Ana Millan is a Designer in OJB’s Houston office.
What inspired you to become an architect? I always tell this silly anecdote about how my first memory of knowing what I wanted to be was when I was 7 years old and I played Sims for the first time. There was nothing better in the world to me than building houses and selecting every single aspect of it. I would build one, then start over and build a new one. I never really played the actual game.
I was also always doing crafty things as a kid; I would get origami books and color pens for Christmas before I would ever ask for a bike or dolls. As long as I can remember, I have had an inclination for design and craft, so at a very young age I decided to go to architecture school. While attending architecture school at the University of Houston, even though the landscaping around the buildings wasn’t something that we were required to develop as extensively as we did buildings, I always had a high level of curiosity about it as it is the space we first experience when we arrive to any building and it is equally as important. It wasn’t until my last year of architecture when I started working on a year-long landscape focused project that I started doing quite a lot of research about the field. Learning about the profession awakened so much interest and excitement that I decided I would pursue a career in landscape architecture upon graduating.
Who as an artist or landscape architect influenced your design and plant materials? It’s hard to pick a specific designer or artist; I think we draw from different people and disciplines for various elements throughout the design process. Some of my favorites are Piet Oudolf, Diana Balmori, and Stoss. Some are inspiration for plant materials; some for graphics, diagrams and presentations. I have attended lectures with Diana Balmori and she had such an impact on me, which highly influenced my dream of pursuing a career in landscape.
What is your focus when designing? What makes your work rewarding? When designing, I always try to challenge myself and create things that are not only beautiful but that complement the overall space. I always try to imagine myself as the different types of users that will be experiencing the space and what I would like to see, and then take those ideas and make them not only innovative but also functional and beautiful. What makes all of this work rewarding is seeing other people enjoying the spaces and seeing your objectives become reality.
Where do you go to feel inspired? My favorite thing to do is simply going around the city and taking photos, whether it is in Houston or while traveling. There’s something about trying to find the perfect composition for an image, discovering color palettes that get your attention and discovering new angles of our surroundings that ends up influencing the way I see and design things. The principles I learn doing exercises like these are very applicable on a larger scale in the projects I work on.
What has been your favorite OJB project to work on and why? One of my favorite projects is the Charles Schwab campus in Westlake, TX. It’s the first project I was involved in from a very early stage in the design process and it definitely is one of the projects I have learned the most with. I have used my skills from sketching and 3d modeling, to working on construction documents and learning new software I was previously unfamiliar with. We focused on creating spaces that not only are harmonious with the site and context, but also spaces where the user could enjoy an outdoor lunch, walks around the campus, and amenities that will enhance their every day.
I also truly enjoyed creating our office’s model of Downtown Houston. I worked on this while I was an intern last year. It was quite exciting to not only model it, but to see it become reality and see pieces of it change as Downtown Houston continues to grow.