Thomas Grassi, FAIA, PMP, Senior Project Manager, Infrastructure and Transportation Architecture Architecture Department, HNTB Corporation, has devoted his career to being a manager for transformative regional transportation projects, a leader rebuilding Lower Manhattan and World Trade Center transportation infrastructure, and an ambassador sharing the story of architecture’s healing power. Grassi helped to lead Port Authority of New York & New Jersey (PANYNJ)’s Downtown Restoration Program following the events of 9/11, and went on to manage and coordinate the design and construction of of the iconic WTC Transportation Hub. In recognition, Grassi was a recipient of AIA’s “Architects of Healing” Presidential Citation.
The 2017 Jury of Fellows of the AIA elevated Grassi 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.” Now among the AIA membership’s three percent distinguished with fellowship and honorary fellowship, Grassi was honored at the New Fellows Reception hosted by AIA New York earlier this month and will also be recognized at an investiture ceremony at the AIA Conference on Architecture 2017 in Orlando.
Q: What is your proudest achievement as an architect?
A: My proudest achievement as an architect is the 15 years I devoted to rebuilding the transportation infrastructure of Lower Manhattan and the World Trade Center. In the 15 years before 9/11, I worked on the Newark Liberty and JFK Airport AirTrain projects from the Port Authority of NY & NJ offices within the World Trade Center. I survived the attacks, and immediately focused my efforts on restoring a sense of civic normalcy to the City. Over time, the initial sense of duty grew into excitement and enthusiasm as the Temporary PATH Station was designed and built and transitioned into the WTC Transportation Hub. I believe lower Manhattan’s resurgence is, in part, thanks to architecture’s unique ability to connect and to heal.
Q: Who do you most admire?
A: I admire people who create and have an awareness that the world was here before them, and will be here after them. We all hope to leave it a better place with work that will move subsequent generations. I also admire people who have hard work and desire as their unofficial credo. I’ve never understood or believed in “luck” or “talent,” at least not to the point that they would cause any individual to be held back or pushed forward. There is only hard work and desire.
Q: What are you working on right now?
A: At HNTB, I am pursing opportunities to further contribute to large transportation projects. Currently, that includes performing construction administration for Chicago’s Wilson Station reconstruction, and preliminary design for the South Station expansion program in Boston. In addition to project work in New York City, I’m excited at the prospects offered with the renewed focus on transportation projects throughout the nation, and look forward to participating in those as well.
Q: What does being a Fellow mean to you?
A: Being elected a Fellow is incredibly gratifying, and an enormous and humbling honor on many levels. As it represents appreciation from one’s peers, it provides validation and a unique recognition. It is a powerful and highly respected testament to the awareness and contribution of a large body of work performed over an extended period. As a byproduct, it provides an unparalleled level of camaraderie and outreach.
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 prestigious 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.