Over the next couple of months we will be taking a closer look at our principals. Here's part one of two, with a spotlight on Orsi. The following interview reveals some of her early experiences, interests, and advice for future architects.
Did you always know you wanted to be an architect or designer?
From an early age, I enjoyed building with blocks and Legos. In my teens I was always rearranging my bedroom, sometimes in the middle of the night, much to my parents’ delight. However, in high school, I gravitated towards math and sciences, and so architecture was somehow not on my radar. My first major was psychology, but after my freshman year I tried several more majors including computer science and graphic design. Finally, while visiting a friend at Virginia Tech and seeing her architecture studio, I had a ‘light bulb’ moment. Architecture was the major for which I had been searching. I felt it was the one field that would combine my interests in the sciences, math and art.
What is your favorite part of your job?
I really enjoy the entire architectural process; from the early conceptual sketches and construction documentation to construction administration. I also enjoy the client aspect of the job; whether working with long-time clients or meeting new ones. Additionally, having my own business allows me to wear many other hats including accountant, business development manager, and marketing director. No two days are the same, but each is exciting and rewarding.
If you had to choose another profession, what would it be?
I used to say baker or chef, which are also creative professions and, unlike architecture, you get to eat your design. Nowadays, however, after my long journey to becoming an architect, I couldn’t imagine doing anything else.
What were some of your first job experiences?
At 14, I got my first job selling Times Herald newspaper subscriptions door to door. (Am I dating myself here or what!?). I was also a busgirl and hostess at a couple of restaurants. Then, I got a cashier position at an OfficeMax and worked myself up to Supervisor and then to Customer Service Manager by the time I was in college. That was good work experience in how to manage people and gain their respect and trust, as many of the employees were more than twice my age. I also interacted with customers on a daily basis and was responsible for resolving any conflicts or issues. This was another great tool I acquired during my time working there.
What is your favorite school memory?
My favorite high school memory is definitely playing varsity soccer. Our team was not very good, but we made the most of it and really had a great time despite it. I believe you can learn far more from challenging or unsuccessful experiences and they can also be more influential in shaping your character.
What advice would you give to an architecture student?
First, get as much real world job experience as you can while in school. Whether it’s over summer breaks or a few hours a week during the year, just being in a firm environment and exposed to the daily routine of an office is invaluable experience. I ran a lot of blue prints (oh, the smell of ammonia!) at my first architecture job, along with performing other “small” jobs. Luckily, I quickly learned that no task is too small or insignificant and they all have contributed to the overall experience I have today. Be a sponge and ask to be involved in as much as you can, from running prints to client meetings to drafting details.
Second, take a speech class. It was a requirement when I was at MCCC and I have always been grateful for it. The tools I learned in that class I had put to use during my studio crits at Temple to successfully convey my project ideas to the jury. They have also been helpful in conveying design ideas to my own clients, colleagues, and consultants. Communication is a key component of how we interact with other people and build relationships, and verbal communication is a vital part of it.
Lastly, study abroad. While I had already lived in three countries and visited just as many by the time I was in college, I still wish I had taken a semester to study abroad. It’s my one regret.
What do you love about architecture?
I love how architecture can transform a space and create a new environment for its users. Architecture, when done successfully, can shape not only the physical built environment, but the psychological connection to it as well through the personal experience. It is a very powerful tool, for if done unsuccessfully, the reverse is equally true. I feel architects have an awesome responsibility to society and I am excited to be a contributing part of it.
What are some of your hobbies?
I have a 3 year old, so my hobbies have slightly taken a back seat. Something I’ve always enjoyed is just staying active and challenging myself physically. I’ve done a number of 5Ks and even the Broad Street Run. I also really enjoyed doing the MS Bike-150 and MudRun. I’m happy to say that most of them have been with my husband, Rich, which has made for some great memories.
Over the years I have also enjoyed volunteering my time with various charitable and nonprofit organizations. The most rewarding of which have been those with a focus on the education of our future designers. I’ve been a thesis adviser, studio juror, and assistant instructor for college students and a mentor to high school student. I strongly believe in giving back by sharing my knowledge and experiences with the next generation, especially the young women entering our industry.
What is your life’s motto?
It’s hard to pick just one. My favorite ones are: Make each day count; Don’t sweat the small stuff; Everything in due time.
How do you deal with work-life balance?
That’s a work in progress, but luckily Rich and I are a team when it comes to growing our business, as well as, taking care of our family. The biggest challenge has always been to try not to work all the time. Once we had our son, however, that need soon became apparent. We make a conscience effort to keep somewhat normal business hours so that we do have family time at night and on weekends as much as possible.