Five Questions with Katie Kangas ’10

Posted on July 17th, 2020 by

Gustavus Adolphus College studio art and art history alumna Katie Kangas ’10 took a few minutes to talk with us about starting her own architecture firm, Pasque Architecture, and what she’s been up to since graduation.

While a student at Gustavus, Kangas took advantage of all that the liberal arts had to offer. She toured China as a violinist with the Gustavus Symphony Orchestra, was a student employee in the Department of Theatre and Dance costume shop, and studied abroad in Egypt. In addition to her studio art and art history coursework, she says the things she learned in classes like kayaking, children’s literature, and arts management still play a role in her life today.

Following graduation Kangas got a Master of Architecture degree as well as a Master of Science in Historic Preservation. She worked at three other architecture firms before starting her own earlier this year.  She is currently a Young Architects Regional Director (YARD) and writes for an online publication Connection organized by the Young Architects Forum (YAF), a subset of the American Institute of Architects (AIA).

Gustavus: What has it been like to start your own architecture firm? 

KK: I started dreaming about running a business while still at Gustavus when I took economics and management classes. Stepping into this role allowed me to align my passion for business with my daily work. It grants me flexibility with childcare, volunteering, and experimenting with different types of architectural projects. After years of volunteering, I have a strong network of professionals I can trust. This community has eased my transition and created opportunities to collaborate.

Gustavus: While about half of architecture students are women, a much smaller percentage (18% currently) actually become registered architects and fewer still own their own firms. What has it been like being one of few women in the field? What do you see as the barriers to having more women in the field? 

KK: This statistic, often called “the missing 32%,” has sparked a lot of discussion since it was published by Rosa Sheng and the San Francisco Equity by Design Committee in 2016. Honestly, I don’t feel like I’m part of just a ‘few’ women. Minnesota has a very strong community of female architects. I have not encountered barriers as I entered this profession and felt welcomed and supported by my former employers. Minneapolis hosted the 2019 Women’s Leadership Summit for architects across the country. This event, and others like it, provide a platform for addressing the challenges related to the missing 32% of female architecture students. One challenge is that architecture students have many transferable skills in problem solving and design which make them valuable to adjacent industries. The conversation on policies in firms and in licensure continues so parental leave offerings, exam resources, and flexible work environments adapt to retain talent within architecture.

Gustavus: What has been the biggest challenge of going out on your own? 

KK: During COVID-19, the greatest challenge is connecting with people. My goal is to serve rural communities in the midwest and that outreach has been slowed down in the interest of health and safety which are far more important. I continue to work and innovate, but I know I am not alone in trying to find new solutions for collaborating under current health conditions.

Gustavus: What skills that you learned at Gustavus do you use most in daily life as an architect? 

KK: Everyday I draw and write. These were skills that I honed while at GAC. I’m also grateful for opportunities to watercolor (recently in my Grandmother’s book Elfie) and photograph historic buildings for projects.

Gustavus: What is the most surprising way your Gustavus experiences have helped you since graduation? 

KK: I’m surprised by how small the world is once you start connecting with people. I happen to be working on a project in Saint Peter, just a few blocks from the art building. Over the years I have said ‘yes’ to many opportunities to network and volunteer. The initial events were all engaging, but I didn’t expect the connections that I made years ago to result in actual projects. It isn’t appropriate to only participate in volunteering and mentoring programs if you ‘expect’ to get a return. But developing positive relationships with people does open up opportunities you may not initially see when you are simply being generous with your time and talents.

 


5 Comments

  1. Carol Christianson says:

    Always a shining star! Katie, congratulations on your well-deserved success. Best wishes and much luck to you in all your future endeavors.

  2. Carol Umenthum says:

    Bravo, sweet niece! We love you and are so happy for ou and your success.

  3. Mary Nelson Keithahn says:

    Everyone in the family is proud of you, Katie! I know how hard you work to make your dreams come true in offering quality design to the rural and small town areas that our family has always valued. Best wishes in your new venture. Grandma.

  4. Mike B says:

    I have a daughter who is a senior in high school. She is considering a pre-architecture program at Gustavus. What advice would you give a young student like that?

    Also, just curious, where did you get your master’s degree?

  5. Kristen Lowe says:

    So happy to hear you are drawing every day, Katie! Maybe you’d consider showing that process to current studio art majors?!?

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