With one foot in academia and another in professional practice, Neue Guild member Megan Panzano has built a career exploring and investigating architecture at multiple scales. She is the principal of studioPM out of Arlington, MA, with a portfolio including residential renovations, exhibition designs, and new construction for commercial clients. Panzano is also a Design Critic in Architecture at the Harvard Graduate School of Design where she was a graduate student, winning two awards upon graduation: the John E. Thayer Award for outstanding achievement and the James Templeton Kelley Thesis Prize. Read below for her answers to our Q&A!
The Neue Guild [NG] What is your area of design expertise?
Megan Panzano [MP] Exhibition design and architectural projects of small (ish) scale.
NG How did your firm begin?
MP With two design projects I was hired to do simultaneously – a pair of exhibitions (one domestic and one international) along with an ongoing collaboration of design projects with local Boston recycling company, Save That Stuff, Inc on their company site in Charleston, MA.
NG Do you have a favorite part or phase of the design process?
MP Installation/Construction – when it all comes together and the design ideas are made open to a wider audience to experience. It’s a moment that is simultaneously the most anxious and exciting.
NG What’s an area of design with which you’re unfamiliar but would like to be more familiar?
MP There is always a set of new knowledge to be gained on new projects; I enjoy taking on different types of work that encourage me to read and learn about the specific conceptual bases of the design as much as gain exposure to a wider array of related material options and construction processes.
NG What inspires your work?
MP I always seek elements of the projects that I take on that can evolve and continue to excite over time. In speaking with clients, I look for aspects of their needs that enable the project to accentuate change and motivate designs that can accommodate multiple perceptions of space, surface, and/or sequencing. I aspire to develop designs that are never quite the same experience twice.
NG What has been your biggest design challenge to date?
MP Making it all work as fluidly as possible – family, friends, teaching (all of which I enjoy very much) with a design practice. This is the greatest challenge to date – one that keeps evolving, but I’m hopeful will always get better.
NG What role does collaboration play in your work?
MP A big one. It may appear that I’m a one-woman-show but that is never the case. Every project involves a team of people that I consult with to better the design work and its construction. The list includes artists, fabricators, exhibition design experts, other architectural firms, structural consultants, material suppliers, and my family and friends (who provided necessary gut checks and other perspectives of use and enjoyment that I wouldn’t likely supply on my own). A lot of collaborative input goes into making an output strong.