Post by Lindsay Comeaux Schnarr

My grandmother was an artist.  She taught me to see the world according to the colors of the rainbow.  I remember her often gazing quizzically, peacefully analyzing a point in space, as though she were trying to see through it.  Her focus was generally upon something quite simple, perhaps even invisible to most – a glass of lemonade, a fallen leaf, or the afternoon sky.  She would sit focused, transfixed, until her voice would emerge with a question that would always go something like this, how would you mix that shade of blue?  She loved to describe colors, especially the ones that most people don’t know how to identify, and often wonder, is that purple or blue?  She knew exactly how much winsor violet to mix with ultramarine blue to create the vibrant indigo hue of an iris petal.

One of her favorite stories to tell, undoubtedly because it showed off her victorious influence on my visual development was when we were sitting at a stoplight and she asked me to tell her when the light turned green.  I was only two or three years old at the time, and she obviously had begun to invest some of her brilliance on my future artistic abilities.  She was expecting me to get this one right.

The light turned green, and with no mention of the change in color from me, she said, “Lindsay – I thought you were going to tell me when the light turned green!”  I replied, with a rebuttal she’d never let me forget, and said, “But Grammie, that’s blue-green!”  Her seed had sprouted.

Color is an amazingly complex and beautiful gift of nature.  We can describe color in scientific terms that reference the principles of wavelengths and the anatomy of the ocular lens.  Experientially, we can recognize the visible spectrum and its gradient of intensity in frequency by simply falling asleep in a room with a digital clock that has red numbers, verses the ever-awakening irritation of high-frequency blue digits.  Intuitively, we know that colors affect our emotional response to the world around us, and as we boil down this observational understanding we arrive at a fundamental element underpinning the RGB coding of our environment – the quality of light.

As an architect, understanding the nature of the physical world is paramount.  We are trained to grasp the significance of our material world, not only in terms of structural integrity, but in the inherent ability of materials to direct design decisions.  The texture, transparency, temperature, and transformability of materials offer a guide to translate how a building functions, and ultimately feels to occupy.

Like color, the value of materials is only truly revealed through exposure to light.  Whether filtering in from the sun or emitting from an installed fixture, architects must consider the impact of various light sources on the experience of a space and the materials involved.

It was no surprise that my grandmother was “thrilled” when I told her I had chosen architecture as my professional path, and I would imagine that she would be equally elated to know that the work I do at SBA is dedicated to the significance of color and light.

A stroll through the Baystate Children’s Specialty Center in Springfield, MA will educate anyone on the ability of color-coding to assist with designated circulation paths, or way-finding.  Punches of accent light stimulate the eye and draws visitors into views beyond their immediate surroundings.

Highly efficient LED light wrapped columns allude to emerging tree trunks with drops of circular green ceiling panels, suspended like branches from an Alice in Wonderland scene.  Children and families afflicted with medical trauma, visit the pediatric wing, and discover a world that feels more like entering a candy store than a hospital.  The playful success of this project illustrates the opportunity we have as designers to highlight moments that may otherwise remain invisible to the public eye, and continue sowing the seeds of artistry through intelligent use of color and light.

The Playtrium

Baystate Children’s Specialty Center, Springfield, MA


Haikus by Erika Zekos and Samantha VanSchoick, Marketing Coordinator

Illustrations by Samantha VanSchoick

As we are sure you are all aware, August 18th is National Bad Poetry Day. In order to properly celebrate this national day, we at SBA have written some fantastically bad architectural inspired Haikus. Though Oscar Wilde once said “All bad poetry springs from genuine feeling,” we aren’t sure that totally applies here. Enjoy!














Enrique (Rick) Rojas, IALD, IES, LEED AP, has over 39 years of experience as an architect and an international architectural/urban lighting designer. Rick has an extensive background in interior and exterior lighting design, daylight design, and architecture among a variety of different project types. Throughout his career, he has received numerous accolades for his lighting design work, most recently winning three Edward F. Goodwin Awards and three Awards of Merit from the Illuminating Engineering Society of North America. Below is a sampling text submitted for the May/June issue of Snap Magazine, where Rick discusses LEDs, new products and trends, sustainable lighting and daylighting. 

Written by Rick Rojas, IALD, IES, LEED AP

Baystate HoF ED

The Baystate Medical Center Hospital of the Future Emergency Department project recently won an Edward F. Goodwin Merit Award from the Illumination Engineering Society of North America.

There’s no question that the future of LED lighting is in the present and that greenhouse emissions, mercury pollution and cradle to cradle energy use to manufacture and transport luminaires will vastly diminish as LED fixtures continue to replace less efficient conventional equipment. Currently, the lighting industry is being proliferated by a myriad of LED fixtures which offer increased efficacy, greater choice in color temperature, beam distribution and improved color rendering. However, designers must exercise caution to avoid the overuse of bright luminous elements that can dominate the visual environment thereby distorting spatial forms and de-emphasizing design elements. Lighting itself is a design element but the hardware is not, unless it is meant to provide an appropriate a sense of sparkle or decoration. Regardless of the source used, there’s no substitute for a quality task-ambient approach to lighting for comfort and efficiency.

New Products/Trends in Lighting

Fortunately, knowledgeable lighting manufacturers continue to advance LED luminaire technology by using specially made refracting lenses and reflectors to develop luminaires that truly perform with excellent beam control, low glare, and no harsh cut-offs.  A new generation of LED fixtures are reaching the market that ‘really’ replace fluorescent cove lights, wall slots and wall grazers…they defy the most discerning eye to detect what the light source really is. But most importantly, these new luminaires provide the indirect ambient light component that has been missing in the LED lighting toolbox.

LEDs, Sustainable Lighting and Daylighting

One of the most exciting advantages to LED lighting is that, with readily available controllers, one can fine tune and balance illumination levels and thereby create various moods. There are now new products that change color temperature when dimmed! They also offer a terrific opportunity for sustainable lighting design when incorporated with daylighting. LED luminaires can be easily programed to harmonize the interior lighting level with the natural daylight cycle and the human biological clock.

The economics of LEDs is still on the pricey side but costs are dropping as their use becomes more common place and as long as power companies continue to provide rebates and incentives to promote their acceptance in the marketplace.


Post by Diane Verdi-Lukomski, AIA, LEED AP BD+C

Diane Verdi-Lukomski

Diane Verdi-Lukomski

“You must be so creative!”

This is the statement most often uttered as soon as someone finds out that I am left-handed. From childhood, this has been drilled into my brain. Left-handed = creative. Being an artistically-minded child, this became a part of my identity. I loved the idea that I was unique. It almost felt as though being left-handed gave me some kind of creative superpower. The ‘younger’ me thought: I am creative and I am special because I am a lefty!

Left-handed people make up approximately 10% of the general population, and creativity is the most common trait associated with left-handed individuals, who are also thought to be artistic and visual thinkers. Right-handed folks are oppositely identified as logical and linear thinking. This is because the right side of the brain controls the left side of the body, therefore the right hemisphere of the brain, which controls creativity, perception and emotions, is said to be dominant in lefties. The left-side of the brain, which controls logic and reasoning, is said to be dominant in those that are right-handed.

It is not quite that black and white in reality, but these beliefs are deeply rooted societal stereotypes. But how true are these common beliefs? Is creativity the defining trait of left-handed people? Are a disproportionate number of lefties employed in creative professions such as architecture and design?

A common belief is that the majority of architects are left-handed, and there have been studies done that show a significant increase in the number of left-handed architecture students vs. those that are right-handed. Interestingly, I couldn’t find the names of any architects on lists of famous ‘lefties’ that I came across, and Google searches for ‘famous left-handed architects’ did not yield any specific names to note…unless, of course, you count one of the many ‘occupations’ of George Costanza in the sitcom Seinfeld. He famously pretended to be an architect, and concluded “Nothing is higher than an architect!” in various episodes of the show. Jason Alexander, who played George, is a noted lefty by the way, but I digress. Other creative fields were represented on these lists – artists such as Michelangelo and Leonardo da Vinci, inventors such as Benjamin Franklin, and musicians including Jimi Hendrix and Kurt Cobain are all famous lefties.  Non-creative fields were also represented including athletes such as our beloved Red Sox DH David Ortiz, and Presidents of the United States including George H.W. Bush, Bill Clinton, and Barack Obama.

An informal poll taken at SBA found that out of the 66 people who responded from the Boston and Enfield offices, 7 of those people stated they are left-handed and 2 additional people stated that they are ambidextrous. This works out to approximately 10% of respondents being left-handed, and 13% of respondents being either left-handed or ambidextrous.

Interestingly, this aligns perfectly with the percentage of left-handers in the general population. This indicates three things: 1) the idea that a majority of architects being left-handed may actually be a myth, 2) many right-handers can also access the creative side of their brains, and 3) at least 10% of us have had to adapt to a world designed for right-handers.

Most everyday things are designed for right-handed people. In the classrooms that we all grew up in, left-handed scissors were hard to come by and standard notebooks with rings on the left side made it difficult to take legible notes. In college lecture halls, right-handers got to rest their arm on their tablet desks while taking notes in class.

We lefties had to either contort our bodies into uncomfortable positions in order to use the right-handed desks or find the one left-handed desk in the class, which was like trying to find a needle in a haystack.

Then there was Architecture Studio. Drawing by hand always left its mark on us, literally. We had to find a way to draw in ink or pencil so that we would not smudge our work as we drew, trying to move from right to left instead of the typical left to right. If there were too many smudges, we would need to start over. And no matter how hard we tried, we always ended up having ink or pencil on the side of our left hand at the end of the day as evidence of the hours we spent drawing in studio.

Even now, as professionals, we still find ourselves having to adapt to things designed for righties. Standard computer mice are used with the right hand, the number pad on keyboards is on the right side, and using a tape measure with our left hand results in our having to read the numbers upside-down.

Even in light of all these challenges, we find a way to adapt to this heavily skewed right-handed environment; we are an incredibly flexible bunch! Famous lefty musician Jimi Hendrix famously learned how to play his right-handed Fender Stratocaster guitar upside down.

We lefty-architects have learned how to draw without smudging, use computer mice with our right hands, and read tape measures upside-down with ease. These challenges help us to put designing for different groups of people at the forefront of our minds, and when we collaborate with our right-handed counterparts I think it makes for a better end result for our clients.

So does this mean that lefties are more creative people on the whole? The research is inconclusive. But at the end of the day I would say that our biggest strength, our true ‘superpower’, is our ability to adapt, and that, in and of itself, requires quite a bit of creative problem solving.

Post by Laura Wake-Ramos & Stratton Andrews

Enfield, CT -  Heading into the last year of architecture school, there is a storm of questions on our minds:  What am I going to do for thesis?  When am I going to update my portfolio?  How am I going to pay off my student loans?  Out of all the things we worry about (or don’t worry about) before graduation, we are confident in ourselves as emerging architects after this summer at Steffian Bradley Architects.  This being our last summer internship in school, we are grateful to have had this experience at SBA.

What made your SBA internship memorable?


The strong, open learning environment that was present every day, coupled with the engaging senior leadership made this internship memorable; as well as the scale and scope of work that I was able to complete with the support of the surrounding staff.


What made my SBA internship valuable was the open work environment.  In the office, every individual was a mentor to me, and was willing to share their unique experiences.  Their stories inspire my professional goals every day I am in the office, as well as when I am at school.


What was your favorite project you worked on while at SBA?


My favorite project while working at SBA this summer was a 20,000 sf outpatient medical center for Baystate Health. Senior leadership and I took the project from the earliest stages of user meetings all the way through a Pricing Set in just over a month.


This summer, my favorite project was working on SBA’s Sustainability Action Plan on the Sustainability Team.  In this project, I was exposed not only to SBA’s sustainability goals, but to the firm’s overall vision.  At the completion of the draft, I felt like I made a difference for SBA.

What will you take away from your summer at SBA?


I am headed back to the University of Arizona with a great wealth of knowledge provided by my mentor Kris Kennedy and the rest of the SBA team. Together Kris and I worked in tandem completing three pricing sets, one lease set, and a large DPH set for the HOF project at Baystate Medical Center. He instilled many life lessons as well as advice regarding client relations, construction administration and BIM assistance.


At the end of my internship, I will head back to Penn State with a stronger focus in my goals and interests.  The most valuable part of my internship has been working with my mentors at SBA, who over three summers, have guided me towards finding my passion.  It’s been such an incredible journey each summer here at SBA!

Laura Wake-Ramos (left) and Stratton Andrews.

2014 CT summer interns, Laura Wake-Ramos (left) and Stratton Andrews.