My background is a tad unusual. My mother was born in El Salvador, in Central America, and my father is Mexican. They met while in graduate school at the University of Missouri. I was born in Arlington, Virginia while my father was working at the International Monetary Fund in Washington, D. C. I am the second of three children. I have an older sister and a younger brother.
When I was a small child we moved to Monterrey, Mexico where I grew up and went to school. I studied architecture and earned my degree from the University of Monterrey. I also grew up soaking up the culture and customs of northern Mexico.
Monterrey is the capital of the State of Nuevo Leon. It is Mexico’s third largest city and a thriving metropolis with over three million inhabitants. It is an industrial town known mainly by its older conglomerates that go back over one hundred years. Among these, the most important are, steel mills, cement, glass products, chemicals, and beer. Its culture leans towards conservatism with an emphasis on hard work and traditional values.
Being close to the U.S. border, Monterrey has been influenced by the American work ethic and culture. Many people speak English and are used to visiting and studying in the United States. We are used to American sports, movies, books, and television programs and from an early age become familiar with many facets of American culture.
Since I was a child, I showed an interest in drawing and crafts. I loved to draw and make models of streets, buildings, and houses. When at Berkeley studying for a summer program, I took a course in computer design related to architecture and realized I was hooked on designing buildings and houses. When I completed my degree in architecture I joined a staff of architects and designed several houses that were built in the Monterrey area. However, I felt I needed more exposure and experience in design and began looking for other opportunities. One day I saw a recruiting advertisement in a Monterrey newspaper to work in Laredo, Texas. I applied and moved to the U.S.
After a couple of years in Laredo, I was offered a job in McAllen and moved to the Valley. That was a turning point in my career. I became more involved in the design of houses and buildings and learned a lot more about design. After over a decade of experience in the Valley, I decided to form my own company, NOMA Studio, where I have been in charge of several residential and commercial designs in the region.
Why did you major in architecture?
As I mentioned earlier, I have always enjoyed creative and artistic activities. When I was in college, I attended a symposium in architecture, and that did it. I realized that was what I wanted to do the rest of my life. When I started my undergraduate program, we had to draw all our projects and build models to scale. Since then, when I would begin a new design, I would try to visualize what I wanted to do in my mind, and immediately rush to put it on paper. When we started to use computer programs, I felt the same “creative rush” when facing the computer screen.
What type of work do you do?
My associates and I work on a wide range of projects, but mainly commercial and residential buildings, as well as some recreational facilities.
What is it like being an architect from Mexico working in the US?
My formative years, as well as my formal education, were mostly done in Mexico. However, given the proximity to the US, and my parents’ backgrounds and cultures I never felt that I was compelled by these influences to follow a particular style. Throughout all my undergraduate studies my professors emphasized originality and creativity. When I started working, I was encouraged not to follow established patterns or styles, but to focus on creating my own style. I was stimulated to develop my designs based on my particular inspirations and tastes. In my work, I develop design ideas from my vision of what would “work best” for that particular project. I guess that my design style emanates from the multi-cultural experiences that have been generated by Mexico’s cultural mix, as well as in the more novel and contemporary trends in the US and other nations. I am always striving for originality and functionality.
What inspires you?
I get my inspiration from gifted and passionate people. When I am about to begin a project, I listen carefully to the wishes and desires of my clients and then try to bring their requests “alive” in my designs. After their review and comments, I revise my work and adapt them to the client’s needs, wishes, and tastes, until I get it right.
Along the way, I receive a lot of inspiration from my family. Both my daughters, as well as Miguel, my husband, provide inspiration for my projects. I strive to be better every day so they can be proud of me and my work.
How do you get ideas?
From everywhere and everyone. I love to look and listen to people. I enjoy talking to people, visiting new places, and trying to think of new ideas to do my work better.
You have two children and a successful career. How do you juggle running a practice with having kids?
It’s not easy, but it has helped to keep me on a balanced keel. Having to work and take care of my family forces me to mix all my obligations, but also gives me the flexibility to mix these duties. I do not have to work “nine to five” I can vary my working hours around my family’s needs. I find that working evenings has made me more productive without constant phone calls and other interruptions. It has helped to program all my activities better.
Did you feel that you had to get your practice and your career off the ground before starting a family?
No. Actually, both things developed at the same time, albeit at different paces, but I have managed to handle them hand-in-hand. Like everything else in life, these activities have always helped me to achieve a balance in everything I do. Don’t we all have to do it?
Where do you hope to go from here?
That’s a very good question. So far I have managed to achieve a sound and balanced family and personal life coupled with satisfying professional achievements. I can’t wait to see what happens next. I have managed to fulfill both my personal and professional life. I strive to continue doing just that, only better.