Lee Abuabara After Five Years with MWA

Celebrating five years at MWA, Lee Abuabara is an integral part of the San Francisco Affordable Housing Studio. Lee wears many hats at MWA including Designer, Job Captain, and Associate in which she designs affordable housing projects, communicates with owners and contractors, and trains junior designers. She ambitiously supports MWA’s mission of serving the essential needs of our community by confronting the housing crisis in the Bay Area. Lee shares more about her time at MWA below. 

Lee And Coworker In Office

What project are you working on right now? 

Westlake Christian Terrace West, a renovation of a 200-unit senior affordable housing building in Oakland; and Arbor Cove Senior Commons/Via Pacifica Gardens, a small accessibility upgrade to two separate affordable housing projects in Santa Cruz County. Both are CCH projects. 

What phase of a project is your favorite? Why? 

I feel like I’ve been working on construction administration (CA) for the past three years straight, I barely remember doing anything else! But I like CA, it’s very satisfying to see the actual physical building take shape. I miss schematic design, though: it’s nice to have all the possibilities at the beginning of a project. 

How has your job changed in the last few years?  

My scope of work has expanded quite a bit and I’ve taken on responsibility for more aspects of my projects. It’s been challenging, but satisfying. 

“I have had the pleasure of observing Lee’s continual growth while at MWA.  She possesses the can-do attitude that permeates through our team.  She is not afraid to take on new challenges and approaches them with a certain rigor that serves her well. I look forward to seeing many more great things from her!”

– Carlton Smith, Principal

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

I’ve been exercising most days, which gives me a much needed mental break, and I’ve just accepted that the house isn’t going to be clean…it’ll be fine. 

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

I’ve been working on renovations for most of my career. I actually don’t mind, because I consider renovation rather than demolition and rebuilding one of the most environmentally sustainable decisions that we can make as part of the building industry, but I’d love to get a chance to work on a ground-up building again soon.  

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

I’m trying to finish taking my ARE exams and finally get my license! COVID has really complicated this one. 

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

I was working as an animator, but I’d become fascinated with learning about architecture, and I figured there had to be some way to get paid to spend all my time thinking about this stuff, which is what I was doing anyway. 

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