Nina Cuccio Peck discovered her passion while she was still a teenager. As a comparative literature major at Smith College in Northampton, Mass., Peck took a course in architecture and fell in love with it. “It’s problem solving on a multidimensional level,” she explained. “Getting that puzzle to work on all levels is kind of like solving the Rubik’s cube.”
Peck is now a licensed architect in Connecticut, New York and Massachusetts, but her expert touch isn’t limited to the bones and exterior of a structure. She is also an interior designer.
“That’s something that differentiates me from other architects,” she said. “The interior spaces take their form from the layout of the furniture.”
Prior to starting her own architecture firm in 1986, Peck worked at Skidmore Owings and Merrill in New York City. She was a member of the design team for a number of NYC office buildings, including Tower 49 in midtown Manhattan. Although rewarding in their own way, large commercial projects didn’t offer the individual variety of small commercial projects and residences that Peck craved.
Photos and scale models of her projects and designs are displayed throughout her Old Lyme office. The buildings of various sizes are stunning and finely detailed. “Don’t say they’re big,” Peck said with a laugh. “It’s not about size. The size of a building has no relation to the skill of the architect.
Architects are required to consider, among other factors, the program, client’s wishes, budget, materials, zoning regulations, building codes and the Americans with Disabilities Act requirements each project calls for — all while creating a beautiful, aesthetically pleasing structure that fits in with the surrounding area. “If you haven’t solved all of those challenges, you haven’t succeeded as an architect,” Peck said.
Fast-forward almost three decades: Her company, Nina Cuccio Peck Architecture and Interiors, is celebrating its 25th year in business, with 22 of those in Old Lyme and the past 12 in her current office at 9 Halls Road. One of the buildings she designed, The Inn at Stonington, was featured in “Hope Springs,” the locally shot Hollywood movie starring Meryl Streep and Tommy Lee Jones that recently hit theaters.
Peck also worked on The Whaler’s Inn in Mystic. One of the challenges to working in historically rich areas, she said, is blending the overall aesthetic of a building into its surroundings, as though it has always been there.
“A lot of people think I simply renovated the buildings I created from the ground up, so that’s a good tribute to my work. This was particularly important with The Inn at Stonington and The Whaler’s Inn because of the historic significance of each respective community,” she explained.
“Sometimes a building can stand out as new or innovative,” she added, “but that was not appropriate in these situations. Many people don’t realize that The Whaler’s Inn is a new building, which was the goal.”
Peck holds a Master of Architecture and an MBA in Real Estate Finance. She has a daughter and two sons. Her oldest son is studying Naval Architecture at the U.S. Naval Academy in Annapolis.
She knew she found her life’s calling in college because, she said, “I would rather stay in my room and work on a project than go to a frat party.” Architecture required her to think on many different levels at the same time, so focus was key.
Peck’s first solo project was a house for her sister, which wound up featured in the New York Times’s real estate section. Naturally, she had a hand in designing her own home, building on what was already there when she moved in. “It’s an antique farmhouse with four additions,” she said. “Each addition helped us through each phase as our family grew.”
Aside from enhancing the skyline from Nova Scotia to New York City with her buildings, Peck has served as a volunteer in several area groups, including Regional District 18’s Facilities Committee and the Regional District 18 Building Committee, as well as the Old Lyme Historic District Commission. Her firm also contributed a pro bono design for the Town Woods Road Field House for the district’s youth athletic fields.
Statistics show that roughly 80 percent of registered architects are male, but Peck said gender has never entered into the picture in her experience. “The fact that I’m a woman doesn’t even occur to me at work, maybe because I went to an all-women’s college. When I’m in the field, I’m there solving problems and I’m respected for it.”