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Innovating traditional spaces

We are passionate about pushing boundaries and discovering new architectural solutions. Janette Blackburn, FAIA exemplifies this mentality, developing new paradigms for learning and research environments that house innovative programs, advance strategic goals and transform campus culture.  

Throughout her career, Janette has challenged her clients, peers, and the AEC industry to rethink the academic spaces. With a zest for collaboration and versatility, Janette’s passionate approach drives her focus, both professionally and personally.

What intrigues you about architecture? 

The most interesting part of architecture, for me, is crafting spaces that respond to the activity patterns of their occupants. The dual challenge in designing learning environments is to create memorable spaces that are tailored to their communities, while still being flexible enough to evolve institutional programs as priorities change.  

Whether it’s big-picture planning, detailed programming, complex problem solving, or creating a bold design gesture, my goal is to build environments that reflect community culture, and respond to the way people live, work, and learn.   


What has steered your work and passion for redefining academic architecture? How do you approach this process?  

I believe that academic buildings should be as inspirational as they are versatile, creating an experience where users are immersed, connected, supported, and energized. That begins by partnering with the higher education communities to focus on the values of the institution and the potential of the space.  

When designing academic environments, I help institutions create a spatial and programmatic road map that embraces the evolution of their architecture and builds a plan that ties current and future experiences and activities to campus strategy and culture.  In doing so, I strive to create buildings that inspire clients and design teams to advance their vision for tomorrow’s campus 

It’s important to transform learning and community spaces into active, user-focused places that promote interactive learning and knowledge creation. I’m passionate about understanding the needs of my clients and challenging them to see things from a different perspective that will inform the design of environments that will remain relevant far into the future.   


Outside of work, what brings you joy? 

When I’m not working at Shepley Bulfinch, I’m usually relaxing at home or in Maine with my husband and our new puppy; or chasing after our two grown daughters. I’m a lapsed classical musician, and plan to pick up violin and piano again sometime in the future when life is less hectic.   

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