Building Whisperer: Ann Beha To Deliver April 11 Keynote On Historic Interventions

Building Whisperer: Ann Beha To Deliver April 11 Keynote On Historic Interventions

University of Chicago Department of Economics and Becker Friedman Institute for Research in Economics, original building 1923-1928. (Courtesy Ann Beha Architects)

Not many practitioners today can say they’ve collaborated with Henry Van Brunt, the 19th century architect famous for designing Harvard’s Memorial Hall, or Boston architect Guy Lowell, who designed the original 1903 master plan for the Museum of Fine Arts in Boston. But Ann Beha, who once said she specializes in “finding a contemporary voice within a historic center,” is a bit of a time-traveler. Her Boston-based firm is acclaimed for creating elegant links between the past and present.

A keynote speaker at Facades + PERFORMANCE, an upcoming conference about high-performance building envelopes, Beha notes that some of the older buildings she works with already have highly efficient envelopes thanks to excellent construction and high quality materials. Her lecture, “Interventions: History and Innovation,” will review three case studies at varying scales, telling the stories of how she restored landmarked buildings while simultaneously developing new expansion plans that were rooted in the original architecture but also clear expressions of their own time.

Princeton University, Carl A. Fields Center, original building 1895. (Courtesy Ann Beha Architects).

Focusing on campus architecture in her talk, Beha notes that many universities are growing interested how improvements to their existing buildings can reflect a commitment to sustainability. Creating a symbiotic relationship between the architecture and the engineering is key, said Beha—a collaboration made closer and more precise thanks to modeling software. But more than anything Beha emphasizes “fit to function,” or renovation without excessive demolition. “We ask to what extent we can use the building in a natural way,” she said.

University of Pennsylvania Music Building expansion, original building 1892. (Courtesy Ann Beha Architects).