Meet The Civitots: Juliana De Affonseca
Continuing our “Meet the Civitots” series of posts, we’re pleased to introduce you to Juliana de Affonseca, who brought diverse experiences and perspectives to Civitas when she joined us in 2018. Working with her since then has been effortless, and every interaction enjoyable. We think Juliana is like a palm tree: quiet, flexible, calming and strong – a whole vibe – with no limits to where life can take her. Here she is in her own words, and you can see for yourself:
YOU HAVE A UNIQUE BACKGROUND, IN THE SENSE THAT YOUR CAREER DID NOT BEGIN WITHIN THE DESIGN INDUSTRY. WHAT MOTIVATED YOUR PATH AND ULTIMATELY BROUGHT YOU TO CIVITAS?
I studied international business at the University of Delaware and went on to work for a global accounting and advisory firm in Philadelphia for several years before realizing that I was ready for change. Along the way I’d met a friend-of-a-friend who was studying landscape architecture at Penn’s School of Design, and I remembered being intrigued and inspired by my conversations with her. It took me a few years after this meeting to take action, but it had definitely planted the seed of possibility. When the time was right, I moved to Denver, earned a Master’s in Landscape Architecture at Colorado State, and interviewed with Civitas.
I remember the interview well. I’d been meeting with several firms, and Civitas was my third interview of the day, so while it was one of my most challenging interviews, it was actually the most fun. I met with all the leaders and was struck by the way they were more interested in my design process and approach to problem solving rather than my design skills. They wanted to know how I think, rather than what (or how much) I can produce, and that was very inspiring. Civitas instantly felt like a good fit.
WHAT KIND OF PROJECTS DO YOU ENJOY WORKING ON MOST OFTEN?
I love projects with clients who are motivated to make a difference – to have a positive impact – and who are willing to invest time, energy and resources to do that. I’ve been working on the Jones Center in Springdale, Arkansas, and it’s been rewarding to help them dream big. Even though they’re serving a relatively small community, this project is already having a big impact, nurturing very personal connections and community pride. It’s fulfilling to play a role in that. For example, early on, we needed to come up with a way to unify what has been a disconnected site for years. Looking at an aerial view of the Jones Center campus felt like a Tetris game, with lots of pieces that weren’t yet fitting together quite right. We needed to create a more cohesive campus and give it a heart. I created a diagram showing several possibilities for the site and felt proud of my contribution to the design solution.
I also enjoy projects like Painted Prairie not only because of the impact they can have on their own communities, but also because they’re massive, multi-headed projects that often get really complex and even political. They offer tremendous learning experiences, especially collaborating with urban planners.
HOW DOES YOUR BACKGROUND IN BUSINESS SHAPE THE WAY YOU APPROACH YOUR DESIGN PROJECTS?
I would say that my personal approach to design is one of simplifying. I love getting down to the nuts and bolts of design, taking a project through an editing process rather than an additive one. I like to focus first on the function of each space, and then design exactly what you need to achieve that function, and no more. To me there’s real beauty in minimalism. This isn’t terribly different from the business world that I came from. As consultants, our goal was to help simplify things for our clients and reduce wasteful complexities.
I also like to think my background in business gives me a boost of maturity, professionalism and experience. As an advisor within an accounting firm, my work revolved around client service, just as my design work does today.
HOW WOULD YOUR COWORKERS AND CLIENTS DESCRIBE YOU?
Because of my diverse professional background, colleagues often come to me for advice about career and life, so I hope they consider me easy going and approachable, practical and intuitive. I don’t always have immediate answers, but I can always help to find them. We’re a small firm, but we’re full of amazing people with diverse backgrounds so everyone has something to contribute, and we’ve come to rely on each other.
WHAT DO YOU ENJOY DOING OUTSIDE OF WORK? HOW DOES IT CONNECT WITH OR INFLUENCE YOUR WORK?
I love being Mom to my 11-month-old, and I’m passionate about music and dance. Dance is where I get to experience design on a physical level feeling beats within my body and expressing clean and nuanced composition through movement. I’m also a rock climber, both indoors and out. I think rock climbing allows me to recharge and connect with nature. I approach it much like I do my work, taking things step by step, managing risk – and fear – as I go.
WHAT ACCOMPLISHMENTS DO YOU ASPIRE TO REACH IN THE FUTURE?
I tend to follow my intuition and believe that as you’re walking up the steps, the steps appear, rather than planning too many steps too far in advance. In rock climbing we talk a lot about being in ‘flow’, when you no longer overthink each move and you begin climbing intuitively. I think in life, you go into ‘flow’ when you’re on the right path, so it’s more a matter of course correcting as you go. But I have enjoyed and appreciated the opportunity to learn and grow at Civitas, and I’m excited to continue on this path, motivated to play a role in leading more projects as I grow.
Travel is important to me too, so I’d love to see more of the world. I am half-Brazilian and have spent time living and studying in Rio de Janeiro as well as Buenos Aires, Argentina, and I’ve had internships in Germany and Spain too. New places help to give us new perspectives, so Japan is high on my list of places I’d love to visit next.
DESCRIBE ONE NOTABLE OR INTERESTING ITEM THAT’S CURRENTLY ON YOUR DESK.
I always like bringing of the outside indoors, so there’s currently a crystal rock on my desk.
WHAT’S THE ONE THING YOU NEVER LEAVE HOME WITHOUT?
A water bottle! This is one sure sign that I’ve officially become a Denverite.
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Civitas is always looking for talented individuals to join our creative team. If you (or someone you know) is seeking a meaningful career in landscape architecture and urban planning, feel free send your resume to firstname.lastname@example.org. We hope to hear from you!