If he gets there at all, Al Gore will have to wait longer than he expected to be president, but the opposite is true for Robert A. Brown.

They are, of course, two different positions, with Brown recently taking over as president of the Boston Society of Architects. A principal with CBT/Childs Bertman Tseckares, Brown was to take the BSA helm in 2002, but was recently asked to do double duty when 2001 President Rebecca Barnes was named chief planner for the Boston Redeveloment Authority.

Although it will make his life more hectic, Brown said he fully supported Barnes’ decision to step down, noting there is potential for political conflicts. The BSA president “should be able to comment on the BRA,” he said, especially given the active role his constituents play locally. A registered architect still on the BSA board, Barnes already has a firm grasp on what the group is looking for, said Brown.

“She has vision and a real sense of a working city,” he said. “It’s great for her, and also for [the BSA] to have someone in that position who understands our issues and concerns.”

Brown said he does not anticipate any changes in the BSA’s agenda, one set by the board last year during a retreat. While she helped the leadership focus on such topics as regional growth and an increased legislative role, Brown noted that the goals were developed by the entire board, and not just Barnes herself.

“We are caretakers of that agenda, and it is our job to make sure that it happens,” Brown said.

Among other things, the BSA is stepping up its input in urban planning and design matters. The BSA has long had an urban design component, weighing in on how projects fit into the overall landscape. That need is even greater now, Brown said, given the rare opportunity to reshape sections of Boston such as the Central Artery and the Seaport District.

To that end, the BSA has appointed architect Mark Margulies as its first urban design commissioner. Doing so should allow greater interaction with public officials and developers, Brown said, leading to better planning. The BSA has already made its presence felt in the Seaport, Brown said, advocating a more comprehensive approach to developing the 1,000-acre swath of parking lots and aging industrial buildings.

“Architects are good at pulling a diverse group of people together, and that’s what planning is all about,” Brown said. “If you can get people to talk to each other, and draw from a variety of sources, that can be very positive.”

Brown also hopes to attract younger architects to the 2,600-member BSA, and is striving to promote greater recognition of the group’s role in the community. The BSA is, for example, hiring a public relations firm to promote its members and their accomplishments.

Despite the added term and his busy practice at CBT, Brown said he believes his tenure as president will not be overly taxing, partly due to a solid BSA organization run by Executive Director Richard Fitzgerald. “He makes it very easy,” said Brown.

Along with 20 years at the BSA, Brown has watched CBT grow dramatically since joining in 1981. What then was a staff of 40 specializing in historic preservation and restoration is currently among the city’s hottest firms. Already having developed office, academic and residential properties throughout the area, CBT today is architect for such notable local projects as the 111 Huntington Ave. office tower at the Prudential Center; the proposed Clippership Wharf mixed-use complex in East Boston; and the first air rights project slated to be built over the Massachusetts Turnpike in Boston.

Brown said he believes that the company’s quiet ascension from a boutique firm to one with national aspirations is a product of CBT’s overall approach to architecture. Similar to what he maintains the BSA should be promoting, CBT has developed a reputation for seeking input, Brown said, and for designing structures that satisfy both the owner and the community.

“We don’t pound our chests or have a specific style, and we also understand the process that we have here and how to work within it,” Brown said. “I think that’s something that people respect, especially now that we are in a position of doing larger projects that [require] more rigorous interaction with the city.”

CBT Principal Is Early Caretaker of Architects Society Agenda

by Banker & Tradesman time to read: 3 min