"The most fulfilling part of being an architect is to learn that your projects have made an impact on the people who live, work, and play in those projects you collaborated on, and that these projects further enhance the environmental quality and the design quality of all of our lives."
Our Voices blog series shines a spotlight on the team behind Quinn Evans, introducing their work, inspirations, and how their diverse perspectives contribute to building a collaborative and innovative architecture firm.
The built environment both shapes and is shaped by our lives, experiences, and culture. This connection was a guiding light for Quinn Evans designer Carolina Uechi, AIA, when she was searching for a career with a design firm.
“The most fulfilling part of being an architect is to learn that your projects have made an impact on the people who live, work, and play in those projects you collaborated on,” says Carolina. “And that these projects further enhance the environmental quality and the design quality of all of our lives.”
Carolina shared that, like many of her Quinn Evans colleagues, she remembers being fascinated with design and enjoyed making things with her hands. Combined with an inclination for problem-solving, studying architecture was an easy decision.
“The moment when I really felt like architecture resonated with me more specifically is when I started to understand just how much our environment affected our experiences, and how architecture is a true cultural expression of our values as communities,” says Carolina. “When I realized that good architecture values cultural sensitivities, that’s when I really felt that this career and endeavor was something I wanted to pursue further.”
When discussing her favorite style of architecture, Carolina shared two international examples. The first is the historic buildings of Florence, Italy, and the way they represent a specific time in history. Carolina is also inspired by contemporary Japanese architects, especially how they draw on their history but aren’t afraid to try new things and create new interpretations of that shared past.
“My favorite designs are the ones that take in their historic principles of simplicity, framing views, and a very strong focus on the senses and material selections, and yet come up with a completely contemporary and technologically advanced result,” says Carolina.
Carolina takes these inspirations, plus the inspiration of working with her many skilled colleagues, into her other work. One of her first projects at Quinn Evans was for the Terrace Theatre renovation at the Kennedy Center, which called for hundreds of unique curved wood panels to dress up the interior of the theater. Meanwhile, her work for the National Zoo, another DC landmark, was more about revitalizing an original building from the late 1920s whose historic brick grandeur had been lost due to renovations in the 1960s.
Carolina was part of the team responsible for designing the Molina Family Latino Gallery. As part of the Smithsonian National Museum of American History—and the only space dedicated to the stories of American Latinos—the gallery serves as a bridge and invitation to all visitors from the country to learn a little more about this part of United States history.
“The main message the exhibits aim to convey is that Latino history is US history,” says Carolina. “Unfortunately, this type of history is often misinterpreted or not properly shared and disseminated.”
To her, getting to work on the Molina Family Latino Gallery was quite an honor, not only because of the gallery’s mission but also because of Carolina’s Argentine heritage. From historians to designers to landscape architects, Quinn Evans team members bring a wide variety of professional skills and life experiences to the table, and working for a team that promotes diversity not just in its projects, but also among its team members, was essential for Carolina.
“That kind of wide range of expertise makes for better collaboration and as a result, better projects,” explains Carolina.
Understanding the impact of culture on design and the impact of design on culture is one of the things that drew Carolina to Quinn Evans. Being able to work alongside high-caliber professionals from all over the country was another major draw.
“If diversity of perspective and experiences are not infused in the design process, we are always at a greater risk of producing things that don’t quite fit with the context we are working in,” says Carolina. “We are also more likely to continuously repeat the same outcomes until they become so normalized that we can’t see outside the box.”
Uniting under the One Firm banner while maintaining the rich diversity of the team is both a priority and a point of pride for the Quinn Evans team. This allows the team to innovate and work towards a more inclusive solution that is also more likely to be successful well into the future.
“I think this is an incredibly exciting time,” says Carolina. “Architecture is a field that is still dominated by men, and it’s really inspiring to see that we can celebrate our true diversity, with gender being one aspect of that diversity, in the most meaningful way, which is to acknowledge and elevate the contributions made by women leaders in the firm.”