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July 26, 2018

'Maine in America Award' winner keen to design more buildings in Maine

Courtesy / Farnsworth Art Museum
Courtesy / Farnsworth Art Museum
At the Farnsworth Art Museum's Summer Gala held July 20 in Rockland, Toshiko Mori was presented with the 2018 Maine in America Award. The first architect to receive the award, she was honored for her significant contributions to Maine's role in American art.

Toshiko Mori, the first architect to receive the Farnsworth Art Museum's "Maine in America Award" for her significant contribution to Maine's role in American art, told Mainebiz she would be interested in doing further projects in Maine, including cultural and educational facilities.

Mori, the founder and principal of New York-based Toshiko Mori Architect and the Robert P. Hubbard Professor in the Practice of Architecture at the Harvard University Graduate School of Design, is best known in Maine for designing the Center for Maine Contemporary Art in Rockland. She has also done commercial and residential projects throughout the state and has had a home in North Haven on the midcoast for many years.

At the Farnsworth's Summer Gala last week in Rockland, Mori was presented with the 2018 Maine in America Award, which was announced in December. Shortly before the July 20 event and in conjunction with a Mainebiz feature article on women in architecture in the current print edition, Mori answered questions in an email interview.

Mainebiz: What triggered your decision to study architecture and pursue it as a career?

Toshiko Mori: I was interested in art, science, engineering and philosophy and instead of choosing one, I realized by studying architecture, I could incorporate all of my varied interests into one discipline.

MB: In a profession that's still very male-dominated, what if any barriers have you had to overcome as a woman especially early in your career?

TM: I was very lucky to be studying at a school where the dean was egalitarian to the extent that he called everyone by their last name to eradicate, as much as possible, any unnecessary gender-based interactions. This same dean instilled in all of us a certain kind of fearlessness and resilience, which equipped me to forge ahead during my early career. The barriers are largely based on perception; if one does not accept those limitations, one is ahead of the game already.

MB: What's your advice to today's aspiring young female architects?

TM: I think architecture is a discipline very suitable for women. It promotes teamwork and collaboration, and there are many ways to practice.

MB: Would you consider designing another building in Maine, and if so any preference as to what type of project or location?

TM: I like building in Maine because of the work ethic, pride for craftsmanship and fundamental understanding of ecology that we all share together. I would be interested in cultural, educational or research facilities because there is the opportunity to incorporate in the design the unique ideas special to the Maine environment and culture.

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