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About me

M Bronski in Rome

M Bronski in Rome

Some would say that my “background and training on historic buildings is broad and diverse”, but I’m far more inclined to simply say “I’m kind of a mutt.”   I worked as a carpenter and house painter during summers while in college, I took took four years of studio art major in high school, my undergraduate degree is in civil engineering, and my two masters degrees are in architecture and historic preservation.

When I finished graduate school, I looked for a work opportunity that would allow me to synthesize these various skills and professions, rather than abandon one or more in favor of another.   Thankfully, I found Simpson Gumpertz & Heger (SGH), and I’ve been working here ever since – over fourteen years now!  My work involves both a lot of field work (where I can still carry my toolbag and don my hardhat), and office work, and it often operates in the unfortunate contemporary rift between architecture and engineering.   It allows me to investigate, diagnose and solve technical problems, and also design and sketch or draw solutions.  Sketching, whether a beautiful building, or technical construction detail, is one of my great joys.

 

field sketch of exterior wall section from 1917 Cass Gilbert building

field sketch (section) of exterior wall construction in a 1917 Cass Gilbert building

drawing of a tower (student design project)

mixed media drawing of a tower in Philadelphia (student design project)

my pen & ink rendering after Piranesi's caceri series

my pen & ink drawing after Piranesi's carceri series etching

 

 

 

wax pencil rendering of neo-classical doorway

wax pencil rendering of neo-classical doorway

 

 

 

 

My practice at SGH focuses on investigating and diagnosing the causes and consequences of building envelope and structural problems in historic buildings (both traditional and modern), and designing sensitive and appropriate repairs and restorations/rehabilitations to solve those problems.   

I’ve led SGH’s envelope investigation or restoration design efforts on many interesting and significant buildings, including traditional historic construction such as the tower of H.H. Richardson’s Hampden County Courthouse in Springfield, MA, and The Old State House in Boston, as well as modern icons like Frank Lloyd Wright’s Zimmerman House in Manchester,NH; Skidmore Owings and Merrill’s Beinecke Rare Book and Manuscript Library at Yale University; Josep Lluis Sert’s Peabody Terrace Graduate Student Housing at Harvard University.  I also use SGH’s in-house laboratory  and collaborate with our lab and petrographic staff to analyze and test historic building materials, including mortar, stone, concrete, slate, clay roofing tile. 

working in Isamu Noguchi's marble sculpture court at the Beinecke Library

Investigative work in Isamu Noguchi's marble sculpture court at the Beinecke Library

One thing I particularly enjoy is sharing what I’ve learned (and what I’m still learning) with others.   Thus,  I’ve  written and lectured extensively on historic preservation, from technical issues pertaining to the inspection and condition assessment of historic building facades, to philosophical issues relating to international preservation standards and charters, to lessons learned from vernacular architecture and designing  for winter climates.

I also enjoy making a difference in the communities where I’ve lived by helping to preserve their historic character for future generations.   I served on the Lowell Historic Board when I lived in an old textile mill in downtown Lowell, MA , and served for years on the Winchester Historical Commission, in the small town north of Boston where I’ve lived for the past nine years.   

Wright-Locke Farm in Winchester, MA

Wright-Locke Farm in Winchester, MA

 I was part of an early grassroots group  that fought, despite some very public ridicule in the Boston press, to save historic Fenway Park when its demolition seemed all but assured only a decade ago.  More recently, I fought very hard to help save the historic Wright-Locke Farm, the last surviving farm in Winchester, and the closest essentially intact historic farm to downtown Boston. 

To my wife’s chagrin, I also just can’t seem to leave my passion for historic preservation at the office – I’ve been working seemingly endlessly on the ongoing restoration of the 1914 craftsman bungalow that my wife and I and our baby daughter call home.

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25 Comments leave one →
  1. August 31, 2009 12:22 pm

    Mathew,
    I will follow your blog and live vicariously through your experience in Rome. I have a good friend there who is teaching with the Rome program at Notre Dame. He is a fellow of the American Academy and an architect and painter who has an afinity for Baroque architecture and classicism. If you would like, I can provide an introduction.
    http://www.davidmayernik.com/
    Best of Luck.
    Greg

    • mbronski permalink*
      September 1, 2009 8:32 pm

      Greg,
      One of the ongoing challenges and great rewards of my fellowship period in Rome will be making professional contacts – both long-time residents of Rome, and other expats like myself who are drawn to the Eternal City to study its architecture and historic buildings, and learn some of the lessons they have to teach us. I’d love an introduction to your colleague David Mayernik. Thanks.
      -Matthew

  2. October 15, 2009 11:31 am

    Matthew,
    I dont expect you to remember me, but I worked at SGH about a decade ago (95 to 98 to be precise) in the structures division. I came across your blog quite by accident. First and foremost congrats on the fellowship. I look forward to your posts. Personally, I now have a company that develops supply chain solutions for the construction industry. Although I now live in India, at some point, if interests match, would love to collaborate and stay in touch.

    best,
    -kalyan

  3. David Prevatt permalink
    November 4, 2009 12:52 am

    Congratulations!

    Very enjoyable stories and I’m happy to learn of your fellowship. When you are back in the States remember Florida to stop by Gator Nation!

    Be Well!
    David

  4. November 9, 2009 3:20 pm

    Hi Matthew,

    I am so thrilled to see in “The Tulanian” Summer 2009 that you received the Rome Prize. If you are ever in New Haven for Yale projects, please email me to get together. I live in New Haven and am a sustainability consultant and have worked on projects at Yale.

    Congrats!
    Debi Lombard

  5. Kimberly Konrad Alvarez permalink
    November 10, 2009 4:54 pm

    Buon Giorno Matthew! Our mutual friend, Stacey, forwarded your blog on to me and I’m so happy to read all this exciting news about you. Congrats first of all to you and Erin on little Caroline and secondly on your work/study in Rome. I look forward to reading more about your studies and adventures. At some point we will need to reconnect and compare our bunglaow restoration stories…as Jack and I are now 7+ years into ours.
    Fondly,
    KIM

  6. Joe Macrina permalink
    December 3, 2009 10:59 pm

    Bolster: what a great experience! I am so happy for you and your family. How are you enjoying my homeland?

  7. April 22, 2010 10:32 pm

    Matthew,
    I will also attempt to contact you by email. You may remember that we worked together on a lawsuit in east Texas in 2005-2006. I still have the U of Chicago poster you gave me on my office wall.

    My son is studying an engineering/architecture track in high school and has been following your blog. He has been assigned to interview someone in historical restoration work, and you have his dream assignment right now. Is there a way he could contact you and do a reasonably short interview in the next couple of weeks? We could contact you via Skype at a convenient time.

    Respectfully,
    Brent Perry

    • mbronski permalink*
      April 23, 2010 2:25 pm

      Brent-

      Of course I remember you, and investigating wood framing and sheathing failure beneath EIFS (synthetic stucco) cladding in East Texas. Whether a new house in East Texas, or a 2,000 year old structure in Rome, examples of durability (or lack thereof) always interest me.

      I’d be more than happy to talk to your son. I’m always eager to encourage the next generation who are interested in design and construction.

      Regards,
      -Matthew

      • Jackson Perry permalink
        May 24, 2010 11:32 am

        Dear Mr. Bronski,

        My dad has contacted you. Thank you for agreeing to let me interview you, and for providing a very informative and entertaining blog.

        Sncerely,
        Jackson Perry

  8. May 30, 2010 6:29 am

    Great work Matthew, keeping the legacy of knowledge continuing for historic restorations.

  9. Garrett Laws permalink
    July 6, 2010 3:16 pm

    Matt,
    Are you going to be bringing all of your knowledge back to Boston any time soon?

    Garrett

    • mbronski permalink*
      July 6, 2010 5:44 pm

      Dear Garret-

      I have now returned to the U.S.A. and to full time work at Simpson Gumpertz & Heger (as of June 28, 2010). I hope to see you around Boston.

      -Matthew

  10. Jim Derby permalink
    November 17, 2010 5:06 pm

    Hi Matthew;

    I study historic carpentry and am associated with the Timber Framers Guild and the group within the Guild that focuses on studying historic framing (TTRAG for short). I am beginning to develop the Guild’s training curriculm for the history and evolution of timber framing. Your post on Roman timber framing was as elegant as the Roman framing itself! I would like to talk to you about the evolution of Roman framing.

    Thanks;
    Jim

    • mbronski permalink*
      November 17, 2010 6:02 pm

      Jim-

      Thanks for your comment. I’d be happy to exchange thoughts with you. I’ll e-mail you my contact info so we can be in touch.

      Regards,
      -Matthew

  11. Clint Patrick permalink
    February 11, 2011 12:27 am

    I am a concrete contractor and will be 40 in a few months. I have been doing this kind of work for 20+ years. I believe constructing with wood is horrible. I am in the process of beginning a new company that will build homes, all structural aspects will be concrete, even the roof. We are building the 1st home in a needy neighborhood and will be providing these to the less fortunate at the same cost as a wood home. Along another line those who have plenty of money should have good homes too. In short i am searching for a company name fitting of what we will produce. Given your knowledge might you be able to assist me with this?

    • mbronski permalink*
      March 7, 2011 6:07 pm

      Clint-

      Thanks for your e-mail. Sorry for my delay in responding. Sounds like you are doing interesting things with concrete for residential construction, as well as noble work building a home in a needy neighborhhod. There’s a very beautiful early 20th century exposed concrete house in the small town just north of Boston where I live that you’d probably find interesting – I should snap a photo next time I drive by and post it or e-mail it to you. As for a suggestion for the name of your company, how about “Opus caementicium”, which was the ancient Romans’ (Latin) word for concrete? If that seems too long and unwieldy, perhaps “Caementa”, which was the ancient Roman (again Latin) tem for the stone or brick rubble aggregate in their ancient concrete?

  12. March 16, 2011 5:49 pm

    Hello Matthew,
    I found your blog when searching for information on taking a family to the AAR. I enjoyed reading about your project and what life is like there.

    I am also commenting because we are struggling with the health insurance issue, and I would appreciate any guidance or resources you have from your research – we have found a lot of conflicting information.

    Thanks again for taking the time to write about your work.

    • mbronski permalink*
      March 16, 2011 6:03 pm

      Ciao Rachel-

      I’d be happy to talk to you. Overseas healthcare was (and is) a very tricky issue, and we did a lot of research before settling on a decision. Overall the provider we chose worked out really well for us. You can e-mail me at mbbronski@sgh.com

      Auguri,
      -Matthew

  13. November 18, 2011 6:44 pm

    Dear Matt,

    I was at your discussion yesterday at BuildBoston and found it riveting. One of the few seminars I’ve excitedly anticipated and that lived up to my expectations! I so much appreciated your humble and obviously caring approach to the Italian structures. Each photo and especially the observed findings were wonderful. I am a great lover of Italy, who when not there, wishes she were. Your presentation offered some satiation for now!

    With best wishes, Juli

    • mbronski permalink*
      November 18, 2011 8:58 pm

      Ciao Juli-

      Thanks for your kind note. Glad you enjoyed my presentation yesterday on my Rome project.

      Grazie, e tanti auguri,
      -Matthew

  14. August 9, 2012 6:38 am

    Matthew, I am a big fan of ancient buildings and especially the construction technique. Can’t believe I only found your blog today. Why on Earth have you stopped posting? This blog is one of the best I have ever seen, any subject! Please start posting again. The more detailed the better!

  15. February 10, 2013 8:09 pm

    Matthew. Just discovered your blog today, and I’m loving it. Posted a link to your post regarding the durability of ancient concrete vs modern concrete at our Piscataquis Village Project Facebook page, and getting some commentary on it. Please feel free to comment.
    https://www.facebook.com/villageproject

    Thanks-

  16. April 2, 2014 7:18 pm

    I hope you don’t mind if I use one of your photos from Rome to illustrate a poem about Caracalla. I’m doing the write a poem every day of April thing and my own photos would take too long to find as they’re not digitised. I’ve credited your blogsite for the photo. Thanks, Belinda.

    • mbronski permalink*
      April 2, 2014 8:05 pm

      Belinda-

      Best wishes with your poem a day for April!

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