synesthesia [sin-uh s-thee-zhuh]

noun: a sensation produced in one modality when a stimulus is applied to another modality, as when the hearing of a certain sound induces the visualization of a certain color.

Giancarlo Botazzi is a structural engineer from Boston who learned how buildings failed on his way to succeed.

He started his work experience on the boards with T-squares and triangles in 1986 under the tutelage of Maurice A. Reidy, Jr., who he describes as a genius. A genius who helped him realize his potential as a 20-something who saw buildings in 3D the way Mozart saw music. His own structural version of synesthesia.

Thirty-three years later, after beginning his career investigating structural, he now holds the title of HFA’s Structural Discipline Lead. I sat down with him to get his take on the basics, evolution, and enjoyment of structural engineering all while leading a team that works in two different states.

Q: What do the structural engineers of HFA do?

A: “We’re structural engineers… we can do anything!”

In short, we make sure buildings stand up and stay up. We design the superstructure and the foundations of buildings for high velocity winds, the heaviest snowfall, and for potential earthquakes. The HFA structural team is made up of 9 experienced engineers and designers with a combined 146 years of experience. Divided between Massachusetts and Arkansas, we rely on a structural synergy to have a seamless, highly efficient team that produces even higher quality designs.

Q: Has structural engineering changed since 1986?

A: “Not really, it’s the materials and methodology that have evolved.”

That’s the beauty of this discipline, the basics never change – it’s about axial forces, shears and bending moments… designing building structures with concrete, steel, wood and masonry. Technology is what shifted. Engineers and designers went from analyzing structures using slide rules and reams of hand calculations to utilizing structural engineering analysis and design programs and from drafting tables to Revit and BIM in a very short time period.

Q: What is it that drew you to and keeps you in this discipline?

A: “I like designing simple structures as well as being challenged by complex building structures in collaboration with a talented team of Architects and Engineers. I enjoy coaching younger team members on how buildings are built.”

I studied architecture before I studied engineering. Having that background helps me understand what the designers are striving for and to maintain their design intent and creativity.

All in all, our structural team designs an average of 250 projects a year. I mentioned earlier that we can do anything, and I believe that. We have a vision. You’re welcome to join us.

Giancarlo Botazzi, P.E., S.E., can be contacted at 508.528.0770 ext. 426.