Katie Scanlon is an architectural designer with Svigals + Partners in New Haven, Conn. Lab Manager recently spoke with Katie about her career, experience, and personal interests.
Q: How did you get started in your career? Did you major in your field in college, get an internship, switch careers mid-stream, etc.?
A: I began as a biology major, then shifted to sports medicine with an eye toward becoming a physical therapist. But my creative ambitions took hold and, much to my parents’ dismay, I dropped my medical career track for the fine arts program. After graduation, I pursued a few different careers including event, portrait and journalism photography, primary school teaching, and restaurant management. Along the way, I was always compelled to photograph architecture and sketch lots of architectural ideas until finally it clicked that people get paid to do these things professionally. So I went back to school, first at the community college level and then for my Master of Architecture which really propelled my career. In hindsight, my medical background has definitely been an asset in understanding and designing laboratory environments.
Q: What is the biggest work-related challenge you’ve faced? How did you overcome it?
A: I was only recently out of school when the architect employing me decided to take an extended trip abroad. He hired a temporary architect for light consultation, but essentially left me to manage the workload in his absence. The moment he left, three clients reached out to request immediate services beyond the expected scope—and my employer was not going to return for almost a month. I reached out to a professor of mine and asked if they would also consult on a short-term basis to help keep things moving. It worked out surprisingly well and I learned quite a lot in that one extremely busy month!
Q: What is your favorite building, lab-related or not?
A: This is the toughest question for an architect! I appreciate different kinds of architecture for a range of reasons. It’s tempting to respond with something classical and monumental like the Pantheon, Saint Mark’s Basilica, or Notre-Dame because they truly take your breath away when you experience them in person and represent enormous engineering feats of their day. But I have to say, for all its flaws and in spite of the cliché, I love Fallingwater by Frank Lloyd Wright.
Q: If you won a million dollar lottery tomorrow, what would you do with your winnings?
A: Being an extremely practical person I would consult my financial planner first—but I would definitely travel with some of the money. I think we all miss traveling due to the pandemic. One of my favorite things is to wake up somewhere new, experience different cultures, get lost exploring architecture (or nature), and finding out where the locals eat.
Q: What kinds of hobbies or interests do you have outside of work?
A: Besides travel, I love gardening, cooking, baking, and making things with my hands. More often than not you can find me tinkering away at something. When it’s not too cold, I love camping and outdoor activities. I also enjoy volunteering in my neighborhood here in Connecticut, through service on the Ledyard Planning and Zoning Commission and with the New London Landmarks historic preservation group.