An Avid Outdoor Enthusiast, Architect Kathleen Gerner Designs US Embassies, Civic and Academic Projects

Katie Gerner

BOSTON–Katie Gerner has managed complex academic and civic projects from planning and conceptual design through project completion.

As Project Manager for the US Embassy in Athens, Ms. Gerner led the redesign and expansion of the entire embassy complex, including Walter Gropius’ landmark Chancery building. She also led a masterplan for the US Embassy in Manila, and an Advance Plan for Major Rehab of as US Embassy (location withheld).

“Most of my projects take several years from the initial design concepts to completion of the building, and it takes a long time to reach final completion,” says Ms. Gerner, Associate Principal at Annum Architects. “I find it very rewarding to see occupants in the building, using spaces in both expected and unexpected ways. I’ve been working on the Athens Embassy project since 2014, so I’m very excited for that project to reach final completion.”

Ms. Gerner was also the Project Manager for Saieh Hall for Economics, a four-building complex at the University of Chicago, winner of national design awards, including the Frank Lloyd Wright Honor Award from AIA Illinois.

Her leadership includes a comprehensive project focus – on contemporary design and its relationships to existing buildings and context, with expertise in project delivery and quality assurance. She has successfully led projects ranging from $30M – $250M, with phased construction, complex systems, and project requirements.

Ms. Gerner holds a M.Arch from Tulane University.

Ms. Gerner will be honored as the Outstanding Women of Commercial Real Estate 2024 by the Boston Real Estate Times on Feb. 22, 2024 at its Annual Awards gala at the Burlington Marriott Hotel in Burlington, MA. To register for the gala, please click here.

Ann Beha Architects was founded in 1980 and became Annum Architects in 2022. Building on ABA’s accomplishments and an expanded leadership, Annum has more than 40 years of experience in planning and architectural design for academic and cultural projects throughout the country. These projects include planning and design for both historic landmark buildings and for new buildings, with clients such as Harvard Divinity School, U.S. Department of State, Museum of Fine Arts Boston, University of Chicago, and Smithsonian Institution.

Led by three principals, three associate principals, and eight associates, Annum is a minority-owned business dedicated to diversity, inclusion, and equity in design and the workplace with a talented and highly qualified 48-person professional staff. The firm has been named one of the Top 50 architectural practices in the United States by ARCHITECT Magazine, cited for its design leadership, stewardship, and collaborative practice.

Here is a Q/A with Ms. Gerner:

Boston Real Estate Times: What do you enjoy most about your work?

Katie Gerner: Most of my projects take several years from the initial design concepts to completion of the building, and it takes a long time to reach final completion. I find it very rewarding to see occupants in the building, using spaces in both expected and unexpected ways. I’ve been working on the Athens Embassy project since 2014, so I’m very excited for that project to reach final completion!

BRET: What do success and failure mean to you?

KG: Many of my projects work with existing buildings, and sometimes we try to program/design an existing space to fit a specific client need. At times, that doesn’t work out the way we initially might think it will, and a failure in that vein is really a tool to recalibrate goals and then sort out how to best achieve them. I think that can apply to the word failure – maybe something needs to be solved in a different way than you initially anticipate.

Similarly, I think we often view success as something working out the way you expect it to, but success can also be thought of as doing the best you’re able with the set of parameters (or circumstances) you’re dealt. Some of the most challenging design problems result in successful outcomes that might not have been the initial plan.

BRET: What is the one thing you attribute your success to?

KG: I went to an all-girls high school, and it made me not even question not belonging in the room, or in an industry like AEC. I really appreciate having that foundational confidence early on, even if I wasn’t sure of my career path back then. I realized I had my work cut out for me in my first job after school, which was the first time I really felt the lack of female colleagues, mentors and leaders. I’ve been very fortunate to have great role models to learn from as my career developed, most significantly Joan Goody and Ann Beha.

BRET: To which charitable, community and professional groups do you belong and why?

KG: I’m involved professionally in SCUP and the AIA, I’m also starting to become more involved in Docomomo, which I’m really excited about.

I’ve been a resident of South Boston for 15 years, and have participated in local IAG’s and community groups to help use my skills as the neighborhood has evolved over the years. It’s important to be able to review and contribute to how all of the new development impacts my neighbors and me. It’s still wild to me how much the neighborhood has changed (and is changing!) since I first moved to Southie.

BRET: In what way do you feel you have most positively influenced or served the local community, your company/organization or professional field?

KG: I have put a lot of energy into making it easier to grow professionally for those coming up behind me. I think it’s important to not just let things remain how they were when I was an emerging professional, i.e. ‘paying your dues’ – whether it’s advocating for ARE or other necessary benefits, mentoring, managing projects, staffing, and/or deadlines so that milestones are realistic.

BRET: Is there any aptitude, gift or talent that not many people know about you?

KG: I am an avid baker and enjoy trying out new recipes for family and friends. Give me a project, and I’ll figure it out! Savory items have been my most recent successes.

BRET: What are your hobbies and interests?

KG: I love to play golf in the summer and ski in the winter to be outside year-round. I love living in Boston, and walk or bike as much as possible to be outside and explore the city.

BRET: Your favorite books?

KG: A new release – US Embassies of the Cold War: The Architecture of Democracy, Diplomacy and Defense by David B. Peterson is on my ‘to read’ list.

BRET: The one person you would like to meet and why?

KG: Anyone who knows me well will say Dwayne ‘the Rock’ Johnson. I appreciate his positive attitude, his contributions outside of film, think his movies are fun, and that he would be very interesting person to sit and have lunch with!

BRET: Your core values you try to live by?

KG: I think of some of my strongest values are loyalty and respect. I’ve been fortunate to work with a lot of talented people over the years, with many on multiple projects or teams. Developing strong relationships and connections has really helped me grow professionally, and it’s helped me feel like I now have allies who can support me when I’m seeking help or advice.

I’ve been really working at practicing gratitude. I keep a journal where I write down three positive things that happen every day. I think it helps me slow down, and appreciate small things when I feel overwhelmed or stressed and think that nothing is going right.