June Professional Member of the Month

Lisa Kalaher

PLaN architecture, Partner

Mod House Interior, Owner

Our profession is built on the value of relationships and opportunities; how do you prepare for a meeting with a new client?  In our practice, we have many different types of projects and have found that we learn the most from the client themselves; how they live and work and the processes of how they run their business.  So, I prepare for each new client by using my initial meeting to learn about them and how they do what they do and letting them know what and architect does and how we can help them.  It is important to know what is currently working for them in their space but more importantly what isn’t working for them.  Questions like: What are your goals as a company?  What do you do differently than your competitors?  What is your expected growth?  Often early on in the getting-to-know-each-other stage of client relationship we will work schematically through diagrams to understand how they work and how our design process can work for them.  We don’t design for clients; we design with them, they are part of the process and our success is based on how well the end product works for them.

We often design to improve the health of people and the environment; how do you wind down in the evenings to maintain a balanced lifestyle?  I have two small children so currently I unwind by playing silly games with my kids.  There is nothing better than seeing the world through their eyes … there are no rules on how spaces are used and how you move through them.  They keep me young (and more creative).  WATCH out for the hot LAVA!!!

The question of balance always seems to come up and the truth is, it’s difficult to live a balanced life especially for people that always strive to give ‘more’ to work, volunteering, or family.  The fact is balance doesn’t come from one equation.  It’s trial and error and no one philosophy works.  It’s a combination of strategies and continuously evaluating those systems to see what is and isn’t working for you.  I can tell you, however, there is only one guarantee; once you get it figured out everything with change! 

Strategies I try to use:

  • I make a concerted effort to put my phone down, to not become wrapped up in emails or reviews of work material while I trying to relax or spend time with family.  If you respond to a client at 10pm they will continue to email you late at night; even if you work late and want to get items off your check list, set a timed response to the email so they got out the next morning.    
  • Take vacation.  After a period of about three years with no real vacation, we decided that we need to force ourselves to take vacations (and be un-plugged while there). 
  • Explore different interests:  I started a modern furniture store a couple years ago, which has provided me a different schedule, a different set of skills to work on, and a broad outlook on my career.
  • Breathe: literally.  I was told once that one of the most important things you can do for your health and stress relief is breathe.  Yeah okay. Thanks.  However, someone then shared the box breathing method with me and it is a game changer. Our jobs, our lives are stressful, there is no doubt about that but take time for you … and breathe.

In 2017 technology is at our fingertips - what is your favorite app and/or website?  Pinterest??  I love apps and exploring the web.  I will say in such a visual industry I have found Pinterest to be a really effective way to work with clients, you can share boards and get a visual idea of what they are interested in as well as show them how different products can be used and applied. 

As professionals we are versed in community interaction and collaboration; what are you involved in outside the realm of architecture/design?  Since PLaN’s founding, not just I, but the firm as a whole has encouraged community engagement and activism. Personally, I’ve been involved in a number of organizations that help youth like Women United or Girls Inc. Leadership and young professional groups like the Sioux City Growth organization or Sculpt Siouxland. Being engaged in the community is very rewarding for me and no matter how much time or money I may give to an organization, I always feels like I get so much more out of it.  Community involvement provides for an incredibly beautiful work-life balance that I personally need.  I often cannot help but apply logics learned in the profession to everyday problem solving outside of the profession and I get excited thinking about all of the sort-of bonus impacts our profession has on our communities because of this type of engagement.  

We are Iowa Women in Architecture; who were the female role models that inspired you?  Probably not so strangely, my role models were not female Architects. My role-models were everyday heroes; my single-parent mom who taught piano while raising three overly-independent girls, my tough-as-nails grandmother who riveted planes together during World War II, and friends that have started businesses with simply an idea and a dream to make it happen.  I’m inspired by people that work hard for what they want.  I’ve always admired and continue to look up to women in leadership roles that support fellow women, building them up instead of tearing them down.