This month's Staff Spotlight is dedicated to Matt Cox, an architect with a keen focus on sustainable design and housing. He attained his Master of Architecture degree from Northeastern University, and for his thesis, he delved deep into the potential of accessory dwelling units (ADUs) as a response to the housing crisis in Boston. During his time at NEU, he embraced a transformative semester abroad in Berlin, where he explored the architectural and urban reunification of the city post-wall. Notably, Matt is both a Certified Passive House Consultant and LEED Accredited professional. His fervor for integrating sustainable design principles into his work remains unwavering, continually seeking avenues to ensure his projects have a positive impact on the environment and the community. Matt is currently working on some of Finegold Alexander’s developer projects, including an office fit out project in Boston.
Q: What inspired you to become an architect/designer?
The cliche intersection of good at math and an interest in art led me to architecture in college. What keeps me interested and inspired in architecture through school and my career is the breadth of how many other professions, lives, and different knowledge-bases you encounter, and learn about.
Q: If you could give advice to a young designer what would you say?
Be humble. Listen to the contractor about constructability in detailing, ask the engineer what the science behind their recommendation is. Most people love to talk about their own expertise and their fields, and the more you learn, the better designer you’ll become.
That being said, stick up for yourself. Architects and designers need to know when to push back against consultants (or the client!) and when the presented opinion or solution is not the only way forward.
And finally, Architecture is a service industry. Develop your soft skills and communication skills as much as you can. A beautiful design can only go as far as you can explain it to others, and a client who trusts and likes you is much easier to work with than the alternative.
Q: Do you have any guiding design principles in your process?
1. Keep it simple. Simple and clear detailing means easier construction, which means less problems in the field, which creates a better end product. Opt for passive solutions instead of mechanical ones.
2. Remember that buildings are built to last. Make them as sustainable as possible and seek timeless designs because your designs will last for years or even decades.
3. Nothing is impossible (though sometimes prohibitively expensive!). Advancements inbuilding technology allow architects and designers to create fantastic structures and forms, solve design issues that may be plaguing industries for decades, or create any type of interior environment.
Q: What have been some of your career highlights/proudest achievements so far?
I’m proud of winning the top prize in the Atlanta affordable housing domestiCITY competition and getting to work on the renovations at Madison Square Garden.
Q: Do you have a favorite city to visit for architecture?
My favorite city that I’ve visited would have to be Kyoto. The Japanese city masterfully blends the modern with the old. The dedication to craftsmanship (especially the millwork and joinery), design, and art is evident in the way the city fabric is constructed and maintained.
Close seconds would be Berlin and Barcelona. Berlin with the unique rebuilding and reconnecting of two cities divided by the wall after WWII. Barcelona, due to the influence of Gaudi and the urban planning making a vibrant city no matter which neighborhood you’re in.
Q: Do you have a favorite building or perhaps a favorite architect?
As mentioned, Antoni Gaudi’s designs are one of my favorites and the artistry he wove into so many buildings and La Sagrada Familia is unparalleled.