Robert J. Verrier FAIA, Boston architect and pioneer of historic adaptive reuse, dies at 81

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Robert J. Verrier

BOSTON— Robert J. Verrier, FAIA, NCARB, the Boston-area architect and firm founder whose reinventions of historic New England wharfs, mill buildings, schools, and architectural landmarks have inspired national attention along with hundreds of emerging practitioners, died on August 23rd in Gloucester, Massachusetts while on vacation with his family. He was 81.

A rehabilitated chocolate factory complex that ignited a revival of Dorchester. An abandoned hospital that became a magnet for retired seniors. A landmark 1800s cotton mill reimagined as a mixed-use village with offices, apartments, and a National Park Museum. These were just a few of the 100-plus building projects and adaptations led by Verrier as an influential yet unassuming architect and founder of The Architectural Team (TAT), headquartered in an 1840s Naval commandant’s house on Admiral’s Hill on Chelsea’s waterfront.

Verrier was an exemplary leader, an architectural visionary, and an inspiring mentor. He made a profound difference in the architectural industry, in communities across New England, and in the lives of countless individuals. Verrier inspired generations of architects with a steadfast belief in the potential of architecture to engender civic pride, revive local economies, and transform communities. Perhaps more importantly, he believed that people were capable of extraordinary things – and he actively encouraged those around him to dream big and pursue their highest potential by taking on more than they thought was possible. A consummate optimist, and engaging storyteller, Verrier will be remembered most as a devoted husband, loving father, and loyal friend.

Baker Chocolate Factory Complex, Dorchester, Massachusetts

The only thing that eclipsed Verrier’s passion for architecture was his love of family. Verrier met the love of his life during the summer of 1961. Within a year’s time, he drove to Mexico City to ask for her hand in marriage – a romance lasting more than 57 years. His beloved wife, Carmen Rios Verrier was his entrepreneurial support, world travel companion, and creative muse. They were inseparable and best friends. An adoring father, Verrier encouraged his children to take risks, pursue adventure, and explore the world. He inspired their love of art, photography, design, nature, and being of service to others in need. An active and participatory father, he coached his children in sports, taught them to swim in the waves of Cancun, and climb the pyramids of the Yucatan. Well-known for adoring and boasting about his six grandchildren Verrier often said, “For every minute invested in your children, your family, your friends – you get tenfold back.” A generous spirit, he didn’t just talk about helping others; he put his words into action by inviting countless people to share his home, his vacations, his life.

Verrier is survived by his wife Carmen Rios Verrier of Lexington, MA., and his three children: Lita M. Verrier of Bedford, MA, partner Rick Eisenhauer, Jr., and her two sons Tristan Hart and Tobin Hart; Maria A. Verrier of Concord, MA., and her daughters Kira Moran and Alicia Moran; and Carlos E. Verrier, of Topsfield, MA., and his wife Deborah Tian Verrier and their two children Isabel Verrier and Lucas Verrier.

A celebratory Mass will be held at Saint Cecilia’s Parish at 18 Belvidere Street in Boston on Wednesday, September 1st at 2pm. In lieu of flowers, please consider a charitable donation be made in Verrier’s memory to ROCA or Boston Architectural College (BAC) as these two organizations were close to his heart.

Life and Career

If few outsiders knew of Verrier’s national record of achievements or his success in building a widely acclaimed firm, it was likely due to his down-to-earth character. He earned more than fifty honors, including a National Historic Preservation Award bestowed by President Ronald Reagan in 1988, and he became a Fellow of the American Institute of Architects, its highest recognition, in 2011. In fact, his influence can be seen on nearly every city block in Boston, from the Kenmore Abbey and Somerset Apartments, to China Trade Center, RH Stearns, and The Bedford Building, to Lincoln Wharf and Commercial Wharf – to name just a few.

Voke Lofts, Worcester, Massachusetts

In the housing, preservation, and real estate communities, where Verrier’s expertise was deeply valued, his involvement in construction projects was considered a sign of seriousness and commitment, as well as technical and design excellence. Verrier has also been commended for his support of the Boston Architectural College, where he studied and later in life served as a trustee. He supported the Planning Office for Urban Affairs (POUA), part of the Archdiocese of Boston, to find innovative solutions for affordable, workforce, and permanent supportive housing. In 2010, Habitat for Humanity of Greater Boston presented Verrier with their American Dream Award in honor of his contributions to the improvement of the Greater Boston community. Verrier’s love of old buildings and his passion for the preservation of historic fabric, overlapped with his devotion to the mission of creating quality affordable, safe, and attractive housing for those in most need.

Born in North Attleboro, MA, to Edward and Agnes Verrier, Bob Verrier attended Monsenior Coyle High School in Taunton and graduated from Boston Architectural College (BAC). In 2007, the BAC honored Verrier with their prestigious Alumni in Practice Award, which celebrates those that make the world a better place to work, live and learn.

In his early 30s, Verrier had begun exploring how architecture practice and adaptive reuse techniques could be a way to restore local landmarks for the benefit of varied communities. Through professional leadership, Verrier promoted the safeguarding and use of our nation’s architectural historic buildings as a civic touchtone, a key to urban revitalization, and a living record of shared history. By 1971, Verrier had joined three others to found the firm, originally named Boston Architectural Team.

In the 1990s, Verrier’s firm expanded nationally in multiple states in the Northeast. By 2000, The Architectural Team, increasingly known by its acronym TAT, grew to employ 95 people. Throughout the years, lifelong friendships were formed with employees and clients alike, creating an extension of his own family. Over Verrier’s career, he dedicated his practice to creating positive change by pursuing forward-looking design solutions to make cities more livable, resilient, and sustainable. Among his most notable works are housing conversions for such projects as the Voke Lofts in Worcester, Mass., Loft Five50 in Lawrence, Mass., and the Livingston Middle School near Albany, NY. Other historic places have included an 1891 jewelry factory conversion for Sterling Lofts near Verrier’s birthplace in Attleboro, Mass., and an 1871 former steam-powered textile mill listed on the National Register of Historic Places that became Knitting Mill Apartments in Fall River, Mass.

An exemplary leader in his field, Verrier was personally responsible for designing 100-plus award-winning historic buildings, and he was a registered architect in 27 states. His work has become a hallmark of the firm’s practice since its inception and has led to the firm’s foundation of lifetime clients. The firm celebrated its 50th anniversary this year, having completed more than 155,000 units of housing, adapting over 300 historic developments, and receiving at least 200 awards for design excellence. Verrier’s entrepreneurial spirit, dedication to helping others, and commitment to positive transformation will be carried on by his children, grandchildren, and the extended TAT family.

(The obituary was originally published on Legacy.com.)

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