Becoming an Architect

April 23, 2020

Why our designers chose a career in architecture


A love of building with Legos. A profession that runs in the family. A passion for art, science, or math. There are many reasons creative minds pursue the field of architecture. In celebration of National Architecture Week, we check in with some of our designers in the United States to learn the very personal reasons they chose a career in architecture.


International Influence: Gustavo Alberti (Miami, FL)
Gustavo credits family for his career path, with inspiration coming from his late grandfather, an architect in Uruguay, and his uncle, a general contractor. His grandfather was a founder of the student center at the University of Uruguay and owned an architectural practice where he produced contemporary designs in the 1950s. While growing up in Buenos Aires, Gustavo spent a lot of time on construction sites with his uncle and doing renovations on the family home—learning how things are built and how materials interconnect, eventually developing a love for tectonic architecture. After high school he moved to Uruguay to study at the same university as his grandfather, and even inherited the drawing table and stool his grandfather used during his studies. 

Family Footsteps: Ken Anderson (Arlington, VA) 
Architecture runs deep in Ken’s family, who knew as a little boy that he wanted to follow in his family’s footsteps. His grandfather, a respected builder in the early 1900s in Oakland, California, captivated Ken with how he created spectacular homes for high-end clients including Domenico Ghirardelli, the famous chocolate mogul. Ken’s grandfather also made great personal sacrifices to ensure his employees continued to work through America’s Great Depression. This love and respect for design—and people—inspired Ken to want to create impactful work that survives well past a lifetime and makes a difference to those who experience it. Architecture is a legacy that Ken is proud to leave his children.

Like Father, Like Son: Ray Kesel (Rochester, NY) 
Ray fell in love with the industry at the early age of 10. He would spend evenings around his family’s kitchen table with his father, a general contractor, looking at blueprints and learning from him. Together, he and his father designed and built a large addition that tripled the size of his childhood home. Years later, Ray spent his summers and school breaks in high school and college working on construction sites and interning with architectural firms. After receiving his degree from the University at Buffalo, he began working with Stantec in 2004. Though Ray left briefly to complete his licensure as a construction site foreman and superintendent, he returned to Stantec in 2006, where he still works today.

Art Meets Ambition: Richey Madison (Irvine, CA) 

In his youth, Richey was creative and curious about how things worked (electronics, machines, toys, cars, houses) and he was a gifted artist. Upon discovering the “Occupational Outlook Handbook” in 4th grade, Richey narrowed down his potential career interests to commercial art (now called graphic design) and architecture. Assuming architecture would be more profitable, young (and ambitious!) Richey wanted to become an architect. His commitment to his future career went as far as refusing to learn cursive writing because Richey heard architects printed in all capitals. He remained on the path to architecture. With only about 2,300 licensed black architects in the United States, it would take until the fifth year of his professional career to meet another designer that looked like him. Today, Richey is active in the National Organization of Minority Architects (NOMA) to promote diversity in the industry.

A Curious Mind: Joanne McAllister (San Diego, CA) 
As a child, Joanne loved making things—then taking them apart and putting them back together. That interest grew to include “fixing” telephones and appliances, much to the frustration of her parents. Joanne loved solving puzzles and learning how things work. Her grandfather gave this future architect her favorite illustrated book, “How Everything Works,” which looked at the inner mechanisms of various machines, vehicles, buildings, and more. As Joanne grew older, she also developed a passion for art. Combine a love of building with art, and you have a high school student spending time in the library reading Architectural Digest. From there, Joanne continued her education and launched a career in design.   

Talent and Tenacity: Tom Oehler (Austin, TX) 
Tom inherited a strong artistic talent from both sides, a few generations, of his families. He balanced that creative side with his passion for building and found inspiration from watching the daily construction of a large church across the street from his family home. Tom wanted to follow his dream and study architecture, but limited resources led him to a small college that did not offer architecture or engineering classes. So Tom founded “Deck Hands,” his own construction company that allowed this entrepreneur to put himself through the University of Oklahoma and earn a degree in architecture. As the son of two schoolteachers, Tom had life-long appreciation for learning and channeled that into his work for creating inspiring education spaces for students. 

Bridge Builder: Jennifer Storey (Cleveland, OH) 
Even as a 7th grader, Jennifer knew she wanted to become an architect. In an industrial design course, she participated in a bridge-building contest, creating bridges out of popsicle sticks then testing the weight they could hold before failure. Jennifer won—and she was hooked. Creating something from nothing, understanding the factors that influenced it, and how these things in turn affect a community made Jennifer realize architecture was her future.


Designing Her Own Path: Victoria Vicente (Sacramento, CA) 
As the daughter of two pharmacists with an extended family of doctors and accountants, art wasn’t an immediately obvious career choice for Victoria, who dove into science, math, and pre-med classes. But an elementary school art project she created as a youngster—a building made of craft materials—foretold what would become her true calling. Victoria realized she couldn’t suppress her creative passion and re-routed her career path: from pre-med student to design and drafting. Luckily a mentorship with a family friend who was an architect gave her a start and her mom and dad proved to be supportive too. In fact, her family’s history in medicine shaped Victoria’s focus on healthcare architecture. 

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