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BLDUP Spotlight: Kirsten Lawson, Senior Associate CambridgeSeven 01/21/22

bldup spotlight cambridgeseven

The BLDUP Spotlight is a weekly feature where readers gain insights on developments around the city and get to know local industry experts. Today we chat with Kirsten Lawson, Senior Associate at world-renowned architecture firm CambridgeSeven. Lawson’s most recent projects include the Four Seasons Hotel and Private Residences, One Dalton and 30 Dalton Street Residences in Boston. For nearly five decades, CambridgeSeven has maximized the power of collaboration to bring fresh solutions to complex design challenges.


BLDUP: What is the last book you read that you would recommend as a "must-read" to the construction and design community? Why did you find this book so important?

Lawson: Joy at Work by Marie Kondo and Scott Sonenshein was an interesting read. Though many might think this a “self-help” book for the chronically unorganized, to the contrary: it simply asks one to reexamine their work environment and recognize opportunities for tidying. This applies as much to the digital and temporal realms as it does the physical one. What really resonated with me, especially through the lens of a global pandemic which stretched the very definition of workplace to its limits, was the notion that ridding oneself of clutter can bring about a renewed sense of purpose, increased productivity, and all-around contentment with one’s job.

BLDUP: Do you have a daily or weekly routine that you follow? If so, how do you feel it has contributed to your success? How has this routine changed/been adjusted given the current situation?

Lawson: It may seem cliché, but I am a huge proponent of making one’s bed every day (even if isn’t first thing in the morning). Creating order on this small scale can have profound impact on the greater order of one’s life, and there is something so satisfying about being greeted by a crisply made bed at the end of the day rather than of a ball of chaos. I found this to be especially true over the past two years as I was seeking to find things within my control to offset the growing uncertainty/anxiety of our world.

BLDUP: During the course of your career, what was the biggest challenge you faced and how did you overcome it? What other accomplishments hold a special place in your heart and why?

Lawson: Throughout my life, I have struggled with feelings of inadequacy (what has been dubbed “the imposter syndrome”). Constantly questioning my competency would often cloud my ability to see my own successes and would force me to work harder to overcompensate. It took me years to give myself license to stop placing so much emphasis on what others perceived of me, but I was so much happier once I did. Aside from this internal victory, my proudest professional accomplishments are having been a part of the team for several noteworthy projects that have been true tests of endurance: The Liberty Hotel, Hanover Inn Dartmouth, Residences at 30 Dalton, and two Four Seasons Hotel and Private Residences projects (One Dalton Street and New Orleans). When I see these places thriving, it makes the arduous efforts to get there all the more worthwhile.

BLDUP: The COVID-19 pandemic brought on a unique set of challenges, how has this affected your business in the short term. Do you expect to see long-term effects on building design/architecture going forward?

Lawson: This pandemic certainly was a unique time in all our lives, and for myself even more so as it ran concurrent with the pregnancy and birth of my second child. The months spent away from the workforce afforded me an enormous opportunity to reflect upon the situation, and I was blown away by humanity’s resilience and fortitude. Many of the tools we came to employ out of necessity were so effective at streamlining our collaborative processes that they have been permanently adopted by the practice. In terms of how the pandemic has affected our built environment for the long run, I think it has forced several industries to rethink certain trends (think hospitality and communal spaces). As society grapples with the virus becoming endemic, technology and automation will likely reign supreme.

BLDUP: What upcoming projects are you most excited about?

Lawson: We have a large mixed-use development on the boards right now with the potential to completely revitalize a once-thriving town center that has fallen into a state of disrepair. The developer is a native of the town and is truly interested in doing what is right for the greater good and not just for their wallet, which we as designers appreciate since it allows us to tap into our problem-solving abilities to come up with a contextually appropriate solution.

BLDUP: What do you hope for the future of your company in the next 30 years? What legacy do you want to leave?

Lawson: My hope for CambridgeSeven is that it continues to thrive in the next 30 years just as it has done for the last 60: by approaching each project with a fresh set of eyes, and by giving each client our undivided attention. What has contributed to the storied success of this firm is its adaptability; our involvement in multiple sectors and building types allows us to remain nimble and create design solutions that are not predictable and contrived, but singular and contemporary.

BLDUP: Have you had a mentor or someone who has helped you during your career? What are the most valuable lessons you learned from that person?

Lawson: Yes, I’ve had many over the years, and I’m thankful to each of them for helping me navigate whichever issues were situationally relevant at the time. I think the common denominator, however, is that they all had a way of making me feel empowered. This is something I try to pay forward in my relationships as well, especially with junior staff, as a supportive work environment is vital for fostering truly authentic dialogue and encouraging raw creativity.

BLDUP: What is a favorite quote that inspires you or you strive to live by?

Lawson: The late actress Elizabeth Taylor has some great quotes, and several that have been particularly applicable in recent months. A favorite is, “...You refuse to let it get to you. You fight. You cry. You curse. Then you go about the business of living. That’s how I’ve done it. There’s no other way.”

Contributor Bio


CambridgeSeven is a world renowned architecture firm that maximizes the power of collaboration to bring fresh solutions to complex design challenges. For nearly five decades, CambridgeSeven has delighted its clients with provocative yet sensitive designs by recognizing and acting upon the unique opportunities inherent in every project. The firm is guided by the conviction that each assignment, at any scale, is a chance to apply fresh thinking in the search for solutions.

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