Post by Jess Smith, Director of Human Resources 

The Italian architect Renzo Piano says “You cannot be an architect until you are 50 years old.”  He is referring to the number of mistakes, mediocre design solutions and errors in judgment that must be made along the road to competence, and eventually expertise.

The practice of architecture is not learned quickly, and requires a lot of patience. The best have had many teachers, and in turn, teach others. At SBA one of the best teachers was Peter Steffian. His willingness to share knowledge, and his enthusiastic encouragement and feedback helped hundreds become better architects and designers.

In 2014, we created the Peter Steffian Mentoring Award as a way to celebrate his contributions, and recognize the firm’s best teachers.  Don Luoni, Kirsten Waltz and Bobbe Young are the 2014 recipients of the award.   Staff cited their genuine interest in nurturing and developing employees’ skills, rewarding inquiry, and blurring the lines between management and collaboration.

Thanks Don, Bobbe and Kirsten for continuing to give back.


Post by Heba Chaudhry, SBA UK

During the month of November, for a short but intense two weeks, I undertook a volunteer construction project in Vang Vieng, Laos. Landlocked by 6 countries, Laos is the poorest and least developed country in south-east Asia. Caught in many wars and ruled by the French, this oddly shaped country has been left battered and worn; each time having left to pick up its own pieces, whilst still somehow retaining its laid back rustic charm.


The project I undertook was situated an hour away from Vang Vieng by moped, through mountainous roads, eventually leading up to a village. The project consisted of a school toilet being built. The first task at hand was to dig a 3m3 hole; which in a western country would not have taken that long with the use of machinery, however as we only basic tools to hand, it did.


In order to excavate the site, the dirt had to be shovelled onto a sheet, which was then carried out and dumped outside the hole. Working conditions consisted of dry air and blistering heat. The local volunteers on the project were not properly kitted out either, most wearing sandals and no gloves and others bare-footed.


The second week of the project consisted of laying the brickwork. As the bricks had to be moved from one site to another and there was only myself and one other, the children of the school helped at lunch time. This was normal for children to help with fixtures around the school comprising of mending tables and chairs to watering the plants.


Without the use of modern machinery, not only does time spent on the project increase but also the appreciation for them. Although the people of Laos are incredibly patient, probably due to their relaxed nature, their attitude towards work and their progression for the future still remains a positive one.




2014 Toy Drive

Every year thousands of children and their families spend their holidays at Children’s Hospital Boston, separated from family and friends, and not able to take part in the activities and traditions they look forward to all year.

One of Steffian Bradley Architects’ (SBA) holiday traditions is hosting a toy drive to benefit the patients of Children’s Hospital Boston.  This is just one of the many activities SBA participates in to support its long standing relationship with the hospital.

Donations of new, unwrapped toys, books, video games, board games and even movies will be gratefully accepted up until Friday, December 19 at SBA’s Boston office located at 88 Black Falcon Avenue, East Lobby, Suite 353, Boston, MA.

For more information and to view the hospital’s basic guidelines for toy donations in order to ensure the safety of the patients, please go to the Children’s Hospital website.



On Thanksgiving Day 2014, SBA Interior Designer Mary Witt and friend Brendan Ross were not simply watching the parade on television—they were guiding the Adventure Time Balloon through the three mile parade route!

Mary and Brendan

Their day started at 5:30 a.m. when balloon handlers gathered in the Hammerstein Ballroom dressing area to receive coveralls and pinnys. After getting dressed, an entertainer’s bus took people to 81st street to meet up with their balloon handling teams and to do warm-up exercises.

getting ready

As a balloon handler, your job is to hold onto the “bone,” the device which helps steer the balloon. Then you follow the direction of the flight management team. A giant balloon typically takes about 90 people to fly down the parade route.

Once the denetting crew comes and takes the net off the balloon, it begins to fly. “I could feel the weight of the balloon pulling up on the bone. It’s a little work, but manageable,” explained Mary. “We were the balloon right behind Kiss!”

Kiss in from of Adventure Time

Of course, when you guide a balloon through the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade, you get a lot of attention. “Walking past all of the viewers was overwhelming at first but then very fun. Everyone is cheering, chanting, screaming and the amount of people there was absolutely mind blowing!”

Spider man balloon

The parade has more than 3 million in-person viewers. “The sidewalks were full; the windows of the buildings were full! It was crazy,” said Mary.  “It was so much fun!” Once the balloon was announced, the balloon handlers turn down a side street and deflate the balloon.

Adventure time!


Nepal 2.0

From Hartford to the Himalayas

In 2013, eight students at the Academy of Engineering and Technology (AEGT) at Hartford High School, working with business and college mentors, made history by designing and building a renewable power system that brought power to the village of Saldang for the first time. In 2014, two additional teams of students from AEGT will design two more wind and solar systems to power the remote villages of Namdo and Karang, nestled within the Himalayan Mountains. The two teams will research, design and construct the turbines as part of their project-based engineering class. As in 2013, the students yearn to harness the wind and sun, bringing power to the residents of these remote villages, 13,000 feet high in the mountains.

Partially funded by the Werth Family Foundation, the Hartford business community and friends of AEGT, the team is seeking funding to complete the project.

If you would like to be a sponsor or a volunteer, please download the Nepal 2.0 Pledge Form! Help spread the word with the Nepal 2.0 Brochure


It Takes a Village to Light Up a Village

The original Nepal Wind / Solar Project brought together students, teachers, advisory board members, alumni and business partners to develop a project that aligned to AEGT’s theme, implementing the skills students learned in class and promoting the skills needed to be successful in college and the workplace.

The Nepal 2.0 project will once more teach collaboration and teamwork, allowing students to benefit from a variety of skills brought forth by all community stakeholders.The ultimate goal is for a second group of Hartford high school students to help a community thousands of miles away to have the same opportunity to improve their way of living and learning.


Senior Associate Eddie Widofsky, AIA, LEED AP, BO serves on the Industry Advisory Board (IAB) for the AEGT at Hartford High School. One of the IAB’s initiatives this year is to help provide fundraising for this dynamic project.