A Year in the Life of a Stradista: Dani Oriol

Stradista Dani Oriol in front of a purple background

I’ve known I wanted to be an architect since the summer of 2005.

My parents had bought me Rick Riordan’s The Lightning Thief, whose main female character Annabeth studies architecture, and I’ve been set on this path ever since.

About two years ago, right before graduation, I felt like I had finally gotten my first “win” as an architecture student. My thesis, which explored the destigmatization of homelessness, was selected for the 2021 Paul M. Kossman Senior Design Award in Architecture. I had never felt like I was in the wrong field, but before this, the occasions where I truly felt good at what I was doing were few and far between. I barely had time to be proud, though, when I was given the Capstone award for my minor in entrepreneurship and innovation in arts and architecture. These recognitions not only affirmed my choice to be an architect, but also bolstered my confidence in my ideas. 

Kossman Award 2021

This all being said, I was still nervous as I looked for my first job out of school. I had a long list of things I wanted from this theoretical job because one of my best (and maybe worst) qualities is that I refuse to settle. When I read about Strada and learned that they were hiring, I told my family and boyfriend that I had found the Dream Job. And, most of the time, it still is.

At Strada, everyone genuinely cares about creating the best design possible. Egos are checked at the door, everyone sketches and brainstorms together, and we deliver projects that are not only amazing for our client, but are also projects we take pride in. My thoughts and ideas are valued, and so is who I am outside of work. This leads to a sort of rapid growth and sense of belonging that is rare to experience. It also has led to my being trusted with new opportunities, which is both exhilarating and terrifying. I’ve been challenged in ways I didn’t think could be possible this early into a career, and with the support of the great people I work with, I’ve been able to succeed.

Concept Sketching: Poured Concrete Desk on Whiteboard

That boost of confidence led me to propose my own ideas to improve our studio, and the first opportunity was Glimpses, an interview series with each interview culminating in an art piece that condenses the most important parts of the interview. The interview’s purpose is to discover the intangible, inner workings of each of us. Launching Glimpses was my first look at the infamous “red tape” of the professional world. I never got a straight “no,” but still, after months of having conversations, I felt ready to give up. I knew I was asking for a precious resource in taking a slice of everyone’s time. On top of that, I didn’t really have a concrete idea of how much time and information I would need or the frequency with which I needed to do this to have a lasting effect on our culture. Questions kept coming in, and instead of answers, I found myself often responding with even more questions. It may have been easier to give up, but they (looking at you, Mel and Gargi!) assured me that my ideas were good, and that I should keep going.

First Glimpses Event: Hosted by Dani Oriol at the Strada Pittsburgh Studio

It’s been a few months since the first successful Glimpses, and I’ve been spending a lot of time studying for my AREs and wading through Construction Administration red tape on what is the biggest project of my very young career, known around the office as Portal (keep an eye out for this one!). The sun is coming back out, the air smells sweeter, and I’m already preparing for the next Glimpses event, and the next challenge Strada is ready to throw my way. I still have no time for settling, and now, I have no reason to.