Tell us a bit about yourself.
I am originally from Ohio and came to Pittsburgh to attend CMU and never wanted to leave. I live in a historic house in Highland Park (built in 1906) with my husband and two teenagers. I graduated from college thinking I would focus my career on designing theaters and found that college campuses are the places where theaters are most likely to be built today. Once I started working in higher ed, I found that I was happy doing anything that served the student experience.
Memorial Union, University of North Dakota
What led you to pursue architecture?
I was good at science and math in school but I knew that I didn’t want to go into either of those fields. In middle school, we had to take a drafting class, and I noticed that I was about the only kid in class who didn’t hate it. So I continued taking drafting in high school, which is where I learned about architecture, and how it could combine my math, problem-solving, and art skills into a single vocation.
What are some of the challenges that come along with being an architect?
We are a customer service field, which leads to the potential to spend a lot of time working with clients. Part of the reason it is hard to be an architect and work 9-5 is that so much of what we do is open-ended – our work does not have a clear answer. The main reason that architecture students in college spend so much time in the studio is that they are exploring options in their designs. We have to learn when to stop exploring options and put the answer on paper, and how to do that, as well as serve our clients, as efficiently as possible. It’s a balancing act, and we don’t always get the balance right.
Nebraska Union, University of Nebraska-Lincoln
What are your hobbies/passions outside of work?
I enjoy going to the theater with my daughter, especially the Pittsburgh Broadway and Cabaret Series. As well as knitting, crocheting, yoga, and watching Sci-Fi & Fantasy movies/tv shows with my family.
What advice would you give to aspiring architects?
There are lots of different ways to be an architect and many different firm structures. Use your early years of work to figure out what brings out your joy and passion, because this career is a lot more rewarding when you are doing work that brings you purpose and connects with your interests.
Student Union, Towson University
What is your favorite or most unique project you have worked on?
It is usually whatever one I’ve worked on most recently because I’m most connected with the clients on that campus at the time. But the one that is the most fun to mention around Pittsburgh is the CAPA high school downtown. My daughter goes there now, so my small contribution to the project impacts her day-to-day life.
What is your advice to other women working in the architecture field? Specifically, those working toward leadership roles.
There are firms that will respect your contributions as a woman, where you won’t feel “othered”. There are firms that offer flexibility and support for taking care of family members. There are firms that will help you develop into the kind of architect you want to be and not into the kind of architect that they think you should be. Hopefully, someday every firm will be like that. Until they are, find yourself peers and mentors that will support you. Whether through W+iD, NOMA, AIA Pittsburgh, or a group within your office.
Howard Gittis Student Center, Temple University