Staff Spotlight: Grant Rocco

Grant shares his most prominent inspiration as an architect and provides valuable insight into the design process.

Photo of Grant Rocco
May 31, 2023
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This month's Staff Spotlight is all about Grant Rocco! Grant is a technical architect who is fascinated by reinvigorating post-industrial cities. He has worked on several historic adaptive reuse projects while working in Western Massachusetts. Grant graduated from UMass Amherst where he received his Bachelor and Master of Architecture. He has always focused on sustainable design and building materials, with a special fascination with mushroom insulation. Grant is currently working on the Advanced Math and Science Academy and 25 Isabella Street projects.

Q: What inspired you to become an architect/designer?

I just always want to know how things work. I love a good cut-away model or factory tour. I am always fascinated to see how different components and processes come together to build our world. I am inspired by history, ecology, technology, sociology… All the ologies. And it turns out that ultimately, humans are bipedal apes who can manipulate their environments. Architecture is permanently at the heart of how humans interact with our environment. So that’s where I needed to be.

A recent photo from a trip to Puerto Rico by Grant Rocco

Q: If you could give advice to a young designer what would you say?

Read. Embrace continuous learning. Do as many jobs as you can. Put on many different hats. Explore different perspectives. If you’re curious and engaged in your work, you will meet people along the way who can help you grow professionally.

Q: Do you have any guiding design principles in your process?

For any task, big or small, design related or not, my process is to basically ask questions. Look closely. Listen and observe. Then, I can move forward with context for decision-making.

Q: What have been some of your career highlights/proudest achievements so far?

I actually became a registered architect, a father, and turned 30, in that order, all in the same month. I was also working on the biggest, most complicated project of my career up to that point. That really was a whirlwind and it all turned out great.

Q: Do you have a favorite city to visit for architecture?

Not a true city, but I must shout out Amherst, Massachusetts. The town has two Living Buildings: The R.W. Kern Center at Hampshire College and the Hitchcock Center for the Environment. Amherst is also home to a beautiful and innovative Mass Timber project, the John W. Olver Design Building at my alma mater, UMass Amherst.

The John W. Olver Design Building at the University of Massachusetts, Amherst, designed by Leers Weinzapfel Associates PHOTO: ALBERT VECERKA/ESTO/LEERS WEINZA

Q: Do you have a favorite building or perhaps a favorite architect?

Very difficult question, but I like a challenge. After a lot of thought, I have to say Shigeru Ban. Certainly the most imaginative architect of his generation. The way he weaves wood together is just *chef’s kiss* truly magical. He is not afraid to explore new materials and techniques, creating unique and functional spaces. He is a true master.

Centre Pompidou-Metz by Shigeru Ban