A Year of New Talent Pt.2

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Celebrating the One-year anniversary of Fei Li and Gabriela Alija

The Infrastructure Studio at MWA’s San Francisco office is celebrating the one-year anniversaries of Designer Fei Li and Project Manager Gabriela Alija. Having spent most of their MWA careers working from home, it is impressive the impact that they have had on our team. Thank you, Fei and Gaby, for the continuous effort you have put towards improving our firm with your thoughtful designs and attention to detail.

Fei Li

Designer, San Francisco

Fei Li Headshot

What project are you working on right now? 

San Jose Dewatering Facility

What project phase is your favorite? Why? 

The time we put our design into Revit. This period includes the learning process of everything I am interested in – both the skill of using Revit and the chance to improve the design.  

“Fei has quickly shown to be a talented designer and rising architectural detailer in his first year. Coming in at a time where we are all working remotely, Fei did not skip a step and adapted to the situation. Proving to be a reliable figure in a time of uncertainty.” 

Alex Harm

What’s your favorite thing about working at MWA? 

One example is happy hour. But my true favorite thing is that MWA is trying to combine people together. The firm builds a lot of connections through Lunch and Learns, Happy Hours, and Fluffy Fridays. When we worked in the office, the puzzle game was also a way to make people communicate during the lunch break. 

How do you maintain work/life balance? During COVID, how have you been maintaining your sanity?  

I have been playing games and learning cook since working from home. I am still not good at it, but at least I can make food for myself. And when my friend moved to San Francisco, we started driving together to any interesting spots in the Bay Area during the weekend. That is literally the only time I walk out my apartment every week. I’ve been trying to take pictures for any interesting spot and place. Leaving the apartment for a whole day is really helpful to refresh myself. 

What do you hope to do more of in the next few years?   

Design with Revit. That is hard to achieve but what I am interested in is the way we change a design into a real project. And Revit is the tool that is really helpful. So, I hope to learn more in that way.  

What is the next career goal that you would like to tackle?   

Get the hours of NCARB and pass the tests to get my license one by one. 

Is there a particular architect’s work that inspires you? Why? 

Peter Zumthor’s Bruder Klaus Field Chapel. This design is a story of how to change a design into a real project. The way of construction, the material, and all the actions taken by the architect are all related to both design and construction. That makes me think that we architects should not only focus on the drawing. The main goal of architectural design is to build it. I started to get interested in construction and detailing after researching this project.  

Gabriela Alija 

Senior Project Manager, San Francisco

Gaby Alija Headshot

What projects are you working on right now? 

Sunnyvale Cleanwater Center, San Jose Dewatering Facility, and Las Gallinas Valley Water District’s Administration Building. 

What project phase is your favorite? Why? 

It is hard to pick one because it depends on the project. Usually, my favorite phase is the Schematic Design Phase. It starts with the process of translating the program of requirements into an efficient building design. In my opinion, the most important part of the design process is to develop a strong concept based on the site configuration and the client’s needs.  

“Gaby is not only a well-organized and detail-oriented project manager, but she is also an extremely talented designer. In just one year, she has elevated our work and helped bring the SF infrastructure team closer together, despite working remotely.” 

Greg Robley

What’s your favorite thing about working at MWA? 

My favorite thing about working at MWA is that I am learning all about infrastructure projects, typologies that I have not managed or designed in the past. That makes me think about the project from a different perspective and take rational decisions in terms of design.  

How do you maintain work/life balance? During COVID, how have you been maintaining your sanity?

Working from home can be more challenging in our field.  Architecture requires a lot of creativity and you can easily fall behind. It requires good management skills to keep your team focus and motivated, and your projects on track. 

During COVID, I have taken time to learn new recipes and board games. I have also been exercising and exploring the city and surroundings. 

What do you hope to do more of in the next few years?   

I hope I can continue to combine project management and design in the future, helping the company to develop high-quality projects.  

What is the next career goal that you would like to tackle?   

I would like to get my architecture license in California.  

Is there a particular architect’s work that inspires you? Why? 

Modern architects like Frank Lloyd Wright for his thoughts on interior and exterior spaces, or Mies van der Rohe for his minimalist approach to architecture, his innovative plan concepts, and many of his interior concepts.