Fifteen Years with Alfred Twu

Celebrating fifteen years with MWA’s San Francisco housing studio is Architect Alfred Twu. Alfred has worn many hats throughout his time here: he designs affordable housing and infrastructure and is one of our go-to people for tech help. Thank you, Alfred, for always stepping up to help your team and creating invaluable spaces within your community.

Alfred has an amazing depth of knowledge on building codes, planning and zoning, and the technical aspects of the tools of our profession. He also cares deeply about equitable housing policy. It’s a privilege to be able to work with him.

Lee Abuabara

What projects have you worked on most recently?

Yerba Buena Moscone Station on the new Central Subway line in San Francisco, as well as Bay Area affordable housing such as 7th and Campbell in Oakland and Maudelle Miller Shirek Community in Berkeley.

Hand Drawing Of Subway Station

What project phase is your favorite? Why?

On the renovation projects, the site visits where the building is measured is one of the most interesting phases of the project, especially if the building is currently in use. It’s an opportunity to see how people live or work in the building, which helps understand what types of improvements and modifications are needed later. 

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

As the company has gotten larger over the last few years, there have been more projects to work on and larger teams to work with. Obviously, this past year has also been a big change, with the switch to remote work. In some ways, it’s not as big a change for architecture as it is for other types of businesses, as we’ve already been working closely with engineers and clients over the phone and on the computer. 

In my short time at MWA it has become obvious that Alfred has many interests ranging from computer technology to a deep understanding of planning and building codes, and even CA. He has so much knowledge of MWA’s history and is an important part of making the office be the best it can be.

Bradley Sugarman

What is your favorite thing about working at MWA?

The variety of different project types. I have worked on apartment buildings, offices, water labs and treatment plants, airports, subway stations, and more – both new buildings and renovations. I describe it as “at MWA we do anything bigger than a house.”

How do you maintain work/life balance?

For me, the key is to avoid a big rush before deadlines. Estimating how long it takes to do something and knowing when to switch from exploring different options to making a decision and getting the drawings done is important.  During this last year, not having to commute has helped a lot.

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

The company does a lot of major projects that can often last for 10 years or more. I’m looking forward to seeing them fully completed.

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

Continuing to work on new types of buildings. For example, California will be allowing mass timber buildings starting this July. 

What lasting impact do you hope to have at MWA?

At the end of the day, the purpose of architecture is the things people do inside of it. Many of the projects we do at MWA are homes where people live for many years, transportation facilities that people enter the city through, or critical infrastructure that keeps the faucets flowing and the toilets flushing for the entire region.  

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

I was looking for a career that blended both the opportunity for creativity and technical problem-solving.

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

Many of my favorite buildings don’t have a particularly famous architect. I am most interested in the ordinary buildings that were built in large numbers and then customized and enlarged by their users over the years.

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