Sasaki is proud to announce Liz von Goeler has been promoted to principal. She has over 25 years of experience designing retail, restaurants, multi-family housing, and workplaces. Most notably, she led the building repositioning project at 125 Summer Street and an office relocation and workplace strategy for Fish & Richardson at a previous firm. As an interior designer, von Goeler combines a data-informed approach to space planning with a strong aesthetic sensibility to design meaningful spaces. She enjoys leading an iterative and collaborative design process with contractors, manufacturers, and craftspeople to create innovative features for client and project needs.
Below, von Goeler shares some thoughts on her background, design approach, and path to leadership:
Why do you do what you do?
As farm kids, we were always building or fixing things and we were expected to help. It was a great hands-on experience and I loved it. When we weren’t fixing or building something, we were building straw bale forts so there was always a sense of shaping space. When I was ten, my step mother took our old shabby Victorian house and renovated it to reflect the period. It was a shocking transformation and, upon seeing the results, I was hooked on design. I love going through the process with my clients and creating that same kind of transformation for them.
What are you most excited about in regards to your new role as a principal at Sasaki?
I am super excited about providing leadership and mentoring a great interior design group. They have done so many amazing projects, written great thought leadership pieces, and utilized tools in ways I didn’t know was possible. I am looking forward to learning more from them as well. I am also committed to expanding our project types, beginning with our work at The State Room at 60 State Street.
Who or what has had the greatest influence on your approach to design/planning? In what ways?
Everything. Everywhere I go I ask myself why this works or doesn’t. What can I learn from it? Design—and especially workplace interior design—is changing so quickly you have to know what others are doing and challenge yourself not only to stay current, but also to understand why and how it will work. My first desk was in a cube with six foot high walls—the kind of space that inspired Dilbert cartoons. We had our desk, conference rooms, a print room, and a cafeteria shared with 1,000 employees. It didn’t offer different places to work, any mobility, or true collaboration spaces, but we were designing retail spaces and dreaming of what was next and what was possible. So maybe that was actually my biggest influence.
Hideo Sasaki once said, "Contribution is the only value." What do you contribute?
I contribute experience in project types outside of Sasaki’s traditional client types, such as multi-family housing, retail, hospitality, restaurants, and law firms. Having started my career in retail when malls were the big thing, I think I also contribute the mentality that if we can dream up something, we can find a way to make it. Everything in store design can be custom created, down to the shelf supports, which is different from most projects. You learn your way around the possibilities and the limits to making something exactly what you want it to be.
In retrospect, what advice would you give yourself ten years ago?
Learn to take a compliment well, not just for you but also for the person giving it. When you deflect a compliment, you don’t fully own your good work. It’s the same with taking ownership of your hard work and good ideas—taking credit doesn’t remove it from others on the team, but not taking it doesn’t associate you with your hard work. This is something I am still working on.
Where is your favorite place in the world?
To be in my back yard on a sunny day, in the hammock, with a good book is the biggest luxury. Even though it is a short trip, it rarely happens.
Whom do you admire?
Anyone who has the courage to admit they don’t have it all figured out. And those that have the wisdom to really listen to others rather than talk.
What is something people would be surprised to know about you?
My first love was music, theater, and dance. As a kid I played flute, piano, two saxophones, hand bells, sang in three choirs, danced in a traveling group, and sang in operas. After college I became a ballet addict, continued voice lessons, and started playing guitar and flute in a Somerville folk band. Our band was featured in the Boston Globe, but mercifully before the digital area so you won’t find the article anywhere. Since my kids were born, I have danced in our local Nutcracker and play the flute with my daughter, although the rest of the instruments have been gathering dust. I currently perform in the shower and mostly empty parking garages.