Member Spotlight: Interview with Alexander Siegel, AIA | Architect at LEDDY MAYTUM STACY Architects

My name is Alex Siegel, and I grew up in Sunnyvale. I have always been a tactile person from legos to small home improvement projects growing up. Design school was an incredible exploration of those interests as well as an eye-opening realization that what we build has an incredible impact, positive and negative. I feel an immense weight of the role at LMS Architects in San Francisco where I am continuing to follow my passions for designing places where people learn.
What sparked your interest in becoming an architect?

Architecture was sort of introduced to me as being the nexus of some of my favorite subjects in school – math and science. My teacher suggested it early on in my academic life and I held it pretty close to heart all the way up until college applications came around. I had toured several schools and learned more about their programs, and it really felt like a good fit all along. Needless to say, I never turned back.

I would be remiss to say Legos didn’t have a big part in it, too – and yes, I have made a side hobby out of collecting and building all the different architecture sets, like so many of us have!

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

This may seem like a joke, but I mark up everything all the time now! Just about any document that I find myself needing to review or make eventually ends up bloody in Bluebeam before getting another round of polishing. Now I think this might be more of a bad habit than a skill at face value, but I think what I’ve gleaned from it is the tendency to review and revise, and invite others to join me in doing so, too! The nugget of truth at the center of it is the value of iteration and the benefits that can be reaped from practice and refinement. Some days it manifests as a home cooked recipe that I continue to tweak and other days it’s a lease agreement that needs some attention before getting signed. I’m grateful for the skeptical eye that I am continuing to hone since starting my design journey.

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

I am currently working on CDs for a high-rise student residence here in the East Bay. Previously, I was working on a major renovation of an academic building as well as a new ground up office and event space, here on the Peninsula. Academic projects are what particularly intrigue me and so I’ve always aligned myself with firms and colleagues that do a lot of academic and community learning spaces.

On the personal front, I’m now pursuing my LEED credential now that I’ve completed my architectural license journey. This will be one of my first formal steps towards a sustainability training, and I’m certain it won’t be my last!

What is the most interesting aspect of your job?

I feel like being an architect and designer is a little bit like having a crystal ball. I try to pinch myself often enough to remember that these models that we build and collaborate in are developing glimpses to what will one day be in existence. I think that is an exciting thing and something can easily be forgotten in the day to day, when we’re grinding away. I think remembering this really reinforces the importance making informed decisions early on and asking questions when they arise. And acknowledging when things aren’t right, at least not yet, so you can figure out how to get there.

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

I researched for a good while online and through colleagues to learn from others about how they tackled the 7 exams. What I found and what worked best for me was grouping the exams into PCM, PJM & CE and then PA PPD & PDD and essentially worked through them in phases. This allowed me to double dip on content that addressed multiple exams and really layer learning upon one another in a reinforcing way. I signed up for each exam 8-10 weeks out to help create some urgency for myself and took my time studying and preparing and gave it my best shot when each test came around, trying to avoid postponing unless I truly had a conflict or knew I hadn’t covered enough material yet. I had a great group of colleagues who I was able to bounce questions off and who helped hold me accountable, even though the slumps when studying got monotonous. It’s also worth noting that I had a long hiatus between the two “Phases” because I was trying hard to balance my workload and personal life, so being forgiving with yourself and setting my own pace was important for me. I can vouge that there are benefits to starting the process early – the material you study can reveal a lot of in-depth explanation that clarifies maybe why you were told to draw a detail a certain way or that explains some of the logic that went into how you’re getting staffed on projects. Conversely though, I think everyone ought to take licensure at their own pace and engage in it when you know it is what you want to do. And once you get there, just start signing up for tests and give things a try. Also be sure to leverage the support from your employer to fund your exam and study materials. Also keep your eyes out for scholarships, should you need external financial support to help make it happen.

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

So, AIA SV (SCV at the time) was of huge influence on me at the very beginning of my architectural career because I was fortunate enough to receive one of their incredible scholarships before I went to school. Beyond the monetary support the biggest initial gain I received from it was a group of mentors who made me aware of AIA and AIAS at large. I plugged into my local AIAS chapter at school pretty immediately and then would volunteer and attend events when I was home during the summer. Since graduating and becoming a full-on member myself, I’ve continued to receive support through the network of knowledgeable friends and mentors I’ve gained from being a part of this organization. I have also stayed involved through our COTE Committee branch that has been a great way to work alongside others to advance our sustainability agenda and meet a lot of impressive people while generating content to help elevate our membership’s understanding and awareness of architecture’s impact on the environment and most importantly, what we can and should do about it.

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

Improvements in equity and diversity can’t be done by a select few. They have to be made by a majority to make a pronounced shift. I think we each need to assess what we can do better to make both our profession and the products of our profession more inclusive and representative of our diverse communities – and make habits out of these improved actions. I think we need to take collective stances on projects that counter our ethics – not just in a performative way but in a true and genuine vow as licensed professionals. I think we need to continue to check our privilege as it pertains to the work cultures that we create, starting in school all the way to the professional work environment. We also need to assess the systems in place and evaluate who they have and have not historically included in areas like hiring and recruiting. Much like we are learning to trace the sources of our materials as pay greater attention to embodied carbon, we ought to also assess what our sources of talent are and branch out to welcome and support people beyond the familiar places we may look.

What is your advice for emerging professionals pursuing licensure?

The licensure pursuit is definitely a journey. Some people make it a quick journey and others a longer one, but regardless, it takes effort, stamina, and passion to get you to the finish line. I say this because I think there is a strong expectation around licensure that everyone deserves to dissect before beginning their own journey. I think it’s important to step back and assess your ambitions to ensure that obtaining your license it in alignment with them. If not, then great you can pursue other credentials that support the knowledge base you need to build credibility for that role you seek. And if architecture is the path for you, then embarking on that journey is the way to go. Talking to others who have done it is a great place to start as are the NCARB forums where a host of others share their experiences and strategies to tackle the exams. Make sure to also ask your employer about what kind of support they offer, often there are reimbursements for exams and a library of study materials that you can utilize. Also ask your colleagues if they’re looking to start taking exams too, or how they’ve gone if they’re already under way and you can build a group of people to navigate the journey with, if you find it helpful.

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

The license equates to credibility as well as responsibility. With the license, I’ve received a wonderful acknowledgement that I am competent in the essentials and have a solid foundation, but it really is just the beginning. I try to remind myself that much of the learning comes from experience and applied learning.

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

Sign up for the 2030 Commitment, right now! Like literally right now: and if you already are signed up, awesome! Teach your colleagues about it and find some connections in your network who aren’t signed up and get them to sign up, too!

Dive in headfirst and you’ll be accompanied by an incredible network of people who have taken the same leap and can help you take the next steps. It’s crucial that we become well versed in how our buildings are performing and where they’re being sourced so we can all make greater strides at diminishing the impact our work has on the environment and on each other.

What architecture blogs or websites do you regularly follow?

The Practice of Architecture

Architects Newspaper



Archinect, particularly their Salaries Poll (

As well as other AIA chapters around the US that are doing great things – AIA Philly’s COTE committee is one in particular that I have enjoyed following.

And a good handful of architecture meme accounts to get me through the long days

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

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