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Meet Derek Bloom of Derek Bloom Architects in South End and Roxbury

Today we’d like to introduce you to Derek Bloom.

Thanks for sharing your story with us Derek. So, let’s start at the beginning and we can move on from there.
As a kid, I would disassemble things in the house- phones, radios, bicycles, stereos, I was curious to know how they were made. I always had an art project going on, I created an “inventors” sketchbook of imaginary technology, this was the start of my interest in designing things. Alas, the book is lost, so those inventions may never see the light of day! I went to a high school that offered an introduction to architecture, and I never looked back. This took me to Architecture school at Cornell and MIT, two great programs with brilliant teachers and mentors. Years later, working in New York and then Boston, I had an extremely varied apprenticeship, working on aquariums and oceanariums, higher education campuses, retail flagship stores, building-integrated technology, and high-end residences, among other things. Meanwhile, I had been moonlighting to the point where at certain times I was doing more interesting projects at night than during the day. It seemed that it was time to start a firm, so in 2004 I founded the studio.

At first, we had a focus solely on residential work, but gradually other work came. Now we do a bit of everything, and we try to stay true to our artistic roots and as we grow into a bigger studio completing larger and more demanding projects.

We’re always bombarded by how great it is to pursue your passion, etc – but we’ve spoken with enough people to know that it’s not always easy. Overall, would you say things have been easy for you?
A design office can never be described as smooth! It is hard work, and the schedule is unpredictable. If you demand a high level of design out of yourself, there is uncertainty as to how long it will take for the design to reach the level you aspire to, it does not just happen automatically. Yet this is the real world and we have clients who will attest to our respect for schedule. So developing a good team is critical, and this has been a major revelation as the firm has grown. Having people with different design perspectives, personalities and skill sets, in the room together, creates the ability to tackle problems as a team, and to self-critique as a group, and in the end, to attain our best work.
As for specific struggles, there were times early in the studio’s existence when the projects were much smaller. And when you are doing projects ranging from tiny to small, you have to do a very large number of projects to make the business work. Unfortunately, the size of project does not correlate with how many phone calls or emails you might field in a given day! So there was a point when I realized that the entire week was spent managing communication and virtually no time was left for doing the work. It was clear that growth was the only option. So we found a centrally located office, began building a strong team, and committed to building a more robust studio to take on larger commissions.

So, as you know, we’re impressed with Derek Bloom Architects – tell our readers more, for example what you’re most proud of as a company and what sets you apart from others.
We are unique in that we remain open-minded about what constitutes a design opportunity. The studio does not “specialize” in the traditional sense of doing a lot of one type of project (i.e. restaurants) or one style of project (i.e. minimalist). We take on a variety of work, and treat projects very individually, and you can see it in our built work. The contextual and programmatic facts of each site, and not a preconceived aesthetic, give a design its impetus, in our view. “What’s your specialty” is a question we grapple with quite often, and the expectation is that we will have a simple answer. But as designers we thrive on the process of exploration, and we are less concerned with what the typology is, or whether we achieve a consistent look across projects.

This comes from, again, staying true to our roots. We are trained in architecture and design schools as generalists, and that is our skill set. While it is undeniable that one’s technical knowledge increases with repeat exposure to the same type of project, there can be a tendency to stagnate and repeat, which we consciously avoid.

We are gratified when clients trust us to design something new, that maybe we have not done before. I think the confidence to do this comes from their understanding that design is simply a process, and that they are hiring a team whose process results in dynamic architecture, regardless of program.

So, what’s next? Any big plans?
We are looking forward to participating in what we see as a transformation of the Boston urban landscape. In the Boston area, we sense a trend toward denser mixed-use development, and a renewed interest in expanding public transit, which will allow for a decline of car and parking-based zoning schemes. The younger population, in particular, are at the forefront of this change. We hope that Boston will continue to become more walkable, more diverse, and more connected.

Architecture, unlike personal technology or fashion, probably does not move in 5-10 year phases. There might be trends in how architecture looks, aided by popular media, HGTV, Pinterest, etc. But the profession is still working on decades-old efforts to realize affordable and/or prefabricated housing, create more sustainable, durable buildings, and convert waterfronts and industrial urban sectors into vibrant parts of cities. As our projects continue to grow in size and complexity, we look forward to having a greater impact on this positive evolution.

Contact Info:

Image Credit:
1. Trent Bell Photography
2. Derek Bloom Architects
3. Derek Bloom Architects
4. Derek Bloom Architects
5. Patrick Rogers Photography
6. Nat Rea Photography
7. Nat Rea Photography
8. Trent Bell Photography

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