Meet 2021 New England Design Hall of Fame Inductee Steven Siegel
November 3, 2021
There’s a little bit of magic in the work Steven Siegel does. How else do you explain a South Shore home’s sixteen-foot-long, second-floor room that seems to float in midair with no visible support? To Siegel, it’s part science and part art, and it’s all in a day’s work for his thirty-year-old Newton, Massachusetts-based structural engineering firm.
Siegel grew up wanting to be an architect but, as he puts it, “My pragmatic father steered me toward structural engineering.” His dad was as wise as he was pragmatic. At the University of Connecticut, Siegel discovered that engineering suited both his personality and his talents.
While some architects see what he does as “just math,” Siegal says, he believes his company’s success comes from engaging architects in a true relationship. “I think it’s more common for engineers to tell architects how they want to do something, while our approach is to provide options,” he explains. “There are lots of different ways to approach a design challenge. The clients we’ve developed come back because they appreciate the interaction and that we value what they’re doing.”
His ability to connect with his clients comes not only from his love of design, but from his own studies at the Boston Architectural College. “We used to joke that architects are gravity-defying individuals,” he says. “The moment I took classes, I ignored my engineering and started doing my own gravity-defying designs. It helped me develop empathy for architects early on in my practice.”
Most of Siegel’s work is right here in New England, but his firm also ventures farther afield. When one team member moved to South Carolina because his wife got a university position there, Siegel opened a Spartanburg office. “Some of the design sensibilities are different down there,” he acknowledges. But with the mix of science and art—and maybe a little magic—that is structural engineering, Siegel Associates is sure to find continued success.