Staff Spotlight: Steve Walnut

With a portfolio of projects including international work in Greece, Steve enlightens us on his career, guiding principles, and more

March 29, 2022
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Steve Walnut, AIA, LEED GA joined Finegold Alexander Architects at the beginning of 2022. In short order, Steve hit the ground running, assuming leadership positions in several ongoing projects. As senior project manager, Steve works extensively with clients, consultants and project teams to coordinate project progress and address and resolve unique challenges. We sat down with Steve this month to learn more about his history in the field including past projects, sources of inspirations, principles, and advice he has for new designers.

Q: What inspired you to become an architect?

S: I always loved designing things growing up (vehicles, houses, inventions, etc.) and my mother always was fascinated with architecture so she encouraged me to explore that direction. It really solidified for me after I realized that my dream of being an aeronautical engineer would require a PhD and lots of advanced math and physics. One of my memories from growing up was taking driving trips with my parents to places around central New York where I grew up, where my father would investigate the local accents (one of his hobbies) and she would point out different buildings and features.

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

S: Find a balance between listening and having confidence expressing your own ideas and experiences. Professional practice is really the second phase of a designer’s education and it is always good to absorb the lessons the “real world” has to offer, regardless of age. However what does not get enough credit is that young designers are often at the forefront of technology, social development, and idealism/wonder that older designers can learn from in turn.

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

S: I have a few. The first is that architecture is a team sport and that for a successful project we must collaborate, listen to, and respect all the parties involved. The second is that being a successful project manager is 90% finding the right people and staying out of their way so that they can do their jobs. The third is to know what you need to know.

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

S: I have been lucky to have been part of so many great projects in my career that it is hard to single out individual moments as each one has at least one aspect that I am proud of. From the top of my head: Witherspoon Hall at Princeton University since it was the first project I really got to do CA on and was involved in from Pre-Design through Post-Construction; U.S. Embassy in Athens, Greece due to the original architect (Gropius/TAC), building type (embassy), location (Greece), and the complexity of developing the design solution; Massachusetts State Senate Chamber Renovation given its historic nature, being able to bring it back to its rightful glory, and integrating modern systems and accessibility seamlessly.

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

S: I am always going to have a soft spot for Rome after spending a semester studying there in college. The number of eras overlapping (sometimes quite literally) and the staggering amount of art and architecture to see is amazing. Even after living there for half a year I still feel like I barely scratched the surface.

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

S: I have always admired Carlo Scarpa for his attention to detail and materiality in his projects. There is so much visual interest but also a feeling of comfort and warmth that I find lacking in many other modern architects. For buildings I would say the Pantheon in Rome. The beauty and simplicity of the building, after almost two millennia, is incomparable.

Stay tuned for another Staff Spotlight next month!