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    Building Trust

    By thebacboston
    Jun 13, '22 2:30 PM EST

    Jonathan C. Garland, President, and Founder of his rapidly growing Boston-based architecture & real estate development firm, J. Garland Enterprises (JGE), studied at the BAC for more than eight years before graduating with a Bachelor of Architecture in 2009. Despite the endurance needed to complete his education, he says, “I will never forget when I put on that robe for graduation day. I didn’t want the experience to end.”

    And for Jonathan, it never has.

    He has been a generous and loyal donor to the BAC and now sits on the BAC’s Board of Trustees, where he hopes to provide guidance on how to make design education more diverse. Jonathan’s unwavering commitment to equity, access, and diversity throughout the design and development industry shines through in his personal pledge to match any donation up to $10,000 towards the BAC’s Student Scholarship Fund this June.

    “In the Black community, architecture is not something that is spoken about, no less mentioned as a career choice,” Jonathan says. “My philanthropy and involvement at the BAC are focused on being very intentional about changing that.”

    Jonathan envisions current BAC students in sneakers and jeans visiting Boston area inner-city middle schools as ambassadors. He also dreams of the College becoming a hub for talented architects, designers, and developers of Color from Roxbury, Mattapan, and Dorchester. “Students who have come from these communities can go back and advocate to create a level of understanding that these are real career choices – and by engaging in this way they can strengthen community and bring about positive change,” he says with passion.

    Learning By Doing

    Growing up in Hyde Park, Jonathan never once met an architect, but as a kid he’d stick his neck out of the backseat window of his dad’s sedan as they cruised through the city. “It was and still is fascinating to me. I’d look at materiality, for example the way the sun hits metal, or the intricate patterns of brickwork. I would also observe the modes of interaction between people and buildings.” That obsession with built infrastructure only grew at a vocational high school where Jonathan picked up drafting skills and paid work.

    “I’ve always learned by doing,” he says, so the BAC was an obvious choice for his architecture education. “At the BAC, the students were entrepreneurs from all walks of life and our faculty would come off the Green Line from their day jobs to offer us expertise.”

    While studying, Jonathan initially worked at a four-person architectural firm, tasked with everything from emptying trash cans to negotiating contracts. But his dreams of long-term employment there came crashing down in the 2008 recession with an abrupt layoff.

    Fortunately, the BAC offered him a temporary job in Admissions and during breaks, Jonathan would put on a suit and drop off copies of his résumé at local firms. Eventually his determination paid off when he spotted Nancy Ludwig, a current member of the BAC Board of Trustees and President of Boston-based ICON Architecture, in line at a sandwich stand at Downtown Crossing. He summoned the courage to introduce himself and was given an impromptu interview on the street.

    By the time he got back to his laptop after lunch, a job offer was waiting in his inbox.

    From that experience, Jonathan concludes, “What I learned from the BAC was resourcefulness and grit. You have a problem, figure it out. Be creative. Be more creative than you thought you could be. Just don't accept the barriers."

    A conversation between JGE leadership, Jonathan C. Garland, President & Founder, and Juan Andres Bernal, AIA, Design Principal.
    Respecting Community Needs

    From his early beginnings as a paid design intern in high school, to entrepreneurial moonlighting for private residential clients, to his experience as a designer working on notable projects for NYC-based firm Ennead (formerly Polshek Partnership), Jonathan ultimately understood that to truly accomplish the work he imagined, he would need to start his own firm.

    Today JGE is five years old and is widely respected for its work in urban mixed-use, housing, institutional and other community-based interventions that help to create and grow community in and around Boston. The firm proudly celebrates diversity as a 100% Minority-Owned Business.

    Sitting back in his sleek Seaport conference room to reflect on it all, Jonathan says, “Because our practice has a dual platform in architecture and real estate development, it's a unique kind of microcosm where you can hear the needs of the community and in-turn envision and build respectfully to solve that need.”

    He and his colleagues prioritize meeting with people who live in some of the inner-city neighborhoods where they propose to break ground. Places like Nubian Square in Roxbury— where there is a lot of suspicion and “fear” around rising prices pushing longtime residents out and public hearings that usually begin with a developer “showing up to give a PowerPoint presentation” that feels totally out of touch with real lives.

    Jonathan quickly learned that “Residents are generally not concerned with the aesthetics of architecture. They are talking about affordability, usership, functionality, and the external impacts the project is going to have on their neighbors.” Building trust with all stakeholders is what keeps Jonathan and his team grounded despite their success.

    It’s also his loving wife Kiee and two sons Nathan and Daniel anchoring and cheering him on that pushes him forward.

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The #BACbuzz blog will help to inform, educate, and share relevant and noteworthy architectural and design news happening within the Boston Architectural College and around the Boston community.

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