Architect Lisa DeStefano loves Portsmouth


By: Diana Paquet
Date: Thursday, Mar 6, 2008
Publication: The Portsmouth Herald

PORTSMOUTH - Lisa DeStefano, a Portsmouth native, always knew she wanted to be an architect. She commuted to the Boston Architectural Center for her degree, but otherwise she has always been centered here, designing new and redesigning older spaces throughout this seaport city and beyond.

The head architect and owner of DeStefano Architects since 1995, she is pleased to live and work in a community she deeply cares about.

"I can still be in the community that I love and use the creative part of me to put little pieces of artwork on the landscape," she said.

The artwork that DeStefano and her team have left on the landscape are countless residential properties, plus buildings such as the Hilton Garden Inn, the Victory and Gaslight restaurants, Goody Two Shoes, and the Jardinière building.

DeStefano Architects' work reaches across the entire city and beyond. The firm was recently chosen as the architect for an office building on International Drive at the Pease International Tradeport.

DeStefano also sits on the city's Economic Development Commission, focusing on the Islington Street corridor. She said this project offers a wonderful opportunity for the Portsmouth community.

The North Mill Pond neighborhood is another area where DeStefano is hopeful there will be growth. She said she hopes this area will develop as another outgrowth of the heart of downtown Portsmouth.

"There has been new energies brought to the buildings throughout the downtown area, and there is the unique opportunity to not reproduce what we have as the heart of our city, but to complement it with another district, and I feel privileged to be a part of that," DeStefano said.

A common thread DeStefano has with her projects is the design of spaces that will house people.

"We really think about the experience that the person goes through as they approach the building, as they enter the building, and as they progress and circulate through the building," she said.

On Monday, the Portsmouth City Council approved a Connecticut-based firm, JCJ Architecture, as head architect, and DeStefano Architects as part of the design team for the new Portsmouth Middle School.

DeStefano said she is excited about the large project. Designing a school means working with a lot of people space, and she said she plans on sharing her ideas for the project with the community.

"Our task is to renovate and add to the (middle school) building, and we'll be doing work sessions with educators and the community and then pulling together an option or maybe two to keep the school at its location," said DeStefano.

With Portsmouth experiencing a surge of changes in its city-scape, some wonder if we will lose what we already have in this quaint city. However, DeStefano has a positive outlook on the city's future.

"I was born here, and there is something in the soul that keeps me rooted here," she said. "We do have a little jewel (and) we have good ordinances in place that is going to keep it that size and scale even though we are spreading out."

She said other cities and towns have taken notice to the positive changes taking place in Portsmouth and they are interested in doing some of the same.

"I have had good fortunes to have conversations with people in Barrington, Rochester and Dover who see what is happening in the Portsmouth area and say, 'OK, there is good planning and good design. How do we have that in our community as well?'" said DeStefano.

DeStefano has a strong interest in her residential projects as well, and likes to get to know her clients. She asks things like whether there are small children in the house or are they empty nesters and do they like to entertain? And then she can design their homes around their lifestyles.

"To drive by these houses in the summer time, knowing they have visitors and they are enjoying the patio along the water side of it, it brings a lot of joy ? the joy I get thinking that I created a space where people can gather and share for so many years," she said.

DeStefano is passionate about her business and her projects, but noted she is part of a team effort at DeStefano Architects.

"I don't see the business as just me," she said. "The business is myself with everybody else here, and we have a good group of people that are here.

"Additionally we surround ourselves with great consultants so it's a real team effort to pull a project together," she said.

The company also does a lot of work behind the scenes that may never be seen from the city streets, but is equally important.

"We give back to community, so we are all very active in volunteering our time in some way, and I think we are rewarded, personally and professionally by being able to give back to community," she said. "That's kind of who we are."

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