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Behind the Scenes at CambridgeSeven

CambridgeSeven office culture

by Maddie Burns, AIA

Over the past 60 years, CambridgeSeven has created a unique office culture that entices people to stay here for several years and grow their professional careers. We’ve built up many great traditions that fuel our team’s creativity and frequently satisfy their sweet tooths. CambridgeSeven maintains a thriving workplace in a variety of ways:

Flexible Options

Since the COVID19 pandemic, we adopted a hybrid schedule that allows employees to work from home or from the office. We’re glad to continue our hybrid work model that lets staff balance their work and home lives better and creates an overall positive environment. A mix of private and open workspace accommodates different needs within the office and the roof deck is always open for those in need of fresh air. Our office’s proximity to Harvard Square makes access to public transit easy and our indoor bike parking makes cycling a viable option for many staff members.

Seven-Minute Talks

In architecture school, there are plenty of opportunities to present your design ideas to professors and studio-mates. How do you sharpen and improve those skills once you’re working in a busy practice? CambridgeSeven recognized that many emerging professionals were honing their design skills, project management chops and construction administration tenacity. But chances for public-speaking practice, a vital skill for client meetings and presentations, were non-existent. That’s when the firm introduced the “Seven-Minute Talk.” It’s a low stakes chance for staff to present about virtually anything – Beekeeping, Theatrical lighting, Fitness, Islamic architecture, even Butchery. The undivided attention of a friendly audience creates a safe space to practice your public speaking. A following Q&A helps you learn how to respond to inquiries in real time. This is also a great way for everyone to learn about their coworkers’ interests or unique talents with no water cooler necessary.


Half-Baked Forums

Half-Baked site tour of the Foundry building while it was under construction

When a project is in early design and the team is still testing ideas, it’s not fully baked. Therefore, it’s half-baked. We extend the metaphor to projects that are still in construction. Open to anyone in the office, Half-Baked design forums offer a chance to learn more about the work of another project team in the office AND to contribute their own ideas and critiques. These forums might take place in the office or venture out to the city with hardhats to see built progress. Either way, these events are always accompanied by a box of donuts as an early-morning treat. Speaking of treats…


Fully-Baked Forums

On a cold, gray sleeting wintery day, an email notification lights up your desktop like a sweep of hopeful headlights across a barren, wintry road. “In the Kitchen” the subject line reads, followed by, “Whole wheat focaccia fresh out of the oven.” It’s from Millie, CambridgeSeven’s “Administrative Miracle Worker” and probably out best kept secret. As a former professional pastry chef, Millie’s talent in the kitchen is legendary. A regular Tuesday might include a freshly made raspberry tart; a recent Friday featured a shortbread with dulce de leche and ganache. Those who sit near the kitchen have become attuned to the sound of Millie turning on the oven and anticipate the smell of delicious sweets.

Culture and Celebrations

40th annual Gin & Tonic party on the roofdeck

Every architecture student knows from long hours spent in studio, that if you put a bunch of creatives together, hilarity ensues. CambridgeSeven remembers too and works hard to keep that convivial spirit alive. We host several annual fetes in addition to spontaneous gatherings.

Our annual Gin and Tonic Party (G&T), organized and championed by Peter Kuttner, FAIA, celebrated its 40th year last year. Every year, Peter generated witty graphic announcements emailed and posted around the office. Since Peter is now retired, it is up to a new generation of savvy design professionals in the office to reinvent the G&T invitation. While the G&T signifies the beginning of summer, our annual Halloween party marks the turning of the seasons to fall. Last year featured an entirely black-iced cake by Millie and a dancing carved pumpkin by Senior Associate Bert Bremer.

We also gather to celebrate the quarterly changing of artwork in our Paul Dietrich Gallery. The gallery, which lines the walls of our office floor lobby and conference space, celebrates the work of local artists, including our own staff. Decorating our office with paintings, photography, drawings, and sketches infuses the workplace with inspiration and helps us get to know our community better. Plus, a gallery opening is a great way to meet new people and chat with more coworkers.


Professional Development

CambridgeSeven staff are allocated annual professional development funds to gain and maintain accreditations such as Passive House Certification, LEED certification, MCPPO (Massachusetts Certified Public Purchasing Official) and more! Younger staff might use these funds to help complete their professional degrees. Others use it to pay for study materials or testing fees for the Architectural Registration Exams. This office support for young professionals is part of how we have successfully achieved our mark as an Emerging Professional friendly employer through the AIA.

We also bring learning opportunities into the office through informational sessions on topics ranging from the benefits of rigid insulation or a talk on native plant species in landscaping. These sessions are vital in our upkeep of knowledge for best building products, green building standards, construction management practices, and more. We also host “Wine and Cheese” events where vendors with new products such as upholstery fabric, lighting or kitchen faucets, visit the office laden with snacks and a little late-afternoon pick-me-up.

Outside the office, we continue our learning and professional development within the architecture community through numerous conferences, lecture series, and classes.

International and National Conferences

Our staff are often presenters and attendees at conferences that cover a variety of topics including exhibit design, aquariums, urban design, and sustainability. Conferences our staff have attended in recent years include:

  • American Alliance of Museums
  • Council on Tall Buildings and Urban Habitat
  • Design For Freedom by Grace Farms
  • International Aquarium Congress
  • International Living Future Institute
  • Passive House Institute of the US
  • USGBC / Built Environment +

To name a few…

Giving Back

When we are not building projects, exploring conferences or eating tasty treats, we are volunteering, teaching and mentoring. You can find our staff regularly teaching or mentoring at the Boston Architectural College, Roger Williams University, MIT, Wentworth Institute of Technology, RISD, and Endicott College. A handful of us have also volunteered with the BSA Foundation’s We Design Together, YouthBuild, and Digital Ready – local programs committed to igniting design curiosity in children and teens.

This is just the tip of the iceberg for the countless activities staff are doing each day in their communities. We are proud to support the amazing people working here who share their knowledge with each other every day!


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