by: AIA New York
Joseph Brancato, FAIA, NCARB, has led Gensler into new markets, providing leadership to the architecture, urban planning and interior design studios. He is a Managing Principal for Gensler’s Northeast and Latin America Regions, and Vice Chairman of the firm’s Board of Directors, for which he sits on the Executive & Governance Committee and the Global Practice Committee. Brancato is also active in talent development and mentoring, having shaped Gensler’s gConnect program, which focuses on professional development for next-generation leaders in the firm. Engaged in professional outreach, Brancato is an active member of AIA, NAIOP, ULI, Urban Design Forum, and CoreNet Global. He is a registered architect in 23 U.S. states and three Canadian provinces. Brancato holds Bachelor Degrees in Architecture and Urban Studies from the University of Maryland, where he has taught architecture studio classes.
“Architects… shouldn’t wait for an RFP or request for service to do something. We should have a strong presence in our communities and be a part of the conversation as we have the opportunity and responsibility to make the world a better place.” —Joseph Brancato
The Jury of Fellows of the AIA elevated Brancato to the College of Fellows in the second category of Fellowship, which recognizes architects who have made efforts “To advance the science and art of planning and building by advancing the standards of architectural education, training, and practice,” according to the organization’s definition. Brancato was recognized at the New Fellows Reception hosted by AIA New York and will be further celebrated at an investiture ceremony at the AIA Conference on Architecture.
Q: How did you decide to pursue architecture?
A: At 5 years old, I was inspired by the trucks and tractors on a construction site in my neighborhood. Lincoln Logs and Etch-a-Sketch got my imagination flowing. By high school, I was entering state competitions for architectural drawing and reading as much as I could about design. My curiosity and imagination took over. I was hooked on architecture at a young age. Once I started architecture school, I really enjoyed creative problem solving and the impact the built environment had on people and their behavior. There was never any doubt in my mind that architecture would be my profession and after 38 years, I still love what I do and am fortunate to have recognized this at such a young age.
Q: What has been particularly challenging in your recent work?
A: One challenge is to be compensated fairly for the value architects bring to our clients and communities. Our creative thinking, disciplined execution, and effective leadership of the broader team have significant value. We should not be giving our ideas away for free through non-paid competitions and strategic upfront work. Quite frankly, this is the phase we should be paid a premium. Architects must be compensated for the value we bring to our projects.
Q: What do you see as an architect’s role—and responsibility—within our culture?
A: To be a leader and have a voice. Architects should be thought leaders in support of improving our communities and cities. We shouldn’t wait for an RFP or request for service to do something. We should have a strong presence in our communities and be a part of the conversation as we have the opportunity and responsibility to make the world a better place. We must leverage the power of design to enrich the human experience. Our profession must take on greater leadership. Let’s be the catalyst! Let’s set the pace!
Q: What are your thoughts on architectural education today?
A: We need to encourage and motivate young people to pursue a career in architecture. Architectural education needs to unleash a student’s creativity and curiosity. Architecture schools need to introduce real world challenges by retaining some practitioners to teach and provide a few classes that not only teach the business of architecture, but also provide an understanding of the clients business. Following college, architecture firms need to provide continuous learning programs and mentorship opportunities. At Gensler, in addition to technical Lunch & Learn’s, we have programs like gConnect and Gensler University to foster and mentor the next generation of leaders.
Q: What do you think are the biggest challenges, or opportunities, facing cities today?
A: There are 5 major global forces that we need to be aware today that are impacting cities—unprecedented demographic shifts, technological driven disruption, rapid urbanization, climate change and global volatility. The arrival of the driverless car is altering the design of future buildings and taking our streets back for the people; coworking is changing how developers and businesses are looking at their real estate decisions; and technology is changing the definition of retail, shifting from a focus on transactions to customer experience. The human experience is the driving force behind every element of space. When we put people first, we can truly leverage the power of design to create a better world.
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.