"I come from a place where there is a scarcity of resources. Inherently, I like to use things that are not commonly seen as materials, but try to look at them in a way that is new."
Our Voices blog series shines a spotlight on the team behind Quinn Evans, introducing their work, inspirations, and how their diverse perspectives contribute to building a collaborative and innovative architecture firm.
When you ask an architect about their favorite building or building style, some iconic structures may come to mind. However, Quinn Evans architect Jay Ranaweera’s answer perfectly illustrates his approach to design. His favorite building is “any building that effectively supports its inhabitants, responds well to the climate it’s located in, and enhances its context."
“From an early age I was interested in learning how everything around me, from everyday objects to buildings, were constructed,” Jay explains. “It’s this interest in construction that evolved into my passion for architecture.”
Jay moved to the US when he was 15 years old and considers Baltimore his home base. After moving around for school and work, Ranaweera returned in 2018 to lay down roots. It was then that he was compelled to join the Quinn Evans team because of the commitment to and engagement with the city of Baltimore.
“I wanted to be part of a team that’s committed to improving the built environment in and around Baltimore,” he says.
Jay now works as a project manager, taking Quinn Evans projects from start to finish and working closely with their clients. Starting from the first client interaction, he works hard to ensure the design is aligned with the client’s vision and goals. In addition to building layouts, Jay keeps close track of which materials are being used, something he says comes from his upbringing outside the US.
“I tend to prefer things that are a lot more simple and not what people might consider to be elegant finishes,” he says. “I come from a place where there is a scarcity of resources. Inherently, I like to use things that are not commonly seen as materials, but try to look at them in a way that is new.”
One of Jay’s favorite residential projects has been designing the living space for Hyacinth’s Way, an organization that seeks to provide affordable housing for homeless women with mental health diagnoses.
“The design process for this project has required close collaboration between the client organization, engineering teams, and the architectural team to create a building that improves both the community it serves and the environment it inhabits,” Jay says.
Providing a safe space for their residents was paramount, so there needed to be a way for the staff to monitor who was entering the building, and outdoor spaces also needed to be protected. The Quinn Evans design team met those needs by laying out the building so that foot traffic would flow past the front desk and by creating centrally located outdoor spaces for residents to use.
“An easy solution would have been putting up a fence around the site and giving everyone a keycard,” Jay says. “But that might not be the best way to be the best neighbor and to create a welcoming environment around the building, facing the community.”
While every Quinn Evans office unites under the One Firm banner, the strength of the team lies in their diversity. Jay notes how the team at Quinn Evans had built a work environment that encourages collaboration from every department and empowers every team member to share their point of view on each project. It is through these different points of view that the best solution can be formed. As Jay puts it, “There is more than one way to elegantly solve a problem”.
“Having a diverse team can help us see the problem in front of us from a point of view other than our own,” says Jay. “That’s why I think diversity is crucial to coming up with great solutions to problems.”