Going Dutch

From Amsterdam’s free-thinking ways to sunsets on Martha’s Vineyard, here’s what drives architect Tamara Roy.

architect tamara roy

Photo by Matt Kalinowski

To Tamara Roy, a senior associate principal at ADD, it’s the numbers that matter most. Consider the new MassArt residence hall she and her team recently designed: The 20-story building, a celebration of all things creative and urban, is clad in 5,000 colorful aluminum panels. Or the 300-square-foot micro apartments that she and her collaborators created to encourage affordable development in Boston. Or her first house project, a “little Japanese bento box” on Lake Winnipesaukee that she completed for just $85,000.

This skill for marrying art with practicality began 19 years ago, when she and her husband—current ADD principal B. K. Boley—attended Amsterdam’s Berlage Institute, a collaboration-based architecture school. As the only Americans there, the pair quickly learned how to use their cultural differences to foster innovative design solutions. “We culled creative ideas from everywhere,” Roy says.

Ahead, she shares the many things that inspire her every day.

architect tamara roy

Photo by iStockphoto

1. Dress-Shopping

“T. J. Maxx is where I go. I bring 40 things in the dressing room, and walk out with three.” The secret behind her selection process? “I bring my 13-year-old daughter.”

architect tamara roy

Photo by Getty Images

2. Moshup Beach, on Martha’s Vineyard 

“We rent a ‘shack’ in West Tisbury that sleeps 10 for two weeks every summer, and fill it with friends. Every sunny day, we hit the beach with our boogie boards and fresh French bread from the Chilmark General Store for mozzarella, tomato, and basil sandwiches. The sunset there is beautiful.”

architect tamara roy

Photo by iStockphoto

3. Biking 

Roy’s love of two-wheeling didn’t stop when she returned from the Netherlands. “I get up at 5:30 a.m. and go on the Minuteman Bikeway for 8 to 10 miles every morning. It’s my Zen time.”

architect tamara roy

Photo by Getty Images

4. Color, Texture, and Pattern 

“All my work revolves around making urban architecture less cold, more sensuous and emotional.” The architect has based many of her designs on works of art, such as Anette Linnea Rasmussen’s flower photography (Nouvelle at Natick) and Gustav Klimt’s Tree of Life (the MassArt residence hall).

architect tamara roy

Micro Unit Rendering Courtesy of ADD

5. Economizing

Good design should be accessible to all, Roy says. “Architecture is for everybody, not just for the wealthy.”

architect tamara roy

Photo by Getty Images

6. Amsterdam 

Roy called this “totally hip, bike-friendly city” home for three years. “The housing design there is truly innovative.”


On File

What I’m Listening To 

Wait Wait…Don’t Tell Me! is my favorite show on the radio, and I’d love to have Carl Kasell’s voice on my voice mail. I’m a news junkie and appreciate in-depth conversations with experts on every subject under the sun.”

What I’m Reading 

Bossypants, by Tina Fey. Any woman working in a field of mostly men should own this book. It provides a chance to laugh until you pee your pants over things you might otherwise cry about.”

What I’m Cooking

“Grass-fed beef liver and caramelized onions. It takes me back to eating with my French-Canadian grandfather when I was a little girl.”

What I’m Watching 

Stranger Than Fiction is my favorite movie ever—the crossover genre of graphic design and moviemaking is great, and the music is fantastic.”