Alumni Spotlight:

Amanda Mendler '08

March 23, 2023

Name: Amanda Mendler
Hometown: San Antonio
Major: Bachelor of Science in Environmental Design; Bachelor of Architecture
Graduation Year: 2008
Employer: Kirksey
Title: Senior Associate

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"I always created when I was younger, and as I grew up, I learned that my family is rooted in architecture and art ... After an architectural drafting class in high school, I was determined to follow in my family’s footsteps."

Why did you choose the Gerald D. Hines College of Architecture and Design? What drew you to design?
When I first expressed my interest in architecture school to my grandfather, he revealed that our family is related to Edison Oberholtzer, the first president of the University of Houston (although the lineage escapes me). UH felt like a natural home to pursue my degree in architecture; after all, I am an Oberholtzer.

I always created when I was younger, and as I grew up, I learned that my family is rooted in architecture and art. My great grandfather, Shirley Simons, was a notable architect in Tyler, Texas, in the 1930s, and my aunt Lydia is an incredible artist and architect. After an architectural drafting class in high school, I was determined to follow in my family’s footsteps.

What is one of your favorite memories from your time on campus? Was there a particular professor who influenced your education?
Time spent in the studio is unlike any other experience one can find on a college campus. There is a camaraderie with your classmates that cannot be replicated elsewhere. My favorite memory on campus was hearing my bonus dad, who is also an architect, yell, “We love you, Amanda!” from the fourth-floor atrium of the architecture building as I walked the stage during graduation. Every year, I purposely signed up for studio professors with varying architectural perspectives – pragmatic, conceptual, and even space architecture. I particularly enjoyed Dietmar Froehlich’s studio based on the relationship between film and architecture.

Top to Bottom: Apache Midland Office Building; TFC Capitol Mall & Parking Garage

What does a typical day look like in your job? Do you have a particular design or business philosophy?
My work days always start the same way – coffee, always coffee. More recently, however, my days begin with an inbox full of emails regarding the UH Hilton project. We are nearing the end of construction and wrapping up all the loose ends and details. Working closely with contractors on site daily provides an opportunity to understand how buildings go together in a way you cannot get from detailing conditions in your drawing package. The most complex problems presented on-site can often be solved by taking a step back, remembering the fundamentals, and finding a simple solution.

What is one career accomplishment of which you are particularly proud? How do you feel that the College prepared you for this?
I was thrilled when I was offered the opportunity to work on the University of Houston Hilton as part of my new role on the hospitality team. I was not only completing work for my alma mater, but the project type was right in my wheelhouse with renovation scope. I have also had the incredible opportunity to work on the Texas Capitol Complex Mall & Garage in Austin for the Texas Facilities Commission. It is hard to fathom what impact the spaces I have helped create will have on countless visitors to Texas in the future. My studio classes made me think about how the end user experiences the spaces we create. Small gestures can make significant impacts. Not only is the destination important, but how you get there is just as impactful.

Top to Bottom: Lamar Student Center Renovation; UH Hilton Expansion and Renovation

What is one valuable lesson you learned during your time at the Hines College?
One of the most valuable lessons I learned at Hines College is that, as Louis Sullivan coined, form follows function. The concept that the building form should primarily relate to its intended program can be applied to so many other functions of architecture. Architects often get lost in complex building details and problems, yet often the solution is as simple as form follows function.

What is a piece of advice you would give to current architecture and design students?
Architecture school is the time to let your imagination lead the way. Take a step away from the computer, away from technology, and just draw. Scribble. Doodle. Use your entire roll of trace paper. Refrain from letting your concept dilute due to the tendency to fit the problem into an orthogonal box dictated by X and Y. Do not lose the art of architecture. Oh, and sleep; there is a point of diminishing returns when you are awake all night. I promise that with some quality sleep, your brain will function better.


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