Unforgettable Design

June 14, 2018

By Marquesa Figueroa

I don’t know how many of you can remember seeing your first project completed - when that first project you contributed ideas, time, and energy to is out there for the world to see. For me, it’s unforgettable.

Does this happen every time?

As I walked through the LA Garage, I could picture every corner as a detail on the 30x42 sheets and remember the countless times we looked at overall elevations to determine precise panel layout. After long hours and frequent deadlines, here it was in the real world just as we imagined it. As I admired our work, I felt overjoyed that I got to work with such a kick-ass team to make such a kick-ass garage.

I’m bright eyed, teary eyed, and positively giddy, which should be no surprise to my friends and colleagues. It has been 4 years since I moved from south Texas to work at SRG. It’s been a thrilling time in my life for so many reasons.

Working on these parking garages was a unique experience. Since I didn’t know a single soul or much about the Northwest at all, I had to figure out how to call this area home while I split my time between both the Seattle and Portland studios. During those early days of commuting between Portland and Seattle, I relied on staff photos to help me establish meaningful connections with my new colleagues. Sometimes it felt like I spent the better part of my day emailing, talking on the phone, and joking with people I had barely met. I guess I realize the concept of online dating now.

I enjoyed the travel and the feeling of having a second family with Portland SRGers, and through this process I noticed the skills I was developing as I worked with Rebecca Bompiani, Phil Lopez, Trevor Lavoie and Jeff Yrazabal in the Portland studio. I needed to be concise and direct with every markup, question or graphic used. Walking over to look over someone’s shoulder was not an option. The conversations got easier, and what I learned was extremely valuable. I have much more confidence in how to communicate effectively with colleagues and consultants, whether we're in the same room or miles apart.

There were also the biweekly presentations with the client and their team of designers. Along with the presentation packet, which seemed like a ream of paper each time, we created banners that would wallpaper the Portland conference room. The banners (that were taller than me, by the way) would illustrate everything from inspirational images to sketches to detailed schematics. The banners were also a visual tool to facilitate discussion and make design decisions.

Preparing for these frequent presentations, balancing my time between two offices, and having constant deadlines meant a lot of weekends in the Seattle studio. Seeing Dennis Forsyth in jeans and Rick Zieve and Aaron Pleskac in T-shirts made the atmosphere comfortable. The lights would be dim, and we had time to focus on our work, but we’d also have a Seahawks game playing in the background and a box of blue and green sprinkled donuts. Being from the original 12th man (yes, of course I have to give a plug about Texas A&M, Gig-em aggies, WHOOP!), I could easily get behind the Seahawks.

But what has been truly special is now looking back at those initial concepts and realizing how the project came full circle. From those day-one diagrams and through Eric Wilcox's amazing knowledge of construction, the design has not lost its goals, concepts or integrity. The work we did is just as amazing as we imagined it could be.

Working on this project initially gave me a sense of comfort in a new environment, and now upon completion, I feel like I am right at home--even without the homemade tamales and palm trees.


Marquesa Figueroa

Assoc. AIA