Suzanne Musho: Architect, entrepreneur, design leader

Suzanne Musho on site at a quarry, selecting material for one of her current projects at Zubatkin: a major expansion fo the American Museum of Natural History in New York City. As project leader representing the museum, Musho works directly with the design and construction teams, as well as multiple departments of the museum.

By Rebecca Rudell

Suzanne Musho, (MArch ’93, BA  ’90) was raised on building sites and in design studios. Her father, Ted Musho, an architect at I.M. Pei & Partners since 1962, would bring the whole family to his job sites; like the JFK Presidential Library in Columbia Point, Massachusetts. Her brother, Ted G. Musho, also an architect, is a technical expert of building systems and has been a part of major skyscraper projects around the world.

Despite her love for the field, Musho never imagined she would someday fit into the profession. But when she enrolled in an Introduction to Architecture course with professor, and now dean, Bob Shibley, she began to see how her qualities might form her own mode of practice in architecture.

“Bob opened my eyes to other possibilities in architecture, that it could also be treated as a social science, and as a method to advocate for social responsibility,” she explains. After earning her BA in psychology, she applied to UB’s Master of Architecture program.

Musho says UB's School of Architecture and Planning prepared her to perform as a pivotal member of a design team right away. “At UB, you hone your design skills,” she explains. “And you are also trained to have a full understanding of the coordination of the systems of a building.” She also appreciated the leadership opportunities available at the university, in particular, her time working with the AIAS Chapter at UB to bring the AIA’s student annual convention to Buffalo and Toronto—an endeavor that required working with multiple constituents, including the local government.

Her ability to lead was recognized when Musho returned to Pei Cobb as a full-time employee in 1993 (she worked summers at the firm since 1987) and was put in charge of a design team. She was also one of the few people in the office who knew AutoCAD at the time. And, in fact, the Buck Center for Research in Aging in Marin County, California, on which she worked with I.M. Pei himself, was the firm’s first project created with the relatively new design software.

In 2000, she founded Musho Architecture and Design and worked on a large renovation project for Kips Bay Towers—where she grew up and still lives today with her own family. The renovation included redesigning eighty hallways with one of the building’s original architects, Jim Freed. Over the next 16 years, her firm worked with more than 200 clients, designing complete structures, as well as custom furniture, carpeting and fabrics. She says, “Small firms need to diversify to stay relevant and profitable.”

Finally, in 2015, she made the move back to a large company, as a vice president at the esteemed NYC firm, Zubatkin Owner Representation. Her clients are mostly in the cultural institution market and include the Jackie Robinson Museum and the American Natural History Museum (AMNH).

Musho is currently working on the new Richard Gilder Center for Science, Education, and Innovation, with Zubatkin. The project is a $340 million, 200,000-square-foot, new-building project at AMNH. Musho is the project leader, and works directly with the design and construction teams, as well as multiple departments of the museum. Her primary role is to keep abreast of all developments and share them with the entire team to make sure the project is moving forward, as well as staying on schedule and on budget. She works, as she puts it, “to create the threads of communication between all the different groups that ensure this extraordinary project is advancing every day.”

Musho also continues her public speaking engagements on inspiration in design and recently spoke about the  the inspiration implementation and maintainability of stone at the International Surface Event in Las Vegas at the end of January.