Bergmeyer Celebrates Lewis Muhlfelder’s Career and Leadership
A graduate of The Colorado College with a Bachelor of Arts in Architecture and a Masters in Architecture from The Harvard Graduate School of Design, Lewis has been an architect for his entire career. Since joining the Bergmeyer team in 1986, he has made tremendous contributions to the two aspects of our firm that our people care about the most – our projects and our culture. “I have had the great pleasure of knowing Lewis since he first joined the firm. And, for me, one of the things has been a constant about Lewis over thirty-something years is his ability to rise to a challenge and to contribute to the firm’s growth and prosperity in whatever capacity necessary,” said Bergmeyer’s President, Mike Davis.
In his first years at the firm, Lewis worked on affordable and modular housing projects, getting a small multi-unit modular development built on Blue Hill Avenue in Roxbury, and being recognized by the City of Boston for his work on a housing design competition. When retail design became a major specialty for Bergmeyer, Lewis took over the management of what became the firm’s largest and longest-standing client: Talbots. This client brought us our first nation-wide multi-unit implementation work along with several new prototype attempts and our first projects in Japan. Lewis also started us off on our first corporate interiors projects. Leveraging our experience in adaptive reuse, many of his corporate interiors projects were in former mills or commercial buildings including the Lehman Millet offices on Canal Street and the Hibbet, Karlsson & Sorensen offices in Pawtucket.
In the late 90’s, Lewis took on the role of Bergmeyer’s Board Treasurer. Being the executive steward of the firm’s finances for as long as many of us can remember, he has worked in close coordination with the firm’s accounting department to oversee Bergmeyer’s financial well-being. As one of the principal authors of the firm’s Guiding Principles, Lewis framed the professional, ethical and profitable management of the firm as an imperative. Then in late 2015, Lewis joined Mike Davis and Vice President Rachel Zsembery on an Executive Committee that has become a force for optimization and positive change at Bergmeyer.
With a lengthy list of career accomplishments, we asked Lewis to share his thoughts on some of the projects he has enjoyed working on over the years:
ABAQUS is a 240-person engineering software company providing structural analysis programs to automobile manufacturers in the petroleum industry. Their 70,000-sf offices are spread over 3 buildings and 4 floors in former mill buildings centered by a 3-story glass atrium.
“The founders of Abaqus was attracted to old mill buildings, likened their solidity to the stalwart underpinnings of their own firm, and equally appreciated that their renovation helped to lift a depressed part of the Providence community. It forged a relationship that spanned two buildouts and lasted more than 15 years.”
California Closets Corporate Office
Faced with moving their corporate office headquarters out of downtown Berkeley, and the need for additional distribution space, California Closets opted to locate in the former Ford Motor Company Assembly Plant on the inner harbor of Richmond, California. The breathtaking, industrial space featured all the opportunities and challenges older structures bring. Thirty-three foot ceilings, exposed beams and structural steel cables, create open, soaring spaces with large swaths of natural light; and … no indoor plumbing or HVAC systems.
The complex, once an automobile assembly plant, was used to assemble jeeps and tanks during World War II, and was the origin of the cultural icon Rosie the Riveter. “The building had wonderful sawtooth-shaped monitors which brought lighting to these factories back in the day. There were wonderful bones in the building to work with.” The design team used as much of the existing shell as possible, and faced several challenges with mechanical distribution and the plumbing given the thick factory slabs. “We built on our strong relationship with California Closets, our understanding of their culture and brand gained through previous work designing their retail showrooms.” Click here to learn more about the project.
Professional Staffing Group
The most important moment in a job hunt is the interview. Nail the interview and you’re hired. Boston’s Professional Staffing Group – committed to finding, grooming, and placing top-notch candidates in highly desirable positions – knows job interviews often happen in high-visibility, pressure-packed, fishbowl-like settings. This understanding shaped Bergmeyer’s design thinking for PSG’s corporate headquarters in Boston’s Financial District. The hub of PSG’s program is their testing and interviewing area. Because of its public prominence and street-level visibility, PSG chose an irregularly-shaped, 1,400-sf ground floor space to contain these critically important functions.
“They desired a space with transparency that could showcase their brand.” The team took clues from the misshapen floorplan and designed a ground floor plan “with glass interview rooms and a spine perpendicular to the outside view permitting sightlines to the customized supergraphic on the back wall.” There were acoustic and glass manufacturing challenges that came with designing such a space, but it worked out in the end by using sound masking technologies in each room. “It’s an interesting voronoi shape where every side of the geometries is shared by another.” Click here to learn more about the project.
Intex enlisted Bergmeyer for a renovation and refresh of their office, a space that we had previously designed years ago. The renovation provided multiple dining, conferencing, and touch-down spaces and a fresh palette of finishes for the common areas.
“We had a fun time working on the refresh, especially as we had designed the original buildout located in an older industrial building in Needham. Because the owners wanted to retain the sense of the big, industrial space we rotated all new walls 45 degrees so you could always sense the existing geometry. An interior central piazza was created as a space for meetings, lunches, and gatherings. “The new space, surrounded by elements of the old, has a totally different feel. They wanted more warmth and a central spot for people to be able to interact. We gave the office new life and energy.”
Mass Clean Energy Center
Massachusetts Clean Energy Center provides seed investments to startup companies, funds renewable energy rebates for residents and businesses, and supports the development of a local clean energy workforce. To support their mission, Bergmeyer designed the organization’s 15,000 sf office with resource efficiency, MassCEC’s brand identity and local Massachusetts businesses in mind.
“MassCEC is responsible for bringing new, clean energy sources to Massachusetts; they wanted to bring new thinking to their new offices, too.” MassCEC hosts many events showcasing clean energy technologies and required a space to accommodate a lot of people. The structure and 12-foot ceiling height were totally obscured by drywall buildouts during the initial walk-through of the space. “The existing space as it turns out had wonderful column capitals and tin ceilings. We stripped out the drywall to expose these original elements and gain ceiling height.” A heavy curtain installed in the main space could be closed for private meetings. The back offices can see through the kitchen into the main space providing views that are oftentimes more interesting than the views out. “The space works on many different levels, and when things fall into place, they become very successful projects done cost effectively.” Click here to learn more about the project.
When asked about his plans for the future, Lewis said he would like to research and find ways to build an experimental, sustainable, yet affordable house. “An article I recently read suggested we should build for the next 200 years, which would really be most sustainable because you are building bones that can then be repurposed over time. You get the emotional joy from reading the texture of one against the history of the other, and using less materials to do it. But it’s not an affordable way to build. You won’t see the return for a long time, yet you’re building the right way.” The reality is that most spaces don’t have a long shelf life. After 5, or 7, or 10 years, tastes have changed, and spaces lose their relevancy. These days, everything is changing progressively more quickly. “You need both designers with experience and the ideas from fresh, young minds. Some of our best designs come from young minds.”
It’s hard to imagine our office without Lewis’s presence, but he leaves behind an indelible impression. “What gives me the most joy is seeing the perpetuity of the firm. I think we have something unique in terms of our culture that was promulgated by Mori. I have, hopefully, imparted ideas along the way about design and running a good business; marrying these two sides of the brain that are the architecture and the people side, and using both to create some memorable spaces.”
We are thankful for the time that we have had with Lewis, and are appreciative of his leadership, friendship, and his many contributions to the firm. We wish him the best in his next adventures.