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Professional Profile: Joseph Rufrano, Assoc. AIA, LEED AP

Lab Manager spoke with Joseph Rufrano of Svigals + Partners in New Haven.

MaryBeth DiDonna

MaryBeth DiDonna is lab design editor and digital events editor for Lab Manager. Her work for the lab design section of the publication examines the challenges that project teams...

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Joseph Rufrano, Assoc. AIA, LEED AP, is an associate with Svigals + Partners in New Haven, CT. Lab Manager recently spoke with Joe about his career, experience, and personal interests.

Q: How did you get started in your career? Did you major in your field in college, get an internship, switch careers mid-stream, etc.?

A: I have always enjoyed drawing, especially in tandem with conceptualizing how physical pieces fit together. Of course, as a child I didn’t realize the importance of this, or that I was connecting the two at all. World history and architecture were companion interests as well, in part because I had direct family located in America and Italy. By the time I began thinking about college, architecture was the clear and only choice. So, what began as an informal learning endeavor evolved into an ongoing professional pursuit.   

Q: What is a typical day at work like for you?

A: My day usually begins the night before with organizing the tasks for the upcoming day. The typical morning starts with reviewing and responding to emails—often I will call people in addition to responding via email. Next come office meetings with the project team, utilizing a task list as a kind of storyboard, to direct or adjust production focus throughout the day. The day’s efforts are also supported by allowing time for moments of relaxation and play, such as a coffee break with coworkers or some fresh air.    

Q: If you weren’t in this profession, what job do you think you’d be doing instead?

A: Aircraft pilot. Naturally, I assume I would be good at it, but really, who knows? Assuming I would make a good pilot, the job seems like it would be enjoyable while offering a perspective on, and relationship with, the world that most other professions do not.   

Q: What’s a common misconception about your job?

A: A common assumption is that architects, designers, and planners draw all day. At times this may be true, but time spent drawing is the result of successful attention to other components of the job that are familiar to everyone: planning (time and tasks), communicating (people and ideas), documenting (notes and programming), and checking (information). 

Q: What is the biggest work-related challenge you’ve faced? How did you overcome it?

A: The biggest challenge is communication. Although time is often considered a challenge, it can be managed by careful planning. On the other hand, communicating ideas and design concepts among team members involves constant attention to descriptive language and, most importantly, listening well in return.

Q: What is your favorite building, lab-related or not?

A: Choosing only from buildings I have visited in person—which obviously rules out quite a number—it would be St. Peter’s Basilica. It was an amazing experience from any standpoint: master planning, construction technology, material selection, scale, architectural/sculptural detailing, and history.   

Q: What are you working on at the moment?

A: Some of my current projects include lab and vivarium renovation projects located at universities, as well as services for microscopy suites and CT scanning rooms. The project sizes vary from partial and room renovations to complete floor renovations, with associated MEP infrastructure upgrades. 

Q:  What’s the funniest thing that’s ever happened to you at work?

A: A long, long time ago, while building a model at the office, I superglued my right-hand fingers and thumb together as I was trying to open the tube of glue. Luckily a coworker’s husband who happened to be a doctor came to my aid. I recall he spent around an hour delicately applying acetone to between the web of fingers with a cotton swab, until I was free.

Q: If you won a million dollar lottery tomorrow, what would you do with your winnings?

A: I would start taking flying lessons, and purchase a small plane.

Q: What kinds of hobbies or interests do you have outside of work?

A: Raised on the Connecticut shoreline, any outdoor activity would suffice whether on the beach or in the woods and at any time of the year. However, the two I most enjoy are cycling and running. Otherwise, playing guitar is a nightly routine as important as dinner.