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OLSON LEWIS + Architects;
forging a new future while building on its past
1980 – 2020
OLSON LEWIS+ Architects (OL+) began in 1980, on the birthday of John Olson, one of the founding partners. The business started in a small way with project sketches hand-drawn in John’s living room. Little did he know that the company would grow over the next 40 years to become one of the region’s leading architectural firms. As more joined this lifelong adventure, each new partner brought different expertise to the firm’s portfolio of interiors, buildings, and campuses.
Celebrating the firm’s Anniversary, John reflects on how each colleague has added to the firm’s success. They have grown a quartet of distinctive project specialties. From its origins in his renovated carriage house to the firm’s current headquarters in Manchester-by-the-Sea, John and his partners have cultivated a collaborative culture in which each colleague pursues their unique design passions. Together, this small company has built a legacy of BEAUTIFUL PLACES.
PASSING THE BATTON
This year, OL+ marks many milestones. The first is the well-earned semi-retirement of John Olson. While John remains an active presence at the office, his partners guide its growth and future. They’ve approached the succession thoughtfully so that the firm has continuity of leadership and integrity of vision. They oversee the firm, allowing John to divide his time between favorite architecture projects and playing a ’round’ on the golf course.
THE LEADERSHIP TEAM
Firm owners Art Dioli and Chris Doktor welcomed architect John Harden as a partner in 2020. John’s design experience and business acumen complement his colleagues’ strategic objectives for the firm’s next decade.
OL+‘s executive team, a group of talented professionals, includes; Principal Michele Brooks, an OL+ veteran of 20 years, newly promoted Associate Steve Scapicchio, and rising leader and Associate Seth Morrissey.
Together, the leadership team fosters a small, family-friendly workplace rounded out by hand-picked coworkers who add excellence and expertise to the firm’s fundamental practices and offerings.
THE 2020 GLOBAL PANDEMIC
Our 40th Anniversary coincided with the Covid 19 pandemic—a year of lock-downs, shut-ins, remote work & learning—so after limited festivities, we continue celebrating our Anniversary in 2021.
Fortunately for us, our industry managed to stay busy all through the pandemic. We had plenty of work and even began hiring. Our whole team did a tremendous job during the difficult times of uncertainty.
PEOPLE + PROJECTS
To honor OL+’s notable year, please enjoy this glimpse into the firm’s greatest asset: its people. Meet the folks who shape the success of OL+. Take sneak peeks at a few of their most memorable projects.
We extend our appreciation to the clients, friends, and business associates who have contributed to OL+‘s first four decades of BEAUTIFUL PLACES.
John began his career with an early focus on hospitality projects. Creating buildings for the home-away-from-home comfort and enjoyment of their guests, John has spent the past four decades learning about his clients. He taps his ear and suggests that designs start by listening and reflecting before taking shape as sketches on paper. After more than 40 years as an architect, John has a keen sense for ways to resolve a challenge and deliver a memorable experience for them. He also understands that a successful project satisfies his client and also helps the surrounding community. One of the award-winning highlights of his career is the Beauport Hotel. This coastal project demanded all of his know-how: integrating a high-profile seaside hotel into a historically significant and environmentally sensitive setting.
The Beauport Hotel, located in Gloucester, MA, has been the culmination of his hotel-design career and is one of John’s BEAUTIFUL PLACES. From his first hotel in Cambridge to island getaways in the US and the Caribbean, including this Gloucester site, John’s hospitality projects usually highlight relationships between the building and waterfronts. At the Beauport, John designed an entry sequence that emerges into the main public space with a commanding view of the Western Harbor. The lobby serves as the hotel’s heart, connecting the reception area, private event spaces, bar, and restaurant. They offer expansive harbor vistas and access to exterior decks. The true mark of the hotel’s success is the popularity of the public spaces with the surrounding community: it’s a favorite destination for locals and tourists. If you visit the hotel one evening, you may find John in the restaurant enjoying the space with family and friends.
Randy the other founding partner, brought a lively style to the firm. As an engineer, musician, and artist, Randy brought with him a combination of technical knowledge and artistic creativity. The firm’s introduction to Life Sciences and Lab Design came when Randy – because of his background in Mechanical Engineering- was hired in 1986 by a local engineer working with Harvard University. Harvard Labs was the firm’s first Bio-Tech project, coinciding with life science architecture as an emerging field. Randy became one of only a few people working in Lab Design at that time. Living as he did in Cambridge, he was at the heart of the local biotech industry.
Specializing in Bio-Technology and Life Sciences, Randy enjoyed the technical side of spaces specializing in research and development for drugs and medicines. He added an appreciation for sculpture that often resulted in signature designs within unique spaces. One such project was Cubist in Cambridge MA. Randy created a space that served the company and reflected its identity. Along the way, he included a three-dimensional translation of the company’s name in elements throughout the building, such as the glass and steel skylight in the lobby. As Cubist Pharmaceuticals grew, so did their architectural needs. OL+ created designs that kept pace with their expansions and their innovative culture. For Randy, BEAUTIFUL PLACES arose through the marriage of creative arts and technical excellence as enduring expressions of an organization’s community and culture.
Though Randy died in May 2017, he created a loving family, deep friendships, and vibrant music. He also left his mark on the community through his advocacy for education in the arts. His impact on the firm endures, and we continue his work, honoring his passion for fine and performing arts.
Art joined OL+ in 1984. Famously, Art has been tinkering with his own homes since he settled in New England. He focused on residential projects, a field that has become one of the four pillars of the firm’s multi-disciplinary body of work. Art relies on an intuitive design sense and creative approach as he listens to and collaborates with his clients throughout the process. Homes are often works of aspiration and passion for families; people develop emotional connections to ideas and dreams.
Art’s passion for residential design stems from understanding how each home must provide a unique solution for the family within. Art strategizes closely with homeowners about solutions that address their particular needs. He remains hands-on from the earliest concepts to intimate finishing details that make a project’ home’. He’s been known to climb a tree or go out on a boat to check for views and special features of home building sites. He enjoys using his skills and knowledge to help others create their homes. Homeowners know the feelings and experiences they want to sustain, and he’s the specialist to guide them to a satisfying outcome. As he says, “That is why you hire an architect.”
When asked to highlight one project that exemplifies his lifetime of work, Art points to his family’s home on Great Neck in Ipswich, MA. This waterfront residence, small and simple on a tidy parcel of land at the edge of the river running into the sea, is the culmination of years of residential design work. It results from a series of earlier house restorations that served as building blocks to this one. This intimately-scaled home reflects his family’s aesthetics and lifestyle. Every finish matters and all the details contribute to the whole. For instance, he captured how the sun sets on the west side of the house, catching and refracting evening light inside and out. For Art, homes become BEAUTIFUL PLACES because each reflects and responds to the unique needs of the family who lives there.
Chris joined the office in 1993. Already active in school design, he nurtured the firm’s specialization in educational projects. In his experience, memorable projects grow out of a clearly defined, communicative, and collaborative design process. He has originated a design methodology which he calls the Immersion Process. Immersion focuses first on listening and reflecting with clients and stakeholders to identify new perspectives. Together they uncover different ways of looking at an issue, develop surprising solutions that engage cultural and curricular complexities, respond to immediate academic, artistic, and athletic needs, and address campus-wide objectives.
The Immersion approach grows intrinsically out of Chris’s nature as an architect and photographer. He is a lifelong learner, curious person, and critical thinker. He observes patterns that emerge in the world around him, themes expressed by the people-centered communities he serves, and motifs that emerge in the built and natural environments that create a context for each project. His work synthesizes the contributions of the school’s design participants and guides them from open-ended questions to breathtaking answers that shape BEAUTIFUL PLACES.
A striking example of the Immersion process stands as the new main entrance and heartbeat of student life at the Shore Country Day School: The Larry A. Griffin Center for Creativity. The project was the culmination of a long-lasting client relationship and a process that began with early planning. Its final expression reflected the Head of School’s vision, supported by the trustees, alumni, students, parents, and faculty. The overall theme that emerged from the Immersion process was Community, Connection, and Creativity. The Center for Creativity became the public face of the arts at the school. The new structure wove the campus together and became the connector for different activities and communities at the school. At the intersection of arts and academics, it has become the hub of activity on the campus and serves as the new front door. For Chris, BEAUTIFUL PLACES arise from solutions that challenge and inspire, solutions found through listening and collaborating with the community involved.
Michele joined the firm in 2000. An interior designer with a background in textile design, Michele brought her specialized programming and design skills to the office and developed an expertise in Bio-Tech. She worked closely with Randy for almost 15 years and has carried on the work they conducted together. In practical ways, Michele’s work has always complimented and deepened the architectural services the firm offers.
She continues to serve Life Sciences and Bio-Tech clients in her leadership role within the firm. She is also an active mentor for new industry professionals, guiding local college students through field placements and internships. Michele’s approach is first to understand the operational needs and activities of a business. She combines the practical and technical requirements with the human experience of working creatively in a scientific setting. Like Randy, she worked on the Cubist Pharmaceuticals, considering it an outstanding example of their work. For Michele, BEAUTIFUL PLACES are human-scaled details that bring the company’s mission into focus, responding to the way people work inside an organization.
John joined OL+ in 2020. As a new partner and skilled architect, he brings a track record for diversifying and growing well-rounded design teams and leading successful projects in established and emerging market sectors. He values projects that impact the region where he lives, where his children play and study, and where his clients work. Rather than focusing on a particular project type, John prefers to work with a breadth of clients. As an architect, he knows that each project plays a critical role in the region.
His most recent expertise is developing multiple-family homes. This background dovetails with the OL+ mission to offer both single-home and multi-unit housing design services to its clients. John has lived and practiced on Boston’s Northshore for fifteen years. Deeply rooted in this New England ‘town by the sea’, John understands BEAUTIFUL PLACES as projects which stand as good neighbors and support the larger community.
Alongside our growing OL+ design team, we honor our architectural legacy by continuing to create
BEAUTIFUL PLACES to gather and serve our communities for generations to come.