Marilaura Guerrero is a project manager and project designer at Moya Design Partners (MOYA). For this week’s MOYAVoices interview, Marilaura shares her experiences on two MOYA projects: the recently completed multifamily development Diane’s House, and the Martha Gudelsky Child Development Center. We will discuss the role of architects and designers in creating a more inclusive District, and what inspired Marilaura to become an architect.
Q: How did you get into architectural design?
Well, I think it’s mostly because of my dad. Even though my dad didn’t have an engineering or architecture degree, he was always interested in crafting or building things. For example, he built our family home all by himself! As the family grew, he adapted the design of the house to fit our needs. He worked on many upgrades and renovations to this house; over the 25 years I lived there, he managed to relocate the kitchen to four different spaces in our home. My dad is the kind of person who is always using his imagination, so I was constantly surrounded by his creativity.
It wasn’t until high school that I started figuring out my career path. Of course, even though my dad had built our home, I never saw a formal construction document set, only his sketches on graph paper, so I never knew that these documents existed. When my aunt renovated her place, she hired an architect, and that was the first time I had seen a set of blueprints. At that moment I saw the connection between the technical drawings and the inspiration behind the design.
Q: Why is it significant for you to work for a minority-owned woman-owned company like MOYA?
Working for a minority and women-owned company is one of the main reasons I decided to join Paola’s firm. As soon as I became aware that there was a Latina woman that built a company from the ground up and wanted to work on design projects that encompassed not only buildings, but also had interest in working on school projects, visual design, and interior design, I knew I had to learn more about MOYA. I was mesmerized by the concept of a firm that covers all these different ranges in the design world.
Paola had all these ideas and was determined to make them a reality, so I quickly made my decision to join her team. I think it is important to feel empowered by women that have your same background and values.
“It is our responsibility, as architects, to design spaces for everyone with the same goals in mind: spaces that provide comfort, that allow sufficient natural light, spaces that entertain and make you feel safe, at home.”
MOYA recently completed the construction of Diane’s House, a four story, 42-affordable housing complex with a permanent supportive housing component. Washington DC has one of the country’s highest rate of homelessness amongst women, and Diane’s House is contributing to the solution to this pervasive problem.
Q: What was your role in the Diane’s House project?
This was the first project I completed with Paola. At the inception of this project, the MOYA team was very small, so I had the opportunity to work on a little bit of everything! This included managing the production team and subconsultants, leading coordination meetings with the owner and consultants, keeping the project on track, and producing design and construction documents.
Once the design was done and the project moved to the construction phase, I co-led the construction administration aspect of the project with MOYA’s Design Principal, Federico Olivera-Sala. It is always nice to see a project evolve from the design stage to completion; I was so thrilled to visit the finished Diane’s House in the spring.
Q: What goes through your mind when you are working on components for supportive housing?
I think the biggest challenge is square footage constraints. It is our responsibility as architects to design spaces for everyone with the same goals in mind: spaces that provide comfort, that allow sufficient natural light, spaces that entertain and make you feel safe, at home.
Q: What was the biggest challenge during design and construction?
The development needed to fit 42 units in a limited space, but we made it work. Diane’s House provides a range of studios, 1-bedrooms and 2-bedrooms; all of them with ample windows, a kitchen area, a bedroom, a bathroom and living room. At the ground level, you can find a community room, gym and computer/study area for residents to spend some leisure time.
I can say that size constraints weren’t the only challenge, there were many others of course. Working with an amazing team (GCS|Sigal and John LaPorta, with Flaherty Collins) helped moving things at a speedy pace during construction.
CentroNía’s work with children and families is impressive. The key to what they do is educate families on the importance of early education and help them develop strategies so their children can take advantage of learning opportunities. While their focus is on the Latino population, their programs and services are open to anyone. MOYA is collaborating with CentroNia to create the Martha Gudelsky Child Development Center (MGCDC).
Q: What does it mean to collaborate with both CentroNia and the Martha Gudelsky Family Foundation to bring basic services to underserved children?
This project is a beautiful cause. We want to give parents a state-of-the-art childcare center in Silver Spring, Maryland.
As architects, we are given the responsibility to design spaces that provide the attention, carefulness, and stimulating learning environment that both teachers and children need to develop their senses and knowledge.
Community is also an important aspect of this project. Designing a community center, as an area where the neighborhood can congregate for learning and social activities during after-hours and weekends, is great!