PRP Now! Michelle Kishinevsky // Lake | Flato

August 15, 2021
PRP Now! is a series of interviews that highlight a current UTSOA Professional Residency Program student every few weeks.

PRP: Tell us about your PRP firm. Where are you working?
I am working at Lake | Flato Architects in their Austin office! Lake | Flato believes in architecture which is rooted in its particular place, responding in a meaningful way to its natural or built environment through the use of local materials and sustainable design. Their body of work aims to reflect their belief that sustainability and design are two sides of the same coin - balanced, integrated, and inseparable. LF is headquartered in San Antonio and is coming up on around 150 employees total, but the Austin office opened a few years ago and has about 25 people working in the office. The Austin office is its own development studio, so the project teams have a wide variety of projects that they work on separately from the development studio in San Antonio, however there is often an overlap of team members from both studios especially as the firm accommodates remote work due to covid. 

PRP: Do you enjoy the city you’re working in? Favorite aspects?
I love Austin! Even though I am not in a new city for my residency, I get to experience Austin from a different perspective as a working professional. My favorite part of staying in Austin is that I often will go places around the city that the firm designed and as the city grows, I get to appreciate the new architecture that comes with it. Plus, I get to work on and see projects that will be a part of the city landscape in just a few years! 

PRP: What is currently on your desk? What are you working on?
Physically on my desk in the office I have my tablet and monitor, my cold brew coffee, my airpods, some disposable masks, my sketchbook, and an orchid. One of the subtle things I love about the office is that there are plants around every corner. I am currently working on some elevation details for an extension project at Cornell in New York. A great thing about being an intern in the development studio is that I get pulled in to help on many different types of projects which can be at varying design stages. The first thing I got to work on was a brick material study for a residential tower that will eventually go up on Rainey Street. I even got to test out some of the digital brick mingles I made by stacking actual Acme brick samples in person with David Lake. Since I am in person in the office, whenever I am in between projects, I help one of the interior designers take inventory and organize the extensive materials library which has exposed me to interior projects that are in progress as well as the sustainable manufacturers the office uses.

PRP: Describe the firm culture? 
The firm culture is arguably one of my favorite things about working at Lake | Flato. From my very first day in the office, everyone made me feel so welcome and wanted. This only added to my excitement of working here because I could genuinely see that the firm cares about the people who work here in addition to the work itself, which is something I heavily value in a workplace. I think this ideal is exemplified through the flexibility and accommodation the firm has expressed during the pandemic. I have also come to understand that a work life balance is something very attainable and important to the office, and while there are of course late nights when deadlines are fast approaching, there is immense flexibility in the work week. This past weekend I got to attend Flake Lato, the office's annual weekend family retreat out to Texas Hill Country. Every year the firm has the retreat out on Ted's land in West Texas, and it is such an amazing opportunity to get to know and meet new people outside of the office. Everyone comes out, some with their families and spouses, to camp out and swim out on the lake and simply enjoy each other's company and the incredible landscape. 

PRP: What is the first thing you'll tell your classmates upon your return to UT? 
PRP is an incredible experience and if you have the opportunity to participate in it you absolutely should! The real-world experience you are able to receive while still getting class credit is simply amazing. While I have learned so much through my time at UT, working at Lake | Flato has exposed me to so many stages and aspects of projects that I have not been exposed to before. It is very refreshing to see how design decisions are made on projects when collaboration is integral to the process, money, and other factors such as sustainability limit your design freedom, and client needs also come into play. Lake | Flato is an incredibly driven team of designers, and I am so grateful for everyone's support and eagerness to make my experience as wholesome and informative as possible. 

PRP: As you’re finishing up the week, what are your plans for this weekend?
The last few weeks have been quite busy for me. In addition to attending the firm retreat last weekend, I was also moving apartments, so I am planning to use this weekend to settle into my new living space and catch up on some sleep. My older brother is also getting married this upcoming Labor Day weekend so I am preparing for that in my spare time on my weekends! 

PRP: Is there anything else that you would like to add?
Like many before me have said, the Professional Residency Program is a unique opportunity to grow not just as a designer but as a person too. Take your time to research which firm's values align with your own and where you will feel you will be challenged to be a better designer. I cannot express how thankful I am to be a part of this wonderful team and how grateful I am that UTSOA provides us the opportunity for such an enriching experience. The office will be looking to hire a new intern in January so feel free to reach out to me with any questions you may have if you are interested!