Navy Yard Architect Robert Verrier Elected to AIA College of Fellows

March 1, 2012
By

Building 114 has been a colossal success for the Massachusetts General Hospital since its remake by the Architectural Team which is head by Robert Verrier, AIA.

Robert Verrier, the enigmatic and gifted managing partner of The Architectural Team, who re-designed one of the Navy Yard’s most significant structures among other projects in Charlestown, has been elected to the American Institute of Architects College of Fellows.

For an architect, the award is the equivalent of a Pulitzer Prize for journalists. It is a major honor given to a small fraction of the nation’s working architects.

“I am humbled to have been elected to the AIA’s College of Fellows,” said Verrier. “It’s a tremendous honor to be recognized as an AIA Fellow, and one that reminds us that our mission goes beyond designing buildings. It is a life-work commitment to making the world a better place in which to work, to live, to learn and to grow,” he added.

Verrier’s work in the Navy Yard – the complete remaking of Building 114 – produced a stunning finished product, an enduring example of Verrier’s creative ability and craftsmanship.

Before it was converted into a new state of the art biomedical research facility for Massachusetts General Hospital, the historic building served as the Navy’s joinery shop for more than 60 years.

Originally called the Saw Mill and Spar Shed, craftsmen worked there to produce small wooden vessels that were used for rescue and minesweeping, as well as tenders for larger ships.

The Architectural Team preserved the building’s character in accordance with the National Park Service guidelines, while also meeting local regulations for waterfront development.

This guided the firm’s designs to incorporate many public amenities such as HarborWalk along the waterfront for public enjoyment.

At Battery Wharf, on the North End waterfront, Verrier did spectacular things.

With Battery Wharf, Verrier highlighted his creativity while at the same time showed his homage to the  project’s location on the water.  Creating a new neighborhood is one of his marks  on  nearly every project he has taken on throughout a long professional career.

His imprint can be found throughout Greater Boston where he is a guru of reusing historic landmarks, affordable housing and multi-family housing. His projects are noteworthy for their impact on revitalizing communities and neighborhoods, especially waterfront sites, historic mills and hospitals as well as disadvantaged zones of Greater Boston.

“The depth and breadth of Bob’s work has made an indelible mark on our national landscape. Long before historic preservation was formalized as a body of knowledge, Bob’s genius was to capitalize on the prevailing ethos of the region to “use it up, wear it out, make it do, or do without,” says Diane Georgopulos, FAIA, architect at MassHousing and sponsor of Verrier’s FAIA submission.

Verrier is one of four original partners to found The Architectural Team in 1971. Since then, the firm has quietly transformed neighborhoods in Massachusetts and throughout the United States with major waterfront, commercial, institutional and historic preservation and adaptive reuse projects. Verrier and his staff of 60 professionals have designed more than 250 affordable-housing developments.

He moved the fledgling firm to Chelsea in 1979, He took over the decrepit Commandant’s house, as fine an example of  Georgian architecture that can be found in Greater Boston. At the time, a tree was growing inside the main lobby, the windows in the 1840’s structure were non-existent and all the building’s systems needed to be replaced.

What followed was a thorough rebahilitation of the Commandant’s home, which today stands as one of the finest buildings of its kind in Chelsea.

Verrier’s professional life has been a devotion to his core beliefs about what his architecture firm should do.

“Our firm is deeply supportive of protecting our historical fabric and creating more and better affordable housing for all Americans,” he said. “The projects we have completed successfully and which we are working on today make positive economic transformation possible, while also preserving our architectural heritage – not only in New England, but in other distinct architectural regions throughout the U.S. – and enriching the lives of families in those communities,” Verrier said.

The announcement of his election to the College of Fellows comes as Verrier’s firm, The Architectural Team, celebrates its 41st anniversary. The AIA Fellowship designation also adds to Verrier’s long list of honors, including a National Historic Preservation Award personally presented to him by President Ronald Reagan in 1988 for the preservation and adaptive reuse of Baker Chocolate Factory, Dorchester Lower Falls, Mass.

Projects that bear Verrier’s signature have earned more than 80 awards for design achievement and excellence, including four J. Timothy Anderson Awards for Excellence in Historic Preservation, two Paul E. Tsongas Awards, and 11 awards from the Boston Preservation Alliance and the Massachusetts Historical Commission, among others. Prominent new building projects in Boston have included Battery Wharf, a luxury condominium with a five-star hotel, and West End Place, winner of an American Institute of Architects (AIA) design award and a 23-story, mixed-income and mixed-use tower called The Metropolitan, in Boston’s Chinatown.

Other examples include Building 114, located in the historic Charlestown Navy Yard, which formerly served as a United States Navy joinery shop. Verrier transformed the derelict waterfront structure into a new108,000 square foot biomedical research laboratory while restoring the building to National Park Service’s historic rehabilitation standards, earning two Preservation Awards.

Verrier is available as a source for news and trends features on affordable housing, historic rehabilitation, architectural design and planning, as well as Boston real estate development.