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Professional Profile: Mark A. Sullivan, AIA, LEED AP BD+C

Lab Manager speaks to Mark A. Sullivan, partner with JZA+D in Princeton, NJ

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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Mark A. Sullivan, AIA, LEED AP BD+C, is partner with JZA+D in Princeton, NJ. Lab Manager recently spoke with Mark about his career, experience, and personal interests.

Mark Sullivan Professional Profile Lab Manager lab design

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: Architecture and design were long-held interests of mine going back to my childhood. After high school, I started my undergraduate study at Syracuse University School of Architecture as a freshman, and continued on past graduation to earn a master’s of architecture from the same school. From there I began my career at Hillier Architecture, then moved on to Michael Graves & Associates, and finally joined the practice founded by my Syracuse classmate Joshua Zinder.

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

A: For a practice leader there aren’t many typical days, as each day often revolves around the needs of individual project schedules. My approach each day is to balance the time devoted to focused heads-down work and the time needed to meet, communicate, and collaborate. The world has produced many communication platforms, which make it easy to stay in contact with colleagues and clients yet make it harder to find solo time to focus, study, conceive, and solve.

Q: If you weren’t in this profession, what job would you like to have instead? 

A: If I were not an architect, I would probably be a craftsman of some kind: woodworking, metal smithing, maybe even gardening. These are activities that make use of both the hands and the mind, which is why they appeal to me in the same way that architecture does.

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

A: I find the Salk Institute for Biological Studies in San Diego to be remarkable and inspiring, even iconic. Louis Kahn’s design for the site on San Diego’s coastline is an elegant solution for research use, providing lab space and study space in a beautiful setting.

Q: What’s your typical order when you visit a coffee shop?  

A: Coffee, black and hot, and whatever looks good to accompany it.

Q: What is one important skill you think that all lab design experts should have? 

A: Listening is number one. We are all only as good in the creation of space for today’s research scientists as our ability to listen and understand what they need. The best approach to supporting their work comes from them, not the designer’s best guess.

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

A: I’d build a wood shop of my own, and happily make sawdust all day, every day. Furniture, barn doors ... so many possibilities, the mind reels ...

Q: What do you hope to accomplish in the next few years in this new position?  

A: We hope to support the work of innovators attempting to solve the biggest riddles of the day, providing the spaces and infrastructure that will suit their work.