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Virginia Tanzmann FAIA
M.Arch. & B.Aarc. Syracuse University

  • When did you first realize you wanted to become an architect?
    During high school, I attended a month-long summer science program, where I met someone who steered me to a book about the work of Le Corbusier. By the time fall came around, I had read the entire architecture section in our regional library system and was fully captivated by the idea that I could figure out how to make life better for people if I became an architect. All my term papers and projects through the rest of high school were somehow related to architecture and planning, regardless of the subject. So at 15, I had an inkling that this field would work for my particular blend of technical, philosophical, and creative urges and talents; and because I saw that I could help people live better lives through my work, I set out on that course, which has never failed to satisfy.
  • Who has inspired you and/or influenced your career the most? And how?
    I am a lucky person, because I have worked with so many wonderful people who have set examples of how a professional operates. One person stands out -- Dan Dworsky, whose office I joined in 1972. Even though I was only employed there for a few years, this was a deeply formative time for me, and I appointed Dan my unwitting mentor. Imitation, the sincerest form of flattery, took hold, and when, just a few years later, I started my own practice, I patterned much of our management and approach to what I had learned at the Dworsky office.
    However, there is another dimension, too, because from the time I was a small child, I have been engaged in the community as a volunteer. I am living proof that one gets back more than one puts in, and throughout my career, I have maintained strong ties to the larger community. Our firm engaged in pro bono work, but more than that, I have taken on leadership roles in both community and professional organizations, tying these things all together.
  • What are your recommendations for increasing diversity in the workplace and within the design process particularly?
    As appealing as it is to advocate natural, organic movement towards diversity, this approach is a non-starter, because it takes too long. We who see value in equity need to insist that those who decide on hiring do what they know to be the right thing without further delay. We need to be willing to take risks for it, and we need to find the energy to persist, to be political, to spend time and sometimes money, and not to allow the message to get muddled.
  • As a woman, what are your thoughts on the Los Angeles region as a place to work?
    This may be the very best place in the US for us. When I was building my career, I was often torn between my busy happy times here and the pull of my family 2600 miles away. One day my father gave me “the talk” that advised me not to come home but to visit as often as I wanted. He rightly identified that in that rural area with a conservative bent, the projects would be modest, neo-colonial in style, and most importantly that I would have a hard time connecting and earning the respect I deserved as a professional. I stayed, and I am so glad I did.

About Virginia Tanzmann, FAIA:

Raised in the New York City outer suburbs and in beautiful and historic south-central Pennsylvania, I completed Syracuse University’s six-year architecture program, emerging with both undergraduate and graduate degrees in architecture. Migrating right after that to Los Angeles, where I have happily made my entire career. My early time in LA was all about earning the license and finding my niche and perspective on the profession. After nine years working for others, and already five years licensed, and having worked in both private and public sectors, I opened my own practice. The satisfaction of that venture, during which I grew the practice from me alone to a firm of nearly 30 people, lasted nearly 20 years. Since then I have held a series of jobs, each building on the next, and currently I am the West Region Manager of the Architecture and Buildings group for Parsons Brinckerhoff, a powerhouse E/A firm of 14,000 worldwide.

Last updated: 02-Feb-2015 03:51 PM
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