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Design Voice Podcast

Catherine Meng

The Design Voice Podcast seeks to elevate and amplify those voices of women in the architecture, engineering, and construction industries. Each episode features honest conversations with women who shape the built environment - their unique perspectives on the state of their professions, stories about their career journeys, and more. By telling their stories, this podcast hopes to serve as a source of education, inspiration and empowerment.
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Mani Farhadi is a Senior Facilities Planner at Stanford University School of Medicine in the Office of Facilities, Planning and Management. A global thinker and creative thought leader, Mani has three decades of experience in planning and architecture, and in collaborating with both public and private institutions. She enjoys combining her passion for education with her extensive planning skills to bring about stakeholder consensus and thoughtful solutions.

Mani’s leadership extends into volunteer duties as well. She is a former Board of Trustee member at Los Gatos Union School District, and Chair of the Bond Oversight Committee, for which she received the ‘Citizen Architect’ award. Mani also volunteers for the AIA Silicon Valley Women in Architecture Committee, as well as for various Iranian-American cultural and advocacy groups.

In this episode, we talk about:

  • Mani’s experience of growing up in Iran, and how she came to embrace her intersectional identity
  • On feeling in-between
  • Bonding with other Iranian-American architects
  • The duality of being a mother and working professional, and Mani’s advice for how to merge the two sides of yourself
  • How Mani made the transition from working at private architectural firms to becoming a Senior Planner at Stanford University School of Medicine
  • Mani’s volunteer work with the Women in Architecture Committee for the AIA Silicon Valley, and how organizations like WIA have evolved to become more than just about women’s issues
  • Mani’s experience during COVID and having her two adult sons at home (they made a Tik Tok video!)
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Shalini Agrawal brings over 25 years of experience in community engagement, and has dedicated her career to bringing diversity and equity in design, art and architecture. She is co-director of Pathways to Equity, a leadership experience for responsible community-engaged design, and founder and principal of Public Design for Equity, an equity-driven practice for equity-driven outcomes. Shalini is on the board of Architects Designers and Planners for Social Responsibility, and Association for Community Design, as their Director of Fellowship. She is Associate Professor in Critical Ethnic Studies, Interdisciplinary Design Studios and Decolonial School at California College of the Arts.

In this episode, we talk about:

  • How working for Philip Johnson early on in her career made Shalini realize she wanted to explore alternative avenues of architecture
  • How a trip to India made Shalini want to design projects with people, not just for people
  • What inspired Shalini decide to co-found the Pathways to Equity program
  • How we can acknowledge our power and privilege as design professionals, and recognize that every time we step into a community we are a guest
  • How architects should change their mindset when it comes to Community Engagement
  • Holding ourselves and our profession responsible for spatial injustice, and what individuals can do about it
  • The interdisciplinary courses that Shalini teaches at California College of the Arts, including her Radical Redesign course
  • On questioning the status quo to think about where equity can live
  • Taking an Equity Pause
  • The ADPSR holding the AIA responsible for their code of ethics and wanting them to address the prison industrial complex.
  • Holding space for and supporting women of color in design and architecture
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Siboney is Enterprise Rose Fellow in the Boston area. She works to understand how architecture and design can best serve communities. She is licensed as an architect in the state of Texas. From 2015-2017 Siboney served as Zoning Commissioner for District 1 in San Antonio. Most recently she helped complete a 63,000 square foot new construction facility for ChildSafe, a non-profit children's advocacy center while at Overland Partners. In San Antonio, Siboney dedicated her time to various non-profit arts organizations including the SAY Si Board of Directors, VIA Metropolitan Transit Community Council and the City of San Antonio Arts, Culture and Heritage Committee. She was a founding member and co-chair of the AIA San Antonio Latinos in Architecture Committee that advocated for multi-generational mentorship in design professions. She is currently working at Opportunity Communities, a community development corporation. Her work for the next two years will focus on affordable housing development and community building because they are inherently connected.

Siboney received her B.Arch from Cornell University. She insists that creative fields are viable vehicles for social change and is committed to prioritizing community voices in design processes.

In this episode, we talk about:

  • Siboney’s experience in architecture school, and the problem with the curriculum
  • How Siboney was raised to question what narratives are prioritized
  • Siboney’s work with the AIA San Antonio Latinos in Architecture Committee
  • The importance and power of being able to enter a space in which you feel welcomed
  • The systems aren’t broken - they are working exactly how they were intended to
  • Siboney’s experience so far at OppCo as a Rose Fellow
  • On learning the right language to challenge real estate developers
  • The responsibility that comes with creating space

You can read Siboney’s Op-Ed in ARCHITECT magazine here.

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Bethany Borel, WELL AP is a Senior Associate at COOKFOX Architects in New York City. Since joining COOKFOX in 2012, Bethany’s combined knowledge of architecture and interior design has been a valuable asset to a variety of New York City projects. Currently, Bethany is spearheading the transformative design of the Solaire building in Battery Park City and the International WELL Building Institute headquarters at 220 Fifth Avenue. Bethany also designed and orchestrated the design of COOKFOX’s new, award-winning office on 57th Street, and the interiors of 62 Wooster Street, a landmarked 1920's industrial building to a luxury residential property in the heart of SoHo.

Bethany frequently speaks on the topics of biophilia and high-performance design at events such as Greenbuild and the New York Green Building Conference. Additionally, Bethany teaches a sustainability studio course at the New York School of Interior Design and regularly serves as a guest juror at Columbia University and the Pratt Institute.

Having spent her childhood in the seemingly disparate locales of Tokyo, Japan, and rural Iowa, Bethany has found that a common thread in her design philosophy is that she holds the utmost respect for the natural environment. At COOKFOX, Bethany brings this thinking to her projects as she pursues environmentally responsible design.

In this episode we talk about:

  • Ways to improve your home office environment
  • How Bethany and her team at COOKFOX are staying connected while WFH during the pandemic
  • What is biophilia and examples of biophilic design strategies in architecture and interior design
  • How COOKFOX is rethinking the future of office design in a post-covid world
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Mia Scharphie is a career and business strategist, and the founder of Build Yourself. She helps women in design, tech and innovation move from managing the work to setting the agenda. She helps women move past bias and make their industries and workplaces better places for women's talent.

Mia has trained national industry groups like the American Institute of Architects and Americans for the Arts, and works with leadership and staff at global design and innovation companies such as Stantec, Gensler and HOK. She's a former Harvard Innovation Lab resident, ran a research effort on women in social impact design for the Harvard Business School, and was named as one of Impact Design Hub’s Social Impact Design 40 under 40.

You can find Mia at Build Yourself, on Instagram, or on Linked In.

In this episode, we talk about:

Why online collaboration is more formal than it should be

How we will hopefully come out of this pandemic with new virtual ways to collaborate and get things done - but that you can’t learn what it feels like to have the sky as the ceiling in Google Earth

What we should all be doing to advance our careers during economic high and low times, and actions items to take now

How to hold onto your career North Star during uncertain times

The concept of “Umbrella Careers”

For the toolkit that Mia mentions in the episode on finding and approaching mid-career mentors, check out: buildyourselfworkshop.com/designvoicementor

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Donna Sink, AIA is a registered architect who is committed to good design for everyone in the community. She has worked on urban design, cultural institution, and art exhibition design projects for the last 25 years and has previously lived in Philadelphia, Detroit, Portland, and Phoenix. Donna now lives in Indianapolis and works at Rowland Design, an architecture and interior design firm doing cultural, educational, and residential projects across the country. Locally, Donna is Board Chair for People for Urban Progress, a non-profit known for salvaging used leather from Amtrak’s Acela seats and turning it into fashionable bags sold to fund urban equity projects. Donna received a Bachelor of Architecture from University of Arizona and a Master of Architecture from Cranbrook Academy of Art. Donna is also one of the hosts of the Archinect Sessions podcast.

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Alyssum Skjeie is a museum professional focused on presenting multi-faceted stories related to architecture and history. She is the new Director of El Pueblo History Museum in Pueblo, CO. In her new role she is eager to learn more about the Southern Colorado region in order to create collaborative exhibitions with the community. Prior to moving to Pueblo last December she lived and worked in Pittsburgh, PA for 8+ years. In her time there she was part of the Heinz Architectural Center at Carnegie Museum of Art, and curated or was a team member for over 20 architecture exhibitions and countless public programs. Significant exhibitions Alyssum curated are Sketch to Structure (2015) and Copy + Paste; The Hall of Architecture (2017-2018). She also particularly enjoyed being an integral team member on HACLab Pittsburgh: Imagining the Modern (2015-2016) and Lina Bo Bardi Draws (2019).

In her free time Alyssum runs, hikes, and quilts. She started hosting architecture runs in Pittsburgh as a way to share her love of both running and buildings. Colorado architecture runs are coming soon. She currently enjoys summiting the mountain peaks near Pueblo.

In this episode, we talk about:

  • Alyssum’s journey of studying design, to studying architecture history, to becoming a museum professional
  • Alyssum’s love of introducing architecture to the public
  • How exhibits have the power to raise questions and engage people in public discourse about architecture and design
  • The importance of people being able to express what they like or don’t like about their cities
  • Using your voice to talk about what you want to see in museums
  • Exploring architecture through movement, and Alyssum’s architecture running tours in Pittsburgh
  • Alyssum’s new role as Director of El Pueblo History Museum, and her goals of creating collaborative exhibits with the community.
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