For as long as I can remember, I’ve been a seeker of beauty.
In kindergarten, I spent many recesses in overgrown fields marveling at the lines, shapes, colors, and textures of the plant world. I remember running out of the classroom and seeing how the whole field moved as one with the winds. As I pierced the edge of the field – entering the grasses that were as tall as me in late spring – I could no longer see the whole, so I dropped down on all fours to focus on what was right in front of my face. I quickly became fascinated with the details of the individual reeds that contributed to making the whole. It was at this early age that I began to understand how the whole of something is made up of smaller and smaller parts and how different perspectives can completely change one’s experience.
My strongest memories come from moments in which I have been an observer and an artist simultaneously. I deepened my appreciation for geometry, color, balance and natural proportions in third grade by creating detailed illustrations of dissected plants that I discovered in the world around me. My appreciation of beauty has been nurtured throughout my life by many forms of artistic expression. No matter what I’m doing, I seek out visual beauty in the world around me as inspiration for my work.
As an architect I draw upon my understanding of natural beauty and proportion to create balanced, luminous, and uplifting spaces.
As a hair stylist I bring a renewed sense of beauty, joy, and confidence to my clients with haircuts that enhance their natural beauty.
In the wake of yesterday’s news, I’m beginning to acknowledge the tremendous power of public opinion and legal structures in my life. As someone who has always wanted to fit in and be accepted, I have always tried to do what’s right, be honest, and follow the rules.
Although my family and close friends accepted the fact that I chose to love a woman and commit my life to building a loving relationship with her, this lifestyle went against the mainstream rules and legal structures of my State and Country. For this reason legal professionals encouraged us to create legal safeguards above and beyond becoming domestic partners to protect our relationship and family – which we did. Having to put legal safeguards in place so that we could visit one another in the hospital and inherit the other’s estate (should one of us pass before the other) was a reminder that the US government didn’t recognize our relationship.
After living together in a committed relationship for 7 years, my partner and I decided to get married in Canada last year. Upon our return to the US, the US government continued to ignore our international marriage and status as a family. We were forced into separate immigration lines at the airport, instructed to file separate tax returns, penalized for family health insurance and repeatedly disrespected by public and private institutions as well as the mainstream media.
The fact that my love for a woman essentially forfeited my equal rights as an American citizen caused me unspeakable shame. I have rarely spoken of this – choosing instead to bolster my heart by defining myself through my career and personal accomplishments. My inhibitions about sharing my authentic self have been fueled by undercurrents of bigotry and homophobia that have plagued this nation.
Until now, our annual PRIDE festivities have felt more like risk, rebellion, and a time to get intoxicated (enough to freely express our true feelings), rather than a time to truly celebrate our love.
Today I am making room for tears of joy and real self-love as I start to dismantle the armor that has protected my heart and my pride for the last 15 years.
I hope that each one of my gay brothers and sisters finds a renewed sense of pride this year as we collectively take to the streets to celebrate our loving relationships.
What does it mean to have an integrated east-west approach to architecture?
For me, it means having a foundational understanding of both eastern and western design philosophies and responding to design challenges in a way that is true to both perspectives. Finding this balance isn’t always easy, but it is possible. It took me over 10 years to develop an integrated east-west approach to architectural design. The beauty of this approach is that you don’t have to chose one way of thinking over another, the integrated design provides universal harmony and balance.
My journey began with my formal studies of western architecture in 1992 at California Polytechnic State University in San Luis Obispo, California. The philosophy of the school was “learn by doing” so the curriculum cultivated an interactive and hands-on approach to architectural design and practice. Upon receiving my degree, I felt excited and ready to began practicing architecture.
Initially, I found myself leading design efforts for urban development and mixed-use projects, with a strong focus on the beautification of outdoor space. After a few years, my focus shifted to whole building design with an emphasis on community based buildings. This work allowed me to deepen the purpose of my work by giving back to the community and connecting with the building occupants who would experience my architecture on a regular basis. I enjoyed working on community centers and libraries because the work was dynamic, interactive, and full of functional and sustainable challenges.
After working on community oriented projects for about 8 years, I decided to deepen the sustainable focus and spirit of my work with explorations into eastern perspectives on design aesthetics and building traditions. In 2010 I began my formal studies of classical feng shui to broaden my design sensibilities and re-inspire my creativity in preparation for working with residential clients.
As I deepened my studies of classical feng shui, I started to see a multitude of connections and crossover between western design ideals and eastern methods of designing for balance and harmony. These connections lead me to develop an integrated approach to design that takes into account both the eastern and western perspectives.
I’ve always wanted to be an architect for the people, to focus on human needs and desires rather than the politics of building. Over the last few of months I have been providing architectural consulting services to residential architects in San Francisco. This has given me the opportunity to work on residential remodels and begin to integrate my holistic design sensibilities into residential planning and design.
So far, I really enjoy working on residential projects because of the intimate nature of the projects. I love meeting my clients in their homes and seeing the world through their eyes. It’s exciting to work with people who already understand how much their environment affects their quality of life. I enjoy helping my clients find more sustainable materials and resources while bringing form and functionality to their dreams. It is my wish that all my clients may experience the joy of living in a beautifully designed space that looks and feels healthy, inviting, and uplifting.
In October, I attended the 2nd Annual Earth Medicine Conference in San Francisco. At the conference I was reminded that by examining my ancestral roots, I can better understand myself and have more compassion and understanding for others. The conference deepened my understanding of indigenous wisdom and the power of cultural traditions.
As an architect, I’ve studied indigenous architecture, but this conference was my introduction to the broader concept of indigenous wisdom. Similar to indigenous architecture, indigenous wisdom develops in small tribal communities. This wisdom arises out of the community’s relationship to life, their respect for the environment, and their relationship with their ancestors. For me, this notion of indigenous wisdom set the foundation to reflect upon and explore my own ancestral history and cultural traditions.
Because I’m the 3rd generation living in the US, I’m somewhat removed from my European roots, but I know that there is deep suffering and displacement on both sides of my family. My father’s grandfather sent his 5 sons to the US and Israel to escape WWII, while his daughters remained in Poland to care for their extended family and ultimately perish in the holocaust. My mother’s grandfather on the other hand, immigrated to the US from Sicily to establish an Italian import business and build a better life for himself, his wife and their 7 children.
When I was 22, I took a trip to Villabate, Sicily, where my mother’s grandparents lived and where my great grandmother’s bothers’ and sisters’ families still live today. At that time, I met over 50 living relatives over the course of 2 weeks who welcomed me into their homes and helped me reconnect with my Sicilian roots. When I was there something within me re-awakened. It was as if a cellular imprint or genetic code had been activated, and for the first time in my life I felt like I was home. Everything was familiar and easy to navigate, from interpersonal interactions and body language to the local diet and food preparation.
By learning more about my mother’s extended family and drawing out my family tree with the help of my Sicilian relatives, I deepened my connection with my extended family and developed a deep appreciation for the history and humanity of my maternal lineage.
I still have much to learn about my father’s side of the family. The stories are vague at best and I have yet to visit Warsaw and experience the land that holds the story of my father’s ancestors.
While many of us may not have a strong connection with our ancestors or a sense of place in this world, we all have the capacity to learn indigenous wisdom, become more conscious, and develop a good relationship with our environment. But before we can begin to understand others and restore our relationship to the earth, we must first develop an understanding of – and appreciation for – our own ancestral history.
Most of our ancestors have suffered at one time or another…. In order for us to live peacefully and coherently in this world, it is up to us to clear up the past both for ourselves and for our ancestors. We can do this through family research and ritual ceremony. Research helps us understand what happened to our ancestors and ritual helps us let go of their pain and suffering. Rituals are partly for us and partly for the spirits. For this reason, it is important to consider how we honor our ancestors and to ensure that the rituals we perform are effective and sincere.
Some of the ritual work that I did while attending the Earth Medicine Conference included working within the Dagara tradition to connect with the spirit of Water and release some of the deep suffering and sadness that I’ve carried forward on behalf of my ancestors. This was a powerful experience for me and it opened a portal to a new way of dealing with profound unexpressed sadness. I have deep gratitude to the ritual leaders Ukumbwa and Rebecca deGraw for creating a safe space to connect and release.
From the time that I was a young girl I’ve had an eye for beauty, a desire to help others, and a passion for creative expression. Helping people live more balanced and joyful lives has brought my work into alignment with who I am.
- Blood Circulation Diagram
- Ear Illustration
- Black+White Portrait
In collage, I continued to refine my photography skills with advance coursework and started to do some freelance event photography for theatrical productions, events, and weddings. While in college, I applied my art and design background to a degree in architecture. I excelled at technical drawing, composition, modeling, and bringing the aesthetics of beauty to the functionality of space. After a year abroad to study the classics in Italy, I began to focus my study on urban spaces and the design of outdoor environments. My thesis project included an in depth study of the genius loci of Catania, Sicily, and culminated an urban renewal project focused on enhancing the pedestrian experience along a path linking the main train terminal to downtown Catania.
- Thesis Cut Away
My thesis project launched me into a career in architecture where I focused on combining beauty with form, function, and sustainability to enhance the human experience. With a passion for sustainable living, I quickly became an advocate for selecting green products and materials and spent time researching sustainable methods of construction.
- Yemegnushal Community Center, Ethiopia – World Family Organization
In 2002, I narrowed my architecture focus to work exclusively on community-based projects such as libraries and community centers where I felt I could make a profound impact on community development and social dynamics. In 2004, I became a LEED Accredited Professional, and started to focus exclusively on designing green community-based projects.
- Mayfair Community Center, San Jose
In 2009, I enrolled in the Golden Gate School of Feng Shui to learn the ancient art of feng shui, deepen my connection with nature, and refresh my senses that had become dulled by working in front of a computer for 10 years. My training in classical feng shui strengthened my design fundamentals and reinforced my core belief that we are happiest when living in harmony with our environment.
In 2010 I founded Harmonious Home to help my clients reconnect with nature, and transform their living and working environments into places of beauty, inspiration, and prosperity. I work with each client in an open, non-assuming manner to understand their goals and objective, make recommendations that work with their lifestyle, and support them through the feng shui implementation process.
My passion is to help people find creative ways to live in harmony with their environment.