Art by Arzu Fallahi

Kristin Diotte is an architect and designer behind many restaurant and office designs, such as the Urban Co-Works building (formerly Quirky) in downtown Schenectady. Through her work with Re4orm Architecture as well as revitalization projects such as Post Design’s Operation Railbridge in Schenectady, she has focused on transforming the underutilized areas into “dynamic public assets” through public art. Diotte is also the director of planning and development for the city of Schenectady and a percussionist with Ensemble Congeros and Diotte Sorelle. She was nominated for her artistic vision and community engagement through projects like Operation Railbridge and collaborations with Electric City Barn.

Diotte, who grew up in Waterford, says her walkable community sparked her curiosity about the ways that cities operate and connect to one another.

“I’m very rooted here, I think that what I realized in practicing architecture…is that what I was more interested in was how the things connect,” she says. “What is the context? It comes from this belief of ‘beauty in, beauty out.’ If there are people struggling in a community that’s a reflection on everyone. It’s not me and them, we have to figure this out together. That drives my interest in the things I have worked towards, seeing the larger picture and not separating myself.” 

The designer has also explored the more artistic side of architecture, working on a projects like the complex sound installation with Spanish composer Francisco Lopez at EMPAC through her Production Installation Performance class at Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute in Troy with professor Michael Oatman. Post-graduation, she assisted Oatman on his 2010 installation project at MASS MoCA, “all utopias fell.”

“In my mind she’s not only a very good architect but she also understands what placemaking means,” Oatman says. “She’s a great example of an interdisciplinary thinker and is also involved in the long term vision of: What will Schenectady become? What will it evolve into?”

“Railbridge is a hybrid project. it’s about architecture, history, transportation, social space, the performing arts, making cities safer…The renaissance is not a fast process and it takes people like Kristin to reinvest in the place they thought they were preparing to get out of. There is a lot of work to do here by people who have a sense of future.”

Photo: Patrick Harris