We Say "Y'all" in Texas

March 11, 2015

By Marquesa Figueroa

"We aren't all tall here," was one of the first things Rick Zieve said to me, as my 5-foot self stood next to him and Jeff Yrazabal, with them both just towering over me. This was only days after my move from south Texas, and yes, I was already feeling completely foreign. I guess the feeling of displacement started as soon as I left Sea-Tac Airport and witnessed recycling and compost bins everywhere. They seemed to have just as much prominence on street corners as Starbucks—a revelation for me, because, let's be honest, people don't recycle in Texas. Or maybe it was as simple as saying "ya'll" and getting weird looks back, and the whole, "You don't have a thick Texan accent, but you sure say y'all a lot!"

I arrived in Seattle last September after completing my Master of Architecture at Texas A&M University (the original 12th Man, I must say-"Gig'em!"), and working at various offices, including my father's, in my hometown of McAllen. I worked hard and looked forward to continuing to learn after college by joining a firm with similar civic values in a variety of project types. SRG inspired me because its range of experience focuses on projects that impact people's everyday lives. But it also meant traveling 2,000 miles to a very different part of the country-and well, with greenery that has more than palm trees, and where beaches have rocks instead of sand, which still makes no sense to me.

As Rick continued, he explained that we were going to design the coolest parking garages in the world. He said that the new project I was about to start on was going to be fast paced and have an extremely tight schedule. Wide-eyed, I was excited and ready. Well, I guess as ready as I could be. I was over here still trying to figure out what 401(k) was all about and already craving homemade tamales and a person for whom I knew more than a name and place of work.

The idea of designing parking garages was intriguing for me because that's what my last couple of projects in graduate school actually dealt with. I knew this project would be nothing like my studies and would just throw me into the deep end. But the idea of a parking garage, which may not be appealing to some, really resonated with me.

Starting work on the garages gave me the sense of familiarity I'd been missing. Soon I started to feel more confident in my work and more comfortable with my coworkers. It wasn't until about a month in where I really recognized how graduate school had prepared me to contribute meaningfully to my team. I felt my team's appreciation for my input as they encouraged me, further improving my skills.

Before I knew it, I had been here for two months and felt like it had been two years. From working on striping layout schemes and polishing my math skills with Dennis Forsyth, to developing design concepts with Rick and Jeff, to modeling different volumes and preparing presentations with Aaron, Rebecca, Phil, and Trevor, it is crazy how this project has made me feel so at home. I'm sure people can hear us laughing from across the office, but I promise, we really are working!

Who knows how things might have been different if my first project after my big move had been a hospital or a high school. I may have found another sort of relationship that made me feel at ease. But now I can truly say I feel so lucky to be creating a space that has brought me a sense of comfort before it is even constructed. This project and team have given me the chance to adapt to my new home and career and I am very grateful for that.

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Marquesa Figueroa

Assoc. AIA

Designer