Every staff member is of vital importance in a close-knit architecture studio like ours. With great enthusiasm, we introduce Matthew Maher, who brought his passion and talents as a Project Designer to our team in October. From his story, you will easily see why Matthew is now an essential part of the Barrett Studio family.
My path to architecture began as young boy, traversing the forest of my family’s New Hampshire home leading other neighborhood children in building an extensive network of forts. Looking back at my childhood and career thus far, it becomes apparent that this path in architecture has been omnipresent. I have been fortunate to make this my life’s work and am honored to continue the endeavor here at Barrett Studio Architects.
In college, like many of my generation, I was drawn to being part of environmental awareness, but my focus in Environmental Studies did not appear to fuel many job opportunities. So, I migrated back to architecture, which I now understand is one of our most powerful tools for creating sustainability. Our buildings and their operation account for approximately 40% of humanity’s energy use annually. Creating buildings that are energy efficient and carbon neutral is important and needed. It is my passion for sustainability, and awe of the natural world and ecology that informs much of my life both professionally and personally.
After college, I worked at several firms continuing to build my skills and expand my knowledge, enough so that I it felt natural at a fairly young age to form a design-build firm on Orcas Island in Washington state. It was in this experience that I more fully came to understand not only how buildings were designed, but also the process involved in their construction. This stage of my career informs my designs to this day. I greatly enjoy toggling between the “big picture” of conceptualizing a building design and also focusing in on the details that make it special and imbue its essence.
In 2014 I found my way to Boulder and to Fuentes Design. Anyone who knows this firm, led by Brian Fuentes, knows that net-zero is a driving force. I worked with Brian for nearly 5 years simultaneously learning and evolving the systems and techniques we used to design some of the nation’s highest performing buildings.
When it was time for a career transition, I wanted to continue realizing my life intention of creating architecture that was environmentally impactful. Barrett Studio Architects was an obvious choice because of their longstanding leadership in the community. Back when “sustainability” and “green” weren’t even catch phrases, they were on the frontier of this emerging world. The name of the firm back then was Sunflower, and I enjoy hearing David talk of “the early days” and how his thinking and perspectives have evolved over time.
When I came to interview at the Studio, it was apparent David’s deep environmental concern was still a leading driver in his design philosophies. Though that ethic is woven throughout most of the Studio’s projects, there is even more effort now, an even deeper dive into sustainability and its impact on the world.
When I was hired and got my legs under me as a new member of the Studio, I began to understand and learn from the strengths of individuals around me. David is a master of architecture – a true artist and creative in the medium. And then there is Sam – a master of architectural technology, and a true technician. You couldn’t find a better pair, and upon learning that Sam has worked with David for 26 years, I could immediately understand why. It’s a real mentoring experience to literally be sitting between the two. Leah blows us all out of the water every day with her speed and accuracy on the production side. I thought I was fast at Sketchup when I came to the office, but she continues to help me up my game on the software front, and it is obvious she will be a great architect in the years ahead. Leslie of course is the mortar that holds up our foundation, and in her diligent way keeps us all moving forward no matter what the challenges may be.
In short, Barrett Studio feels like the perfect place for me at this time in my career. The firm is ripe with opportunities for me deepen my knowledge and broaden my experience. I am working on several amazing custom homes, and I am further exposed to forms like a new experiential education center in Golden, the Studio Arts Boulder building, and a cool shipping container office building in Denver. What we are attracting as projects is awesome and exciting.
On the personal side, I live in downtown Boulder (about a 6-minute ride from the studio), with my partner Jen and son Jobin, in a charming 1920s bungalow. We lead a simple, compact, bike-centric life, living our values on a daily basis. When I am not working, I’m a passionate outdoorsman, an avid skier and mountain biker, and I strive to instill outdoor ethics in my son. I am a vigorous reader and seeker of knowledge in a variety of areas. My current read is Yuval Noah Harari’s book “Sapiens” which is filled with insights for these times. Partially inspired by one of our projects, a family retreat on the Arkansas river near Buena Vista, I recently purchased a fly rod and look forward to finding some solace and bonding time with my son on the river. We planted seeds a few weeks ago and are enjoying nurturing our seedlings to life.
If I could change one thing about the field of architecture, it would be to instill more deeply in our culture a shared perspective that environmental degradation has the potential to be just as devastating as the current coronavirus pandemic playing out in our world, but that solutions exist. I seek to impart in our society that we must take seriously the design of our world, we must watch, we must listen and we must learn and evolve.
I am an optimist. I’ve seen significant positive change both in the realm of architecture and in societal mindset, since I graduated from school nearly twenty years ago. Back then, we had a much more rudimentary set of ideas and far less experience in environmentally balanced design, and the associated technologies. Now, the knowledge, experience and technology are here to create highly efficient buildings, and I am excited to help in these endeavors. There is nothing pie-in-the-sky about it. We just need to continue to make a cultural mind shift and continue to implement and develop these technologies and design approaches.
I see today’s architecture as a balanced coordination of artistic and scientific thinking – that and a wonderful co-creative process with our consultants and clients. It is this pursuit that continues to leave me inspired and grateful for my role at Barrett Studio Architects, and enthused to continue on my path of contributing to the planet and its’ inhabitants through this medium.
Onward we go…