Elizabeth Lowrey grew up immersed in creativity. Both her parents and sister are fine artists—her father even worked as a Donald Judd fellow in Marfa, Texas. So it’s no surprise that art takes center stage in her projects as principal and director of interior architecture at Elkus Manfredi Architects. Under Lowrey, the firm recently completed a pristine Seaport District office for consulting firm Boston Art, along with Draper Laboratory’s headquarters, boutique hotel The Verb, and the New Brunswick Performing Arts Center. Lowrey sat down with us to share her design process, her most admired artists, and how Elkus Manfredi has evolved since she joined in 1988.
villamladebuky: Where did you grow up, and how did it influence your work?
Elizabeth Lowrey: I grew up in the South during the Civil Rights Movement. My mother marched in Birmingham, and the year I entered the first grade was early into the desegregation of the public schools in Georgia. I learned to transcend boundaries, to not fear but to embrace difference. I can work with all different kinds of stakeholders and walk in their shoes.
ID: Your dad was a Donald Judd fellow and worked in Marfa, Texas. How has this experience informed your design approach?
EL: What Donald Judd did in Marfa was huge. When I saw all that art, in context with that landscape, it was so inspiring. It taught me about light and space.
ID: Which artists do you admire most, and why?
EL: Louise Bourgeois, Cy Twombly, and Donald Judd come to mind right away, but there are so many astounding artists—both past and present—who are forces of nature that have changed the world. I can’t even begin to name all those I admire.
ID: What design challenges did you encounter during Boston Art?
EL: Creating space that was a highly functioning office, an elegant gallery, and a laboratory/studio, all within an efficient footprint.
ID: You were the first hire by Howard Elkus and David Manfredi when they started the firm. How has the firm evolved since you first joined?
EL: Elkus Manfredi used to be a fairly traditional firm that did architecture, interior architecture, and city planning. Now we do a lot of strategy development and are much more up front in the process. We help the client to develop their vision and the business strategy. We work across all different market types, such as commercial, hospitality, residential, life sciences, and higher education, and everyone in the firm works across all those markets. That gives you much more complete design solutions.
ID: Latest design obsession?
EL: Nick Cave. His use of materials and mixed media—the more you look, the more you find. It’s so detailed, and all about craft, collecting, beading, and texture. Also that his work talks about issues of race and civil rights.
ID: Latest interiors pet peeve?
EL: Knock-off “industrial-chic.”
ID: A secret source you’re willing to share?
EL: Octavio Zuñiga and his store located in San Miguel Allende, Mexico. He will fabricate anything you can design with his artisans and craftspeople.
ID: Most recently discovered historic interior or building?
EL: Beauport, the Sleeper-McCann House in Gloucester, MA. It was the summer home of Henry Davis Sleeper, one of America’s first professional interior designers. When I walk through those rooms, I get so many design ideas.
ID: First app checked in the morning?
EL: Snapchat—I have three kids in college.