Architect Peter McCarthy knew where he was headed from an early age. With a mother insistent about her dreams for her son and a hands-on father always tinkering away in his wood shop, it was clear design was in Peter’s future.
“My mother started telling me that she thought I was going be an architect somewhere around the age of eight. Things grew very quickly from there, in terms of being construction-minded, very hands-on,” says Peter. “When I was a kid, my tree fort in the backyard was published in the local newspaper. The history of architecture goes way back for me.”
In addition to designing buildings, Peter also builds with food, as an amateur chef. While abroad in Japan, a visit to the famed Tsukiji Market inspired him to consider the intersection of the culinary and construction worlds.
“To experience the market in action, you have to stay up all night, since it opens at around 2 a.m. After riding my bike halfway across the city, and killing time to stay awake, I spent the early morning hours witnessing one of the most amazing events on earth,” says Peter. “You’d see tanks of sea life that you would swear are from another planet, and in the next breath, watch whole tuna the size of refrigerators sliding across the floor between sellers and buyers in the auction. As a spectator, you are a part of the action, trying not to get run over by the miniature pickup-truck-sized vehicles zooming around the complex.”
Enjoying these new sights and smells, Peter settled in for the ultimate sensory experience: taste.
“The action slows down around the time the sun rises. I found a small four-seat shop at the edge of the market. The owner buys his stock for the day right there at the market and he prepares whatever makes sense,” Peter recalled. “He spoke just enough English that I could order, but not enough that we could converse. So I sat there exhausted, but energized, and ate a modest bowl of rice, seaweed, and raw tuna in relative silence.”
Peter’s visit was a turning point – not just for his culinary taste, but in his professional work.
The six months I spent in Japan were where I really started to connect food and design in more literal ways.
His exploration of food began, like most people, at home, and flourished abroad.
“It started as a family thing, but really amplified from traveling. The more I was exposed to different international cultural approaches, the more it grew,” says Peter.
“I don’t have a signature dish per se, but I have somewhat of a process for building a dinner for friends and family. On the practical side, I first take the time to understand diet preferences and restrictions. After that I try to design around the seasons and what’s best that I have access to. I have relationships with a few local farms around here and people always like hearing about an ingredient’s origin and freshness. Then I see what it evolves into on the plate. This narrative is very similar to the architectural design process and how the designer is the link between countless building materials and systems and a final project that is customized for a client’s needs.”
Peter can chart his growth in the kitchen with his growth as a designer, pointing at a few specific instances where he had the chance to expand his studies.
“It grew opportunistically. I didn’t know that my interest in cooking, ingredient sourcing, our relationship to food, and design would really come together until I was exposed to a culinary school design project. Once I was really involved in that project, I was able to see all the levels that culinary education builds on. It was really the perfect mix of my personal and professional interests,” he says. Sometimes the two disciplines converge in a perfect marriage.
“I’m currently working on a project with the University of Buffalo that’s aimed at evolving the traditional dining hall model to meet student demand in a way that makes it more invigorating. Student dining centers today are starting to be modeled after places like the Chelsea Market in New York — spaces that are demand-driven and have a lot of hype around it. They have the flexibility to meet ever-changing consumer demand, both in terms of the offerings but also in the healthfulness of what’s being served.”
Learn More About Peter’s Thoughts on Culinary Design >
A self-described “intrapraneur” and “data geek,” Amir Rezaei-Bazkiaei finds joy in problem-solving and pushing for change inside an organization. With a Ph.D. in environmental engineering and renewable energy, Amir’s passion is using computational design methods to influence the design of net-zero and positive-energy buildings. As CannonDesign’s high-performance building analyst, he raises the performance bar daily by advocating for better energy efficiency, output and utilization through analysis.
“Globally, 40 to 60 percent of all energy consumption is via buildings. They are the leading cause of greenhouse gas emissions. If we could change that, it would make a big difference,” Amir says. “If it was up to me, I’d mandate all new buildings be designed net-zero.”
Though he doesn’t have that kind of power (yet), Amir is committed to doing what he can to ensure CannonDesign commits to building net-zero and positive-energy buildings when possible.
“There’s a shift in the way that designers are working,” he says. “We want to know how our buildings are going to perform once built. It’s about designing buildings that will be energy efficient – maybe even net-zero – while also being comfortable to live in. This is a priority for the company and it’s great for our clients.”
Born and raised in Iran, Amir immigrated to the U.S. eight years ago, something he credits with shaping him into a natural problem-solver.
I have a different lens because of past experiences. I’ve lived without enough money and within an education system that was lacking, so when there is a challenge or problem I instantly think of different ways to attack it because I’ve had to be resourceful.
Amir’s work as an analyst provides him with constant challenges.
“In real estate, they say it’s all about location, location, location,” he says. “In high-performance building, it’s all about analysis. You need to analyze where you are, what the climate is, how much temperatures fluctuate, how much sunlight you get or don’t get. And then it’s about integration and working with the architecture and engineering departments to incorporate energy models and concepts into the design.”
Once strategies and systems have been decided upon, the other half of the work begins, thinking about what happens when people actually occupy the building.
“There’s always the question of whether or not people will use the building as you had expected and accounted for,” he says. “You can assume the lights are out at night, but if that’s not the case then you’ve got some reconfiguring to do. It’s an ongoing process.”
When he’s not at work, Amir enjoys being with his two young daughters and influencing them to think about design in their daily lives.
“I want to teach them to believe in data and to be curious about how they can make a better living environment for themselves,” he says. And though he misses family (and the food!) in Iran, Amir has found a new home for himself and his family in Buffalo.
“Being an immigrant can sometimes affect the way people treat you in the work environment,” he says.
“When I met the CannonDesign team, I could tell that they valued me for the expertise that I brought to the table and that it didn’t matter where I came from. It’s been a true blessing to be in an environment that fosters diversity.”
The 2018 Woman Up Conference was recently held at Hotel Henry in Buffalo, N.Y. Emily Gumkowski from our Grand Island office attended the event, which was themed “The Future of Work.” Sessions were held around the influence and impact on women of all generations. Woman Up was founded by Joan Graci, Owner and President of APA Solutions, in an effort to bring women of Buffalo together under one roof to discuss, support and learn from one another, maximizing “the educational and empowerment opportunities that shape area women of today, tomorrow and beyond.”
It was a room full of “disrupters” — leaders ready to impact the future of work and bring something new to the table. Sheri Sullivan, VP of People Advisory Services at Ernst & Young, was the keynote speaker and provided tools necessary to implement the material and strategies discussed. Sheri spoke about leadership in the digital era and how to leverage it — and not avoid it. To round out the day the group broke into several different sessions covering everything from entrepreneurship to emotional intelligence. The event was not only inspiring and empowering but it provided a wealth of knowledge and insight about the future of the workplace. It is amazing what can be achieved when you bring a group of talented, strong and motivated women into one space.