Today we’d like to introduce you to Diana Nicklaus.
Diana, let’s start with your story. We’d love to hear how you got started and how the journey has been so far.
I have more than 20 years of experience in the architectural industry and have worked in large and small firms in both the United States and Italy. I began my architectural career at Pei, Cobb & Partners, the firm founded by I.M. Pei. From there, I transitioned to Gensler’s New York office, which at that time had 400 people. I was fortunate to work under the leadership of Maddy Burke, who was a role model for me throughout my career. After Gensler, I spent time working in Italy, then I moved back to the United States where I worked in Cleveland and then moved to Boston. At each stop, I had opportunities to hone a variety of talents from expanding my technical knowledge to developing leadership skills, and I was a part of many high-profile, large-scale institutional projects in sectors including higher education, healthcare, cultural arts, and K-12 education.
In 2014, my colleague, Koos Louw, and I established Saam Architecture, a firm with a collaborative approach to serving clients across many industries. In just three short years, we’ve gathered a staff of 26 talented individuals, and we have doubled our revenue in each year of business. Saam Architecture has grown in both talent and in the client roster, and we feel poised to make an impact on the architectural industry going forward.
Has it been a smooth road?
I am proud of the architecture career I have built and have worked hard to achieve success in a notoriously demanding industry. It wasn’t always easy, but I’ve tried to use my experiences and the reputation I have developed to help the industry evolve into a more modern, equitable, and innovative position.
Architecture is a challenging career. It is a largely male-dominated field that has a reputation for working its talent to burn-out, not providing equitable professional development, and being slow to adopt changes in technology and practice. As I’ve worked to establish a strong professional reputation, I’ve also tried hard to position myself to be part of conversations about how to move the industry forward and adapt to the changing needs of clients.
In pursuit of promoting equity in the industry, I’ve been active in groups that support professional women. For example, I was a founding co-chair of the Massachusetts Building Congress Women’s Network, which allowed women in the architecture, engineering, and construction (ACE) industries to network with other women of all career-levels in a supportive, non-intimidating environment. I also participate annually in a “Women In STEM” forum for teen girls, conducting a panel on architecture to help inspire young girls to pursue an architectural career. Most importantly, I co-founded my own firm and implemented progressive HR practices and equitable opportunities for all our talented staff.
These activities allow me to promote the idea of equitable professional development opportunities for all architects and encourage my peers to embrace new technologies and practices that will help bring our industry forward.
We’d love to hear more about your business.
Saam Architecture is a medium-sized architecture firm with a deep pool of talented architects and expertise across many sectors. Founded in 2014 by myself and Koos Louw, Saam has grown rapidly, and we’ve been able to establish a solid reputation in the industry. One element that makes us unique is that our staff is nearly 75 percent female. That is unheard of in this male-dominated field, and we boast a diversity of experience and talent that is very valuable to our client base. Our firm has a high retention rate because our staff works in a highly collaborative environment, has access to equitable professional development opportunities, and is able to use new technologies in our practice to provide the best service to our clients.
Part of what sets us apart from other firms is that we have big-firm talent and expertise while at the same time offering our clients the small-firm ability to be more flexible and collaborative. In addition, we are unique in the breadth of experience our employees have, as well as the varied client list we’ve compiled. Many firms serve clients in a specific industry, but at Saam, we have intentionally looked across sectors. Some of our clients include Wynn, DCAMM, Massport, Northeastern University, Charter, Toshiba, and RCG.
I am proud of the growing success of Saam, the talent and creativity of our staff, and of the excellent service we are able to offer clients from a variety of industries.
Do you feel like our city is a good place for businesses like yours? If someone was just starting out, would you recommend them starting out here? If not, what can our city do to improve?
Boston is a very competitive city in which to practice architecture. There are many firms in the city competing for the same work, and any new firm should recognize that establishing credibility takes a long time. Boston has significant design talent, but the city could improve on diversifying designer selection for new, ground-up construction.
- Address: 655 Summer St, Boston, MA 02210
- Website: saam-arch.com
- Phone: (617) 275-4453
Jennifer MacNeil Photography,Saam Architecture Photo and Christian Phillips Photography