Celebrating Five Years with Erik Petersen

Team MWA is lucky to celebrate five years with Architect and Project Manager Erik Petersen! Erik, a key member of the Portland Housing Studio, is valued by his team for his love for serving the community, dedication to his projects, and ability to make people laugh. Thank you, Erik, for pouring into your projects and team for the past five years. To celebrate his time with MWA so far, Erik shares his experience below.

What project are you working on right now? 

Pushing to get a permit set out on Third Street Commons, a permanent supportive housing project in Corvallis, OR. Shout out to Mia and Sarah for helping push this forward.  Also helping Shradhan, who is going hard in CA-land, for our Art Plaza Apartments, West Powell Apartments, and Terracina Vista Apartments, which are all in Gresham, OR. The first two are market-rate apartments, and the latter is an affordable housing project. I am also working on various renovation projects for the Vancouver Housing Authority – seeing many opportunities for renovation work on aging housing projects.

Erik leading community and resident engagement meetings for Third Street Commons

What project phase is your favorite?

It’s not everyone’s favorite, but I think I like the Construction Administration phase the best. Its where you see our ideas become reality, if you have a good GC it can be a fun collaborative process. Also, a chance to learn what we can do better from a design and documentation perspective. The design development phase would be second place. It can be daunting as you are synthesizing design concepts, programmatic parameters, and project expectations into a solid idea. It’s taking what could be crazy ideas and seeing if you can make them real.

Erik and the Portland housing studio smiling with their arms in the air at The Canopy Apartments construction site.

Erik leading a site walk during the construction of The Canopy Apartments

Why Working with Erik is a Total Win

If working with Erik were a TV show, it would be a hit series everyone binge-watches. Here’s why:

1. Chill Like The Dude
Erik’s cool, calm, and collected demeanor is straight out of “The Big Lebowski.” No matter how crazy things get, he stays level-headed and keeps the team grounded.

2. Work Ethic: Superhero Level
Erik’s work ethic is like Tony Stark’s – always innovating, always grinding. While the rest of us are in need of an extra cup of coffee, Erik’s already on his second project.

Basically, working with Erik is like having a mix of your favorite pop culture heroes. He’s got the chill of The Dude, the work ethic of Iron Man, and the rizz to keep everyone going.

– Taryn Wheeler, MWA Director of Housing

How have the responsibilities and expectations of your job changed in the last few years? 

I don’t think my expectations for the job have changed much. It’s been a wild five years as I was lucky enough to have been hired pre-covid lockdown and enjoy the old office before we all had to pivot to working from home and moved to our new space. I have been pushed to do more business development and marketing than I have in the past which is a new experience.

How do you maintain work/life balance?

Baseball, books, BBQ, bike riding, backpacking, bacon eating, etc. I guess anything that starts with the letter B, and not taking life to serious. Have to be able to laugh.

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

Travel more. There is still a bunch of Pacific Northwest I have not explored.

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

World domination (insert Pinkie and The Brain photo).

Pinkie and the brain cartoon

Image from IMDb.com

When you started your career, why did you want to become an architect? 

I remember my grandfather drafting on his Mayline (I still have his drafting table) when I was kid. He was doing electrical line design for Ma Bell back in the day. Took a drafting class in high school, then went to college and immediately signed up for architecture. I remember my first year sketching models and learning about negative space. It was not what I thought it would be, but I never looked back. If I had to do something different, I think I might have gone to culinary school as I worked in kitchens from high school through college to pay for my extravagant lifestyle in those days.

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

I’ve always appreciated Calatrava for melding engineering with architecture and art. Gaudi blew my mind when I first went to Spain, still looking forward to going back and seeing La Sagrada Familia complete. It was his attention to detail and thought about all aspects of a project that are inspiring. 

What is your favorite thing about working at MWA? 

It’s the type of work we do. Some of our work might be behind the scenes, but it does have an impact on people’s lives. 

Oh, and the snacks, all the snacks.

Snacks covering the counters in MWA's Portland office kitchen.

MWA’s kitchen boasts the monthly snack fairy delivery, which was extra colorful for our Pride Month celebration.

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