Regan Shields Ives, AIA, LEED AP, was attracted to a career in architecture very early in life.
“I first became interested in architecture when my family went on a trip to see the Newport mansions,” she recalled. “I was in second grade at the time, and I was like, ‘This is what I want to do. I want to build great spaces.’”
The dream stuck. Shields Ives went on to earn her bachelor’s degree in architecture from Lehigh University and her master’s degree in architecture from the University of Pennsylvania. Today she is an award-winning principal at Finegold Alexander Architects where she has worked since 2004. She also serves on the board of directors of the Boston Preservation Alliance.
Despite her second-grade dream, much of Shields Ives’s work involves not creating new buildings but rather revamping and re-envisioning existing spaces, she said. One such recent project was the revitalizing of the Old Chapel at the University of Massachusetts, Amherst. Shields Ives said the undertaking was particularly challenging, given both the building’s placement on the National Register of Historic Places, as well as the need for the project to appeal to and serve multiple groups of people, from students to professors to administrators.
It would seem that Shields Ives and her team found a way to meet those challenges and then some: The project received awards from the Victorian Society in America, the Society for College and University Planning and the Massachusetts Historical Commission.
Julia Davis, managing director at RIOT PR, said that one of Shields Ives’s greatest strengths as an architect is her ability to listen.
“She’s a very good listener. Being an architect, you have to be able to listen to your clients to help them decide what they want,” Davis said. “Having done public relations for [Finegold Alexander Architects] since 2013, I’ve interviewed a lot of her clients over the years … They just have incredible things to say about her.”
She’s also proven to be great mentor. Shields Ives started and continues to manage her firm’s mentorship program and is also involved with the Boston Society of Architect’s Women in Design Mentoring Committee.
Her commitment to helping others stems, in part, from the fact that mentorship played an important role in the development of Shields Ives’s own career, she said. In fact, it was a Boston Society of Architects mentorship program that introduced her to Finegold Alexander Architects Senior Principal Jim Alexander, she said, and this mentoring relationship later led to her getting a job with the firm.
Shields Ives is particularly committed to providing mentorship and opportunity to women and people from diverse backgrounds – in other words, people often underrepresented in the field.
In the world of architecture, typically just 20 percent of firm owners and 31 percent of employees are women, Davis said. At Finegold Alexander Architects, women comprise 75 percent of the firm’s new principals and 50 percent of its total employees. Shields Ives is happy with these numbers but still wants to do more to bring more diverse voices to the table.
“Creating a more equitable environment for all of our employees is really important,” Shields Ives said. “Hearing different voices and different opinions just makes for more a well-rounded environment to work within, but also it’s important because it brings different ideas to design.”