The winner of both the 2019 AIA Architecture Firm of the Year Award and the BSA’s 2019 and 2021 Harleston Parker Medal was this single-office Boston firm of 160 professionals, with a history extending to the 1930s. Payette’s sustained success is a testimony to the power of thoughtful, positive firm culture combined with deep, specialized technical expertise developed over decades, in this case focused on the design of healthcare and science buildings.

From the firm website: “The roots of our practice reach back to 1932, when Fred Markus and Paul Nocka founded the firm, known since 1974 as Payette. Trained as industrial engineers when “scientific management” was the dominant manufacturing and production theory, Markus and Nocka began their practice with a singular purpose: to apply detailed “time-motion” studies and full-scale prototyping to the improvement – and in many cases, reinvention – of healthcare facilities.

Seventy years later, at the turn of the millennium, we found ourselves applying Markus and Nocka’s time-motion observational approach to deepen our understanding of how researchers use space, in an effort to tame the laboratory’s colossal energy use. These “shadow studies” led to a new planning model that layers the lab into zones of varying energy-use intensity, encouraging productive interactions while conserving critical resources.

The similarities between these two paradigm-shifting moments are not accidental. Together they demonstrate a remarkable continuity of design philosophy and leading-edge expertise, a continuity made possible by an enduring practice ethos which can be traced to the moment in 1965 when 33-year-old Tom Payette became president of the firm, well before the founders retired. His early advancement gave Tom decades to explore new possibilities, not just maintain a legacy. He embraced this precedent, taking on younger partners to expand the practice from its then dozen employees to the 160 we number today. The pattern of multigenerational leadership Tom set in motion has shaped our collaborative, entrepreneurial culture, and it underlies the dynamic tension between expertise and innovation that has led to the rapid advancement of the practice over the last two decades.”

Contemporary examples of Payette’s pioneering work can be seen around Boston at the Harleston Parker Medal-winning Interdisciplinary Science and Engineering Complex at Northeastern and at academic science centers at MIT, BU, and Tufts. Source: