Member Spotlight: Alexandria Evans, AIA, CAW Architects

Alexandria Evans, temped for a social media company, while looking for her first designer position upon moving to California from Iowa. Her struggle finding her first job sparked her first involvement with the AIA starting with the AIASF mentorship committee. This helped her find a position with Howard Backen’s office in Sausalito. In 2018 she joined CAW Architects, Inc. and transitioned to the AIA Silicon Valley chapter and where she currently sits on COTE and chairs the Communications committee.

Alexandria, as a child of 2 public school educators, especially loves her work in education and strives to help create positive environments for the community. She strongly believes that architects have a responsibility towards the environment and works towards decreasing the built environments contribution to the climate crisis. This belief was fostered during her B.S. in Architecture at Georgia Tech and her M.Arch at Iowa State. Other interests include adaptive re-use and historic preservation, traveling, volunteering, and making jewelry.

What sparked your interest in becoming an architect?

My geometry teacher suggested that I think about architecture or engineering. It came at the perfect time, I was just realizing my dream of being like Nancy Drew and Emily Dickinson, or an investigative reporter/poet , would probably not be the right fit for me. I jumped onto the idea of architecture and never looked back. It probably helped that my high school was limestone with some fabulous gothic details.

What skills have you developed in your architectural journey that you have been able to apply into other aspects of your life?

Time management is one I’m working on right now both in the office and in my personal life. As I become more involved in managing projects, deciding on priorities and estimating time needed for different tasks in the office, I have been working on balancing my free time between fun projects, household chores, exercise, and relaxation.

What are the kind of projects that you currently work on?

Currently on my desk I have a Higher Education project and a couple of T.I. projects. I also have recently worked on a couple of K-12 projects.

What is the most interesting aspect of your job?

Everyday is different. My favorite thing to do is dive into a research project. I love them all, precedent studies, product research, and even code research.

What was your strategy to complete and pass all ARE divisions?

I took longer than I anticipated to pass all of my exams. I always had an idea of when I was going to take the next one though, even if it wasn’t going to be for 6 months. Also caffeine and baked goods serve as good study bribery.

You are a member of AIA Silicon Valley’s COTE / Communications Committee. What did you gain from that experience?

The best part of the committee is that I have met a number of incredible people. They inspire me to keep learning more about sustainability and are great resources as I try to integrate sustainability goals into practice.

How do you think the architecture profession can improve equity and diversity?

I don’t think there is just one answer; the path that I’m most passionate about is inspiring children and the education project typology. I really believe the work my office does can make a difference in the lives of children through a well designed and inspiring school. It’s also important to teach students about being architects like the ACE mentorship program or like NOMA’s Project Pipeline. Once you’ve inspired a more diverse population to study architecture, we as a field need to follow through with scholarships and more inclusive hiring practices.

What is your advice for emerging professionals pursuing licensure?

There are so many great resources available online so my first pieces of advice is to use them. Firms often have resources available for communal use as well. I think its important to pull practice questions from more than one source to ensure you don’t have any blind spots going into an exam.

Start. Log your hours and find your in office mentor as soon as you can. Sign up for your next test as soon as you finish your previous one. If you take a break, don’t beat yourself up over it, and don’t compare yourself to others. This is your own path

Find a time and place for studying, and schedule it into your week. I liked studying at college libraries and Panera the best. The first had others studying like me, and the second came with lots of coffee and the occasional bribery bagel.

How does having an architecture license set you apart from other design professionals?

Besides being proud to call myself an Architect, being licensed means having a responsibility of protecting the public’s “health, safety, and welfare.” The public that responsibility extends to is more than the client, and includes everyone who may uses, participated in constructing, or is impacted by the buildings or spaces I design.

If you had one message you wanted to share with the community, what would it be?

Treat your life like a design problem. This has been the best piece of advice I’ve been given. My “life” project is still a quite work in progress with far too many unknowns, but I’ve made a few changes that have increased the joy in my life. Scheduling exercise back into my life has helped with my overall mental health, and dancing once or twice week helps me tap into a needed carefree joy, a bit of silliness that’s a good contrast to my usual seriousness.

What architecture blogs or websites do you regularly follow?

Dezeen is my favorite, I also follow Architect Magazine and the Carbon Leadership Forum.

Interviewed by Madhubala Ayyamperumal, Assoc. AIA, WELL AP, LEED AP BD+C

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