Breaking Down Barriers with Architecture with Julia Mollner

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On today’s episode of Young Architect, Michael spoke with his very good friend, Julia Mollner, about her experience as a former architecture student, how she’s helping her students connect with mentors, and what she’s doing to help improve the Portland, Oregon community.

It was a great honor to have Julia join us on the podcast and her story is sure to inspire you. Julia is an aspiring architect who is currently working for Carleton Hart Architecture as a Designer and also teaches at the Portland State University as an Adjunct Assistant Professor.

Since her days as a student at the Washington State University for her undergrad, Julia has been heavily involved in the progress of AIA and helping students begin successful careers in architecture.

With each effort, her mission is to break barriers between different groups, help everyone feel empowered as architects, and to bring the Portland community closer together through organizations such as the The ForWARD Group and Village Coalition.

Julia is looking forward to helping her students and fellow architects learn more advocacy, professional development, and communication skills. She hopes that 2017 will help Portland create a safe place to talk about inclusion within the community as far as housing, zoning, and potential environmental factors such as earthquakes.

What You’ll Hear on This Episode

  • How Julia became involved in architecture and how she took up the opportunity to work as an architecture intern while still in high school.
  • How Julia felt when she saw images of the Guggenheim Museum in Bilbao, Spain for the first time.
  • Julia’s experience in architecture school and how a mentor was able to help her decide to continue her studies to becoming an architect.
  • How Julia was inspired to take a leadership role in AIAS as a student at Washington State University.
  • Julia’s experience as a Resident Advisor and why she loved getting involved with helping other students.
  • What AIAS was like while she was a student and how she was able to help grow their chapter to the point that they held a conference in Spokane.
  • Julia’s experience working as a professor at Portland State University.
  • How your mindset of what architecture is can drastically change because of your first studio experience.
  • What Julia is doing to help bridge the gap between students and professionals in her community through a mentorship program.
  • Why mentorship is so important for Julia and how it can improve careers and experiences for everyone by creating a safe space.
  • The AIA committee: The ForWARD Group (Forum for Women in Architecture and Related Design) and how Julia became involved with it.
  • Why male architects are more inclined to mentor male students who share similar personalities compared to female students.
  • When and how Julia won the Women of Vision Award in Portland, Oregon.
  • What Julia is excited about for 2017: advocacy, professional development skills and communication.
  • Julia’s experience working with the Village Coalition to participating in a project to help build sleeping rooms for people without homes.

 Top 3 Takeaways from This Episode 

  • Don’t be afraid to make an impact within your community. Even if you’re a new student to the world of architecture, there’s so much you can do to grow you career and help make your community a better place for everyone. 
  • Seek good mentors while you’re in school. You never know where you might meet them again or if they can help you later on. 
  • If your career path feels good to you and you’re enjoying what you’re doing, then stick with it. Any career will have their bumps and struggles, but if architecture feels like the best path for you, don’t give up. 

Julia Mollner’s Advice for Aspiring Architects

“It’s important to be visible as well as speak up for yourself and others. Always ask questions and especially at the beginning of your career. You cannot ask enough questions about what is going on. Really investigate your career and learn as much as you can. Just be curious about everything: business, construction, line weights, software whatever it is.” 

Favorite Quotes 

“I think that initial experience to architecture opened my eyes to see how I could affect the things that were affecting me and other human beings in the world. That feeling was very profound for me.” – Julia Mollner on discovering that she wanted to pursue a career in architecture. 

“If it feels true to you. If it feels real and good to your personal self and is in line with what you want to do, then you should keep doing it. He helped to reassure me that the things that I was doing, even as a sophomore in college, were really important.” – Julia Mollner on the great advice that one of her university mentors gave her when she wasn’t sure whether or not she wanted to continue studying architecture. 

“We noticed that there wasn’t this relationship between schools and the architecture professionals in the community. We thought that there could be a better connection if the students knew professionals and that this could help the entire community. So a year ago, we started this program and it’s been really great. It’s been so exciting for either sides to start having these conversations.” – Julia Mollner on her mentorship program. 

“It was very eye-opening to realize that I didn’t have a female professor teaching me about spatial design until my final year in grad school.” – Julia Mollner on equity in architecture. 

“What’s really beautiful about your story is that you’re accomplishing a lot of things and helping a lot of people. You’re not even that much further along than them and you’re opening all of these doors. A lot of times, architecture students will look at the profession or successful people and think to themselves, “Well, I can’t do that. I can’t make a difference because I don’t have the experience yet.” Or they’ll come up with a million different reasons as to why they can’t do something.” – Michael Riscica on how Julia Mollner is really making a difference for architecture students.

 “It was very fulfilling as far as increasing my knowledge about architecture, but on a human rights level, it was a huge deal for me to help provide homeless people with sleeping shelters.” – Julia Mollner on her experience with helping to create sleeping rooms with a team for the Village Coalition.

“Before the sleeping room was donated to the person who would stay in it, I decided to sleep in it first. I personally wanted to have the full circle experience of designing, building, and then actually sleeping in it. It was really important for me, as a designer, to recognize the impact it would have on another women’s life and her security during the night.” – Julia Mollner on her experience staying in the sleeping pod after her and her team had completed it. 

“I wish that I had known the process to becoming a licensed architect when I was starting architecture school. I think I was really naïve about the professional process of licensure, AXP (Architectural Experience Program), and all of that. Now I take a day in my 100-level class to talk about the process with my students.” – Julia Mollner on what she wishes she would have known when she started architecture school. 

Resources Mentioned in the Show 

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About the author

Michael Riscica

Michael Riscica is a Licensed Architect who lives in beautiful Portland, Oregon, with his Labrador Retriever. He is passionate about helping Young Architects change the world. In his free time, Michael likes to take very long bicycle rides across America. Learn more about him here and connect with him on Twitter, Facebook, Instagram and Linked In.