Author: Joan Cramer
A modern building surrounded by vegetation against a city skyline. Inset, a photo of Craig Schwitter.
“Sustainability is increasingly important to our clients. The tools are there, and I am incredibly optimistic."—Craig Schwitter ’89

Craig Schwitter ’89 is a passionate advocate for integrating engineering, architectural design, and rapid advances in technology to improve people’s lives. And that means considering every aspect of a project’s possible impacts on a community—from health and the local economy to climate change.

At Buro Happold, a global engineering and advisory practice with offices throughout the United States, Schwitter has led collaborations with cities, corporations, colleges, and some of the world’s leading architects to build not just structures, but iconic environments. With a background in structural engineering, Schwitter joined the firm in 1992 and currently serves as both senior partner and global board chair.

Schwitter and Buro Happold are committed to Net Zero, the movement to completely negate the amount of greenhouse gases produced by human activity. “Sustainability is increasingly important to our clients. The tools are there, and I am incredibly optimistic,” says Schwitter, who majored in civil engineering at the Whiting School, and then went on to earn a master’s in civil engineering at MIT.

His many projects include New York City’s High Line, the celebrated transformation of a long-abandoned stretch of an elevated Manhattan rail line into a public park overlooking the Hudson River. There is also the “breathable” bank building in Pittsburgh, a sun-drenched 33-floor edifice with a sophisticated double-skin ventilation system. Buro Happold also led work on Atlanta’s Mercedes Benz Stadium with its impossibly elegant (and technically challenging) retractable roof, made of eight translucent “petals” that open like the eye of a camera.

Perhaps most technically and aesthetically dazzling of all, there is the Jewel at Singapore’s Changi Airport, a 1.4-million-square-foot glass-enclosed entertainment and shopping complex. It features a seven-story rain-fed waterfall and terraced forest topped by a stunning “grid-shell” roof made possible only by recent advances in computer-generated parts and design.

“Collaboration is the key. You need everyone’s expertise,” says Schwitter, who has been an industry advisor to the U.S. State Department and has taught at Columbia University’s graduate school of architecture, where he helped develop a curriculum for teaching technology to architects.

But he also believes his most important collaborators are the people destined to use the spaces. “Once in a while, when I have a few minutes in New York, I go up on the High Line and just sit and watch people walk and talk and enjoy themselves. I can’t think of anything more satisfying.”