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“F” is for Fellows

by Jennifer Donham Wells
Principals Jennifer Aliber and Angela Watson have both been elevated to the 2018 class of AIA Fellows! The honor is so well deserved—and one that can be claimed by only 3% of AIA members. We couldn’t be more inspired by or proud of our “Fellow” Bulfinches.
Angela Watson, FAIA, was principal for design, and Jennifer Aliber, FAIA, FACHA, was principal for programming and planning, of Yale New Haven Hospital’s Smilow Cancer Center in New Haven, CT.
Jennifer Aliber, FAIA, FACHA, has changed the quality of healthcare on a national level, revolutionizing the way hospitals are organized and improving care delivery by challenging practice norms to set new standards in programming and planning.

Innovations in planning

Jennifer has transformed care delivery by establishing a functional model for planning and hospital organization. She consistently redefines programs through an innovative approach focused on operational priorities, rather than rely on traditional departmental taxonomy.

Jennifer steered planning of the new Bronson Methodist Hospital to focus on the importance of patient-centered care, where services are designed from the perspective and needs of the patient rather than the provider or hospital. Her concept for the project combined horizontal organization by service line with a vertical organization by patient acuity, in what she called the “matrix hospital.” Bronson received the ACHA Legacy Program Award in 2017.
Metric-based programming

During her 30-year career with Shepley Bulfinch, Jennifer has established a new standard—metric-based programming—to improve the reliability of programming, a foundational element vital to contemporary healthcare design that has major financial implications. Utilizing Jennifer’s tools, healthcare architects, programmers, and owners can make predictive estimates on size and relative efficiency early in project development.

Jennifer’s use of diagrams and arithmetic evidence helps architects review their assumptions and understanding of grossing multipliers. These mini-department diagrams, for example, illustrate the outsized affect that interior partitions and corridor width have on departments with a large number of small rooms.
Education and certifications

Jennifer leads by example, enriching the practice of healthcare architecture on local and national levels. She has served on the ACHA Examination Committee for more than a decade, contributed to the Center for Health Design’s promotion of design research and standards, and worked to re-engage the Academy of Architecture for Health with the FGI Guideline for Healthcare Facilities, as well as steadfastly remained committed to mentoring staff and given more than 24 presentations to national healthcare design groups across the country.

Jennifer is among the very best [architectural planner] I have had the privilege of working with. She embraces every project first by understanding the client’s perceived needs.

Mark Barkenbush, senior project executive of development and construction at Banner Health

Angela Watson, FAIA, connects research, teaching, and practice to engage people in a collaborative process that elevates the recognized value of design. She empowers clients and emerging leaders to push beyond perceived boundaries.


Angela has been an advocate for research-based design for more than 15 years. She’s demonstrated how understanding projects at the quantifiable level allows architects to articulate value and create a shared platform for design conversations. Angela’s received international recognition for her extensive post-occupancy involvement with clients.

Angela and team designed a study to measure the impact of additional daylight and window views on patients and staff in Concord Hospital’s new ICU. Outcomes included significant reduction in staff attrition, absenteeism, and sick days, as well as a more calm and supportive environment overall.

In addition to serving as a visiting critic for 20 years, Angela’s most influential work with future architects has been as an instructor in the design studio—both at ASU and her alma mater, MIT.

Angela built the MIT Design Studio in two phases—four short, two-week design challenges, and a final, inclusive five-week project—to help students deconstruct the complex aspects of design and representation. Her model helped students quickly understand the numerous skills required in design, and their varying ability in each.

Throughout her 24-year career, Angela has directed more than a dozen award-winning projects. Under her guidance, each of these projects has promoted active participation and challenged emerging firm leaders to reach their full potential. As a role model for young female architects, her ability to recruit, nurture, and retain diverse talent has had extraordinary results.

Angela spearheaded a firm-wide opportunity for an international design contest, encouraging participation from all levels. Her democratic voting process made room for emotional context and out-of-the-box thinking, and provided two young architects the opportunity to see their creative design of the Holocaust Human Rights Center at the University of Maine, realized.
Collaborative design

Angela has connected research, teaching, and practice to create a meaningful, collaborative design process. Her research builds a transferable knowledge base that serves as a foundation for informed design. Her academic work teaches invaluable skills that truly prepare students as future leaders in practice. And, her engaged leadership empowers her clients to be true collaborators.

The Alfred R. Goldstein Library at Ringling College of Art and Design in Sarasota, FL, is a prime example of how active and meaningful community involvement can increase the value of a design approach.

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