by AIA New York Chapter
As a highly regarded leader of practice, projects, and education, Jane Smith, FAIA, IIDA, ASID, Partner, Spacesmith, has pioneered the integration of pragmatism and imagination, of design and the business of design, advancing the strength and influence of the profession. The founder of an enduring and successful practice, the architect of exceptional projects, an educator and chair of an interior design department, and a board member of AIA New York Chapter, Smith is motivated by the principle that leadership in the profession requires an integrated and comprehensive knowledge of every element of practice. Having founded Spacesmith in 1987, she remains at the head of a firm that has grown to 25, with a vast portfolio of major projects.
The 2017 Jury of Fellows of the AIA elevated Smith 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 organizations’s definition of Fellowship. Now among the AIA membership’s three percent distinguished with Fellowship and honorary Fellowship, Smith was recognized at the New Fellows Reception hosted by AIA New York in March and was honored further at an investiture ceremony at the AIA Conference on Architecture 2017 last week in Orlando.
Q: What is your proudest achievement as an architect?
A: Spacesmith is my proudest achievement. An architecture, interior design, and planning firm that now numbers 25 people, we have a diverse portfolio of projects for major clients. The durability, longevity, and stature of Spacesmith are a function of our overarching premise that business excellence is a prerequisite for design excellence. At Spacesmith we have established and fostered a culture of inclusion and transparency, in which everything to do with practicing architecture is routinely shared with the entire staff who, in turn, regardless of their official role, are responsible for contributing to the health of the firm.
Q: What is your earliest memory of experiencing architecture?
A: At the age of 13, I spent my summer as a very junior apprentice with our architect neighbor who was building his own house in Laramie, Wyoming—a very special “architecture” house, like nothing anyone had seen before, with an octagonal living room and floor to ceiling windows! I was so proud to be part of the team, running errands, hammering, and nailing as the walls went up around me. Little did I know that summer would determine my destiny and eventually bring me to New York City as a fledgling architect.
Q: Who do you most admire?
A: I asked Jill Lerner, FAIA, to be my sponsor for Fellowship because I admire her the most. Jill is a trailblazer: partner at KPF, industry leader, mentor and advocate, dedicated wife and mother, and a consummate philanthropist. She is incredibly generous, to her clients, family, friends, and the greater community. Jill is a testament to what women in leadership positions in architecture can and do accomplish. She is an inspiration, a role model and a highly respected catalyst for change. We need more Jill Lerners in architecture!
Q: What are you working on right now, or what is your next big project?
A: An aspect of our work that I thoroughly enjoy is collaboration with other architecture firms. Currently, we are on teams with Davis Brody Bond, Tod Williams Billie Tsien, Ennead, and Kieran Timberlake. Since Spacesmith is a comparatively small firm, these collaborations give us the chance to be part of large, highly visible projects with strong community impact, such as new US Embassies in Mexico City, Ankara, and Nogales and the new multi-use facility for NYU on Mercer Street. It’s no less important than working with our wonderful, talented colleagues is challenging, rewarding, and fun!
Q: What does being a Fellow mean to you?
A: Being a Fellow means that after many years of hard work, frustrations, failures, and achievements, I have reached a level of accomplishment that is recognized by my peers. It is a validation of what has been done before and a window into what is possible for the future. I look forward to continuing to work with my FAIA and AIA colleagues to strengthen the architecture profession so that we may continue to build a better world.
Editors’ Note: This feature is part of a series celebrating the 18 members of the American Institute of Architects (AIA) New York Chapter that have been elevated to the AIA College of Fellows in 2017, an honor awarded to members who have made significant contributions to both the profession and society. Learn more about Fellowship here.