Up Close: Rebecca Celis, AIA

Rebecca Celis, AIA


Rebecca Celis recently won an AIA Minnesota Young Architects Award for her professional leadership and contributions to the architecture industry. As a project manager at HGA, Celis directs team processes and client relations for a range of arts and higher education projects, including the Hagfors Center for Science, Business, and Religion under design at Augsburg College in Minneapolis, the new Jack H. Miller Center for Musical Arts at Hope College in Holland, Michigan, and the Janet Wallace Fine Arts Center at Macalester College in St. Paul, Minnesota. Here Celis discusses her career and professional aspirations.

What drew you to architecture?

In high school and college, my favorite subjects were math, physics, and art. Architecture is a careful balance of right-brain and left-brain activities that combines these interests. I began my college career studying architectural history at Wellesley College in Massachusetts, where I felt inspired by the beautiful campus architecture and landscape. Later I did a semester abroad in Florence, Italy, where I immersed myself in Renaissance history and architecture and saw first-hand the powerful combination of technical achievement and artistic expression. I completed my professional architectural education at the University of Minnesota, where I received my Master of Architecture degree.

Why does cultural and higher education work interest you?

I love the challenge of creating custom solutions that meet clients' needs. Every client is different, every program is different, and every solution is different. As a project manager, I have the opportunity to partner with designers, contractors and clients to realize that creative vision. Higher education programs often are underfunded and located in older buildings, where they have been "making do" for many years. So when clients get an opportunity for a new building--whether a music, science, performing arts or visual arts building--they approach the project with enthusiasm and dedication. My job is to translate that enthusiasm into a seamless team process that achieves their goals.

What is your ideal project?

My favorite work is with small liberal arts colleges, partly because of my own educational background. I love the diversity and multidisciplinary approach of liberal arts colleges. Campus leadership and faculty are passionate about engaging students and pushing intellectual boundaries. That passion is contagious--and it makes my job fun. I gain a great deal of professional satisfaction working with smart, creative people and sharing in their enthusiasm to create meaningful architecture.