Interview with new member Maria Luisa Castellanos, owner of United Architects, Inc., a Miami Architecture firm.
What is your business?
United Architects, Inc.
Where are you from?
I was born in Cuba but lived in 4 places in the US as a child. I came to Miami when I was 7. It’s the fifth place I have lived in the US.
How did you come to Miami?
I came to Miami during the recession of 1976 after receiving my Master of Architecture Degree from Georgia Tech. My family and I used to vacation in Miami almost every year, so thinking that Atlanta was having a recession, not knowing that recessions are national phenomena, I came to Miami thinking there would be work here. However, there was no work here either, but I have a slightly older cousin who is also an architect. I was staying with him and his wife. He gave me a list of architecture firms – the good, the mediocre, and the bad. He said start at the top and work your way down. He said I had to leave his house at 9:00 and not come back until 4:30. He said don’t call, just show up and ask to “see the principal” of the firm. I went to 60 firms in a month, but I got a job.
What is your professional/business history?
I worked for several firms as a young architect and in 1986 founded the firm with my then-husband. In 1991 we divorced but I kept the firm and kept adding to my portfolio. I started doing major projects for the School Board of Miami-Dade County that year.
What makes your business successful/unique? Anything you take special attention to or pride in?
In the same way that I got my first job in the middle of a recession, I am very persistent in getting things done, especially with slow-moving building departments. I push to get things done. Also, I am a good designer, so my work is very good, beautiful, and functional. I am very proud that for the last three years, Expertise.com has named my firm one of the best architecture firms in Miami.
How is it running a female owned business? Struggles? Advantages?
Being a 100% woman-owned business in architecture is not easy. There is still a great deal of prejudice against women-owned businesses in any field, but most architects are men, so most people find a woman architect, an oddity, even though today architecture schools are 50% women.
I think the advent of the internet has been a great thing for me. While before, it was hard to find clients, I built my website during the 2009 to 2016 recession and that has really helped me. I like writing and photography so that helped me create a website that Google loves. I am very proud of it. I get calls from it all the time. You can see my portfolio, many free articles, and my blog at UnitedArchitectsInc.com.
Outside of running the business, what are some of your personal interests?
I love traveling to see great architecture. I like photography, reading, and going to the movies and dinner with family or friends.