Today we’d like to introduce you to Briana Ellis.
Briana, please share your story with us. How did you get to where you are today?
I’m a native San Diegan and am in LOVE with my city. I first wanted to become an architect after visiting Balboa Park as a kid. Looking back at my childhood, it seems inevitable that I would end up owning my own architecture firm. When I wasn’t drawing houses with crayons or building one for my barbies out of Legos, I was playing “business” with my sister and the neighborhood kids. For instance, we ran a PB and J restaurant out of my parents’ garage where we rolled around serving sandwiches on our roller blades. Another time, we built an office out of one of our dad’s old workbenches and held meetings in the cul-de-sac with clipboards and markers.
I received my degree in architecture from Cal Poly Pomona and have spent the past ten years working for a handful of firms in Southern California. Last year, I left my high-level position as an associate to start my own practice. Being a female in this industry can be difficult and not many of us make it to the top of the ladder for a number of reasons. I’m excited not only to be helping increase the number of women-owned firms but to help support other women in the industry, whether as my employee or my colleague.
Has it been a smooth road?
The construction industry doesn’t quite know what to make of a woman in the field. I have experienced overt sexism, but also more subtle forms where it is clear people are trying their best, but have strong prejudices, including from other women. My advice for women who are just starting out in the industry would be-
Know your worth and be confident in your abilities. You will get tested ten times as much as a man of the same experience level. While this may make you question yourself, it ultimately makes you a stronger professional because you can’t fly under the radar. You have to know your stuff and prove it often. When you feel like you’re being treated differently based on your gender, remind yourself that you have what it takes and then respond with that confidence. Getting upset or reacting, while it feels justified, will reinforce someone’s prejudice and will ultimately hold you back.
DO speak up when someone offers you an opportunity you may not feel ready for. We as women tend to play it conservatively, and as a result, opportunities are given to others. Trust that you were presented that chance for a reason and that you will learn on the fly. Never be afraid to ask for help.
So, as you know, we’re impressed with Ritual Architecture – tell our readers more, for example, what you’re most proud of and what sets you apart from others.
I have a few different types of clients I serve. Some are families looking for a custom home that reflects their lifestyle. Others are developers or landowners ready to build small urban infill projects (think a few stylish apartments above a boutique or cafe). Small urban infill projects are the answer to the region’s housing crisis -in my opinion- and I love being a part of the solution. One niche I am excited about expanding is that of retail and corporate tenant improvements– again, a fancy word for shops, restaurants, and offices. I really enjoy getting to know the company’s brand and finding unique ways to reflect that brand identity in their space. I
I think what sets me apart professionally is my method of working with clients. It resonates with people who may otherwise not connect with other architects. I don’t necessarily have a signature aesthetic style, but rather a “designer’s mind”. I work to extract a client’s desires, goals, and style and combine that with what I know to be timeless strategies based on who we are as humans– what we need to feel comfortable, stimulated, nurtured, inspired… That’s actually where my brand concept originated from: how can the buildings we design support and enhance the daily rituals that comprise our lives?
Who have you been inspired by?
I am inspired by early female architects like Julia Morgan and Lilian Rice. They were bold and principled. They practiced architecture alongside men like Frank Lloyd Wright and held their own. I can’t imagine how much resistance they faced and I am so grateful to them for paving the way.
Another woman who inspired me is my mother. As a dancer, she showed me and my sister what it was like to earn a living via your creative talents. She also taught us that it was possible to be an accomplished professional and a present, engaged mother. She is the voice in my head when I am doubting myself. “Make it happen.”
- Website: ritualarchitecture.com
- Phone: 619-786-4356
- Email: firstname.lastname@example.org
- Instagram: ritualarchitecture
Meg Marie Photography