• Douglas Towne

Shepley Bulfinch: Interview with Joseph Herzog, AIA


Joseph Herzog is a principal with Shepley Bulfinch, a national architecture firm known for design excellence and innovation with offices in Boston, Houston, and Phoenix

When you were first captivated by architecture?

I had an uncle who was an architect, owned his firm and lived in a house that he designed. He worked on a variety of projects, from schools to airports to homes, and I loved hanging out at his office and shadowing him to watch him work. This was my first glimpse into the world of architecture, and I was hooked.

What was your experience before Shepley Bulfinch?

While in architecture school, someone who knew acclaimed Phoenix architect Will Bruder suggested I talk to him. I arrived on his doorstep one Saturday morning, portfolio in hand: after one look, he hired me. I worked nearly full-time for Will during my three years of graduate school. Upon graduation, I worked with him for an additional three years, and that was my true training in architecture – frankly, so much more than school.

After my time with Will, I worked with Wendell Burnette for a year. I began thinking about projects that truly inspired me, ones that could make a difference to a whole community. In 2004, I co-founded merzproject. Our first project was the groundbreaking After Hours building in Phoenix. Soon we had a reputation as a young, progressive architecture firm and won Architectural Record’s 2009 Design Vanguard Award.

How is working for Shepley Bulfinch different from having your firm?

Merging with Shepley Bulfinch has been the greatest professional decision of my life. The firm has the resources for me to create forward-thinking designs and act on them. The larger platform gives me the chance to work on a variety of projects, including higher education facilities. As the son of a college professor, I wondered how I could be a part of the college experience from an architectural standpoint. Being a part of Shepley Bulfinch – with its history of higher ed work – gives me that opportunity. Campuses need branding these days, and great design is a major contributor to that.

What was different about renovating the Phoenix Financial Center building in which your company would be the occupants?

When designing your own building, you have no illusions about the process. You can embrace that it won’t be perfect the first time which frees you up to be more experimental. The most important part of any renovation is the last 10 to 20 percent when, ideally, you should understand how the sun is affecting users in the space, test the acoustics, note where people are congregating, etc., all of which can only be validated through experience. Then you can do the final stage six months later. This process normally doesn't work with clients, but it's a valid way to approach a project.

What's your current project?

I’m working on a housing project in downtown Phoenix at Third and Pierce streets, and a student housing project at Arizona State University, Tempe campus. We will soon be starting work on the next renovation of the After Hours building and the next phase of en Hance Park.

What should the construction industry know about architects?

I honestly don’t think there is much mystery anymore. Our projects are so collaborative and often involve co-location, where the design and construction teams work together for a substantial portion of the time. For the Banner University Medical Center project in Tucson, for example, the entire project team co-locates and works together in what we call “The Big Room” for three days every week.

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