooklyn Tower—all in New York. His global work includes the new Fulbright University Vietnam, GoCo Active in Sweden, and new towers in Rotterdam, Miami, Toronto, New Delhi, and Batumi. Additionally, Pasquarelli has been a professor of architecture for more than 20 years at Columbia, Yale, and UVA.
This year, the Jury of Fellows of the AIA elevated Pasquarelli to its prestigious College of Fellows in the first category of Fellowship, which recognizes architects who have “Promoted the aesthetic, scientific, and practical efficiency of the profession,” according to the organization’s definition. Only three percent of the AIA’s membership is distinguished with Fellowship. Pasquarelli’s distinction will be celebrated at the AIA Conference on Architecture from June 7–10 in San Francisco, and was also recognized at AIA New York’s Center for Architecture during the 2023 New Fellows Celebration.
Q: What is influencing your work the most right now?
The complexity of urban contexts and the layers of history, people, data and technology coming together to create a solution to a problem continues to be a driver of design on my projects. How do we reconcile disparate trajectories to solve problems in dense environments to make cities that are joyful to live in? How do we think about the impact of every design move to create opportunities for all in a more open and responsible society while honoring or challenging preconceived notions of how to do things? This is what I think about every day.
Q: Do you have a favorite building? Why?
My favorite building is Grand Central Terminal. While most of us think of it as a public building, it was actually built by private industry to serve as an exemplary hub of communication and human interaction for its day. While most point to its Beaux Arts aesthetic, I am more impressed by how the building is really an incredible piece of technology, one that allowed the internet of its day to interact with an urban environment seamlessly, uplifting each of us through its small acts of kindness and beauty. Is it an engine or is it art? It’s both/and, and that is why I love it.
Q: What are your thoughts on architectural education today?
I have taught architecture studios for more than 20 years and love the study of architecture and the discipline as a whole. What students and young practitioners need now are often different tools than those promoted through much of the 20th century and it is time for academia to take a hard look at how we educate the next generation. Philosophy, technology, art, making, capital structures, politics and culture are all a part of the cauldron that creates architecture. If it is not taught in schools and during the professional internship period, we lose our seat at the table as essential problem solvers who can make the world a better place. Ideology on either extreme will lead to obsolescence.
Q: What are your greatest sources of inspiration?
I am still inspired by the smallest daily interactions of people in urban environments around the world. How do people problem-solve? How do they source and share resources? How do they make the profound out of the profane? How are the same problems handled differently in disparate cultures? What are basic human needs and how can we use design to help satisfy them? What are the right moments and opportunities to inspire, and what moves people, no matter where they are from? It’s from the small accomplishments of individuals that great ideas are born and my fascination with this, and the energy that cities provide, drives me to do better every day.
Editors’ Note: This feature is part of a series celebrating the members of the American Institute of Architects (AIA) New York Chapter who are elevated each year to the AIA College of Fellows, an honor awarded to members who have made significant contributions to both the profession and society. Learn more about Fellowship here.