Women in Design

Empowering women and seeking to equip designers with tangible skills and real connections is a central tenet of SB Architects’ philosophy. While famous women such as Zaha Hadid, Odile Decq, and Jennifer Siegal have paved the road to the very top, we would like to highlight our designers who are making a name for themselves in San Francisco and Miami. Join us for a conversation with seven creatives who have established their reputations nationally and internationally, and overcome every challenge along the way.

Megan Burton, Associate 

What is your opinion on how people’s needs and habits should be factored into design?

At the center of architecture is the human experience. From my perspective, one of the most surprising missed connections within a design is that between architecture and anthropology—  how is one to design for people without fully understanding their needs and habits? Designs that both suit the needs of the user and enrich their experience have longevity, which is an often unrecognized tier of sustainable design. A building can be as green as they come, but if it doesn’t fulfill people’s needs, it is ultimately unsustainable. Start with the person. Build from there.

Mirba Estrelles, Associate

Architects design buildings that will characterize communities for decades to come. How difficult is it to design buildings for an unknown future?

We live in a fast-moving and interconnected world, one in which pioneering technologies, demographic shifts and socio-economic changes have far-reaching impacts. While we do not yet know what the future will bring, it is only if we put our minds to it that we can hope to play a part in shaping it. As a designer, the overarching challenge is to design buildings that address current demands and are timeless within their context. The design solution needs to be site-specific and should the function of the building change or its context change, it will be yet another design opportunity.

EunJoo Cho, Associate

The firm has a few notable renovation projects known for their heritage, such as Freemark Abbey.  How do you approach designing projects such as these?

Renovation work is challenging. I had the opportunity to work on several renovation projects such as Freemark Abbey and Vintage Estates, which includes the recently completed Vintage House. During the design process, it is critical to understand the existing context and historical elements. Through this process, we better understand the constraints and opportunities. The final design reflects a respectful balance between old and new.

Teresa Ruiz, Vice President and Associate Principal 

Scale, along with many other design decisions, such as the choice of materials, form, and location, is a response to a set of needs. Tell me about the needs and some of the design decisions for your projects?

Scale is one of the most difficult concepts to grasp. Sitting on a site and absorbing the activities around the site is a critical component in making design decisions. We choreograph a hierarchy of experiences that guide the design and work with clients to address critical areas first, such as highly-visible and highly-trafficked areas. The scale, then, is a response to these needs.

Rayda L. Almonte,  Associate  

Architects design buildings that will characterize communities for decades to come. How difficult is it to design buildings for an unknown future?

Architecture is about uniqueness and innovation. As an architect, I design with the future and its users in mind — trying to imagine how we will live in generations to come is as challenging as it is abstract and intriguing. Architecture allows me to explore these exciting new possibilities to anticipate and meet the needs of people 10, 20, 30 years from now. One of the principal thoughts when developing future concepts is how to preserve the emotional connection between people and their personal experiences in the places — how to build spaces of comfort, enjoyment, and safety for people to live, work, play and love.

Arianna Leopard, Director 

Why is storytelling important in architecture?

As we craft our own brand message, our Creative Services Group helps clients develop brand identities for their projects. This storytelling can come in the form of a project narrative, brochure or video. A brand is nothing but a story. You can’t eat a brand or put money in a brand or drive a brand. But the story the brand tells can remind you of something more — it can create an association between a building, experience or memory. Our task, then, is to tell a story, one that resonates, one that matters to people, and to repeat it often enough that it creates value.

Francesa Prado, Graphic Designer 

How can the implementation of graphic design and branding techniques improve and elevate the basic understanding of an architecture project?

The ultimate goal of a graphic designer is to communicate a message through clear and attractive visual elements. Technology is continually transforming the way in which we communicate, making storytelling a powerful way to emotionally connect with an audience. Branding has also evolved to a higher level, creating the emotional connection that requires us to stay true to our vision throughout every phase of the project. As a graphic designer, I collaborate with architects to visualize their ideas in an impact way. To be successful and create ‘memorable’ identities, the creative process of branding must be very strategic and extend far beyond the visual aspects of a company or product. At SB, we emphasize this core-principle when working with our clients.