Alexis Burck has a tenacious resolve to say when enough is enough and we can do better.
Originally from Minneapolis, Minnesota, Alexis resides in the bay area of Oakland, CA with her family. Graduating from Carleton College with a B.A. in Studio Art in 2000, she taught art and danced professionally for a while prior to pursuing her masters in Architecture from U.C. Berkeley. After graduate school, Alexis’ work pursuits focused on high-end single-family homes and multi-tenant housing which took place during the 2008 financial crisis, all while starting her family. In her next role at a mid-sized firm, Alexis connected with a phenomenal mentor who encouraged her interest to focus on senior living design. This experience led to her current role with SmithGroup, leading their senior living studio.
Alexis shared that her team at SmithGroup is a supportive environment, encouraging her to push and challenge herself. Six of the eight studio leaders are female, which she is immensely proud of. Overseeing projects all over the country, her senior living team tries not to limit themselves to one region. Alexis is looking forward to coming out of the pandemic crisis with creativity. She sees diverse types of projects and project potential. In that, she sees more than a single use project type that can provide supportive mixed use and advancing technology in housing. She is noticing market demand for high rise, urban infill, accessibility, and continuous care senior living. Alexis also shared that she has concerns that our country is not moving fast enough, thinking big enough, and possibly moving backwards in progress. Her observation is that there are a small amount of safe available beds for those in wealthy senior living and a lack of the same options for all income levels.
As young females start their career in the industry, Alexis hopes to encourage others to remember they are not the alone if they feel discouraged. And that they should rally together by asking for help. Young architects can find support with peer, mentor, and AIA. As important, Alexis contributed, as one moves through their career, they should be honest when they have been asked too much. Doing too much is not sustainable. Alexis’ personal convictions as a leader, urge her to call out racism, sexism, and microaggressions. As an equitable leader for the senior living design studio at SmithGroup, Alexis is grateful for her experiences on projects and for her team.
As Studio Leader, Alexis leads the project teams for The Watermark at Napa Valley and Masonic Homes, the Pavilion at Acacia Creek.
Megan Crites, Senior Associate, MKM architecture + design
AIA DFA Communications Committee member
Part of the Design for Aging Knowledge Community – Women in Architecture Series
What is Design for Aging? And who is designing these spaces? The AIA Design for Aging Knowledge Community shares knowledge in the design community aimed at improving the built environment for those in our society who are aging. That’s the short answer; a lot more research and practice goes into improving the spaces we design. And who is designing these spaces? Over the years, the architecture profession has been male-dominated. However, that fabric is changing. Female architects have been growing in numbers across the board, from technical designers, project managers, project architects, design architects, studio leaders, and business owners.
How does this growth in female design professionals reflect in senior living and care environments? The fabric is also changing in their industry. More females are Executive Directors, CEO’s, COO’s, and CFO’s of senior living campuses and care communities. The impact of this shift creates a transformation in dialogue and who’s voice is being heard.
So, the question came up, how can we highlight the growing voices of female architects who are focusing on Design for Aging? Interviews, for a start, and writing articles that highlight the architects and their work.
Several questions were posed to female architects across the United States. Where did you grow up? Where did you go to college? What does your career path look like? How or when did you start designing spaces for aging? What are you the most excited about in the work you are doing? What are you losing sleep over? What advise do you have for other female architects? And so on.
The experiences and conversations varied from interview to interview. Which is an important piece of the narrative for every Architect to hear. There were also some common threads that should not be ignored. What is our industry doing right? What do we need to stop doing? And more over, how can architects continue to positively impact Design for Aging?