Elizabeth Whittaker, the principal of Merge Architects, doesn't take rejection personally. Working in Boston—a city that has historically lacked an appetite for contemporary architecture—Whittaker is constantly told "It can't be done." So she and her staff of four often take matters into their own hands.
One recent project—a 2,800-square-foot, state-of-the-art orthodontics clinic in Waltham, Massachusetts—is a case in point. The project involved a complicated gut renovation of a crumbling 100-year-old warehouse building. When the general contractor looked at the drawings for the centerpiece of the design—a curving 20-foot-high translucent wall made of wood and polycarbonate—he balked. "He said, 'There's no way I can do this; we don't have the budget,' " Whittaker recalls. "But, when I got up on a ladder, I realized we could make it happen." After the pieces were fabricated off-site, she and her staff borrowed the contractor's equipment and spent a few weeks installing the wall themselves.