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Inspired by Opportunity: First-year Experiences at LEO A DALY

Young design professionals across the firm share their first-year experience at LEO A DALY

During her first year, Hannah Kouri worked alongside Global Design Principal Irena Savakova

Hannah Kouri, Assoc. AIA, Designer – Miami

As a first-year architectural designer working in the Miami studio, Hannah Kouri, Assoc. AIA, said she would not have dreamed a better first-year experience than the one that unfolded for her. A year ago, she relocated from college in Kansas to live adjacent to the limelight of Wynwood Arts District, one of the most recognized zip codes in the world. Ironically, Hannah’s first project involved a new, mixed-used development located at 2000 North Miami Avenue … also known as the gateway project to Wynwood Arts District.

The learning curve of the first year was steep and quick, but Hannah said she never doubted its value and embraced every opportunity to absorb knowledge while working long days on this high-profile, developer-led project. What she didn’t know was it would end up changing the trajectory of her career.

“Six months into the project the developer asked us to redesign the mixed-use development in addition to the team’s initial role as Architect of Record,” explained Hannah. “This was so cool because I not only got to work on the production side of this large, high-profile project, but because of this dramatic change I was able work with Irena [Savakova, Global Design Principal], and the rest of the highly-talented, diverse team across the firm to solve a complex design problem.”

Well-respected by the team and client for her fresh perspective and ability to efficiently design within the unique massing and project requirements, Hannah shared that she really enjoyed contributing to and collaborating on this significant effort.

“Once we had the redesign complete, I was so fortunate to participate in the panel presentation with the client and our design leaders for two formal review boards. This was an incredible experience that opened my eyes to many new aspects of architecture that I did not know existed before this involvement.”

She also shared that the long hours and challenges were definitely worthwhile … especially after they received unanimous approval of the redesign from both review boards.

In her first-year experience, Hannah presented with the project team of 2000 North Miami Avenue

Cristian Diaz, EIT, Electrical – Atlanta

Cristian said his first-year experience in the Atlanta studio of LEO A DALY also has been rewarding and he is inspired that the positive reviews of the work culture and firm reputation he saw and heard about before joining the firm really match with what he has experienced over the last twelve months.

“The whole on-boarding experience and my resourceful and knowledge-sharing colleagues have been so motivating,” shared Cristian. “I’ve had the privilege of working on federal government projects that have high standards and high levels of detail. This exposure early in my career allows me to set high standards for all my future work.” He has especially enjoyed learning 2- and 3-D modeling of electrical plans, calculating and discovering voltage drop and short circuit ratings as well as using Revit to enhance designs.

Cristian Diaz shares his first-year experience in the Atlanta studio of LEO A DALY

There are two pieces of advice Cristian offers to college students who are pursuing degrees to work in the AEC industry.

“It’s okay not to have an immediate answer when you start working on a ‘real’ project. I discovered the most valuable tool is not memorization of information, but to know where to look or how to get the answer in a timely manner.”

He also recommends taking advantage of spontaneous travel opportunities and networking as these experiences lead to career and personal growth. Cristian said he is happily working for LEO A DALY and living in the beautiful city of Atlanta, GA because of the strong bond he made with a group of college classmates with whom he studied aboard in France.

Sebastian Waller, Designer – Los Angeles

Sebastian is embracing mentorship as a path to growth in the Los Angeles studio. He said he is learning a lot about practicing architecture in the healthcare and governmental industries.

“Unlike architecture school where you are only subject to the instructor’s critiques and direction, in the ‘real world’ I was so surprised by how many other entities’ goals and procedures impact the design, documentation and delivery of a project.”

The project Sebastian is referencing is the VA West LA Critical Care Center, which is a 450,00-SF project with 238 team members. “The opportunity to be involved in the complex and unique design and documentation responsibilities is rewarding and motivating for me,” chimed Sebastian.

Sebastian Waller shares his first-year experience in the Los Angeles studio of LEO A DALY

As he reviewed his opportunities for work, Sebastian said it was the inviting work culture and the balanced design portfolio that attracted him to LEO A DALY. “The design elements are extremely logically and still succeed at being aesthetically pleasing spatially and materially. Over my first year, I have learned that good design in architecture achieves the building requirements for typology, concept and context.”

Sebastian shared that the mentoring process during his first-year experience has been a really informative and smooth experience considering the size of the project.

“Many different people have had their role in informing me about the VA West LA Critical Care Center and teaching me how to do tasks. I like how everyone who has taught me about the workings of this project has been deeply knowledgeable and has often been willing to go out of their way to show me how to do something.


Lately, I have been working closely with David Chang. He shares detailed knowledge on how the different elements of exterior cladding function, is always willing to show me how to draw a wall section, detail, or model element, and always gives valuable feedback on my work.”