Success By Design

From New York to Dubai to China, meet five NYIT alumni who are crafting a new world for the 21st century

By Amy Wu

Thomas Vecchione (B.Arch. ’88) is never too far from his passport. As design director for Gensler, a San Francisco-based architectural firm with 32 offices worldwide, the native New Yorker has worked on projects in Cairo, Dubai, Tokyo, Seoul, Zurich, and London—and that’s just in the past five years. The NYIT graduate—who estimates he travels 150 days out of the year, with 20 percent of that time spent overseas—works out of the company’s Manhattan offices in Rockefeller Center.

“I started working with global companies right here in New York,” says Vecchione, who landed a job at Gensler soon after earning his degree. For him and thousands of other NYIT alumni who possess a passion for design, architecture is, perhaps, the ultimate interdisciplinary art, combining beauty with function, intelligence with passion, and global awareness with local reflection.

Thomas Vecchione's work includes the Macklowe Properties 750,000-square-foot glass office tower (above) in midtown Manhattan.

His recent international projects include an office complex for HC Securities & Investment in Cairo and a Bank of America office building in Costa Rica (both set to open in 2010). His ideas for workplace design in particular focus on how lifestyle impacts functionality. In a 2009 interview with Whitewall magazine, he says, “Most offices have been designed for sitting at your desk, focusing. Collaborative spaces are the spaces that people really need to start paying attention to.” Conference rooms, he notes, are one area in which designers can address the needs of workers by achieving a level of functionality that balances technological, situational, and other office-related concerns.

Projects such as the EFG Hermes Bank building in the “Smart Village” in Cairo—an information technology and business park that includes more than 120 companies grouped across 600 acres—introduced him to new architectural methods and elements that reflect global understanding. “When you’re working in the Middle East, you want to make sure you design enough space for Islamic people to wash their hands before prayer,” says Vecchione. Likewise, most architectural blueprints in that region of the world require Muslim prayer rooms.

Forming close ties with local business associates is crucial to success as well. In Cairo, as Vecchione and his team created the schematic designs and technical drawings, their partners worked on ensuring that the structure met the appropriate building codes.

Certain forms of communication, however, only go so far. While working on a project in Tokyo, Vecchione learned that translated PowerPoint presentations would not convey everything he wanted. “Certain things translate well and certain things don’t,” he says. The helpful solution, he concluded, was “to use fewer words and more images.”

In Gensler’s New York office, where Vecchione just celebrated his 23rd year, the global designer is hard at work on his next project. And although the basic skills for an architect have not changed since his NYIT graduation, he does note that as client relationships continue to take him around the world, he has never stopped learning.

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Winter 2010 Table of Contents