Bob Shelton, AIA, First Vice President
Shelton Design/Build

Most significant lesson learned: A team of people that can work with mutual respect for each other’s talent creates a far stronger outcome than any one individual can provide.

Time is valuable, why AIA? Our profession is diverse, talented, and highly impactful. Anything that can strengthen the profession and in turn the community that surrounds it is something worth investing time into.

Favorite Pittsburgh space: Rotunda / Lobby of the Pennsylvanian. Not only does it represent so much of the city in a former time, it was also the location of my first job in the profession. I’ll always have memories of walking through that space.

Favorite drink: Old Fashioned, Bulleit.

Mantra: “It is not a problem; it is an opportunity for a creative solution.”

Emily Pierson-Brown, AIA, Secretary
Perkins Eastman

Best way to overcome a creative block: Swimming. It is so meditative and completely different from any other experience I typically have in a day. There is something so eternal and healing about being in the water.

Time is valuable, why AIA? Architects are so valuable and elemental to society, and yet we are too often isolated from those only one or two steps removed from the process. We need strong advocates outside of our profession to communicate our value and inside the profession to strengthen and diversify who we are and how we work.

Favorite Pittsburgh space: My current favorite place, recently discovered, is the Pittsburgh Botanical Gardens in Settler’s Cabin Park. It’s a wonderful marriage of landscape and architecture with playful elements for kids of all ages. Perfect in any season, any type of weather.

Favorite food: I will forever lament that I will never again be able to enjoy the pizza from Dinette. It was a special place and a unique culinary experience in Pittsburgh. [sigh]

Favorite drink: Ketel One martini with olives (blue cheese olives a bonus)

Mantra: Follow your heart.

Rebecca Schwartz, AIA, Second Vice President
Michael Baker International

Most significant lesson learned: As humans, it’s inherent that we make mistakes, but it is best to be honest and upfront and address the issue expediently both clients and contractors (and your boss!) will always appreciate and respect you despite the outcome.

Best way to overcome a creative block: Taking a break in nature is usually the most effective; a long walk with my dog Luna will typically clear my mind or if the weather is poor, I hit the pool for a long swim.

Time is valuable, why AIA? Looking to reconnect with the local community of architects after many years of travel and work outside the U.S.

Favorite food: Mediterra’s quiche, a go-to breakfast favorite!

Favorite drink: Red wine, pinot noir preferred

Summer reading list: Still waiting for Patrick Rothruss to release Book 3 of Kingkiller Chronicles “Doors of Stone”, but in the meantime, looking to read a recent gift received, “How to Lead” by David Rubenstein.

Mantra: Everything’s just “peachy”; keeping a positive outlook on life.

Dario McPhee, AIA, Treasurer
Indovina Associates Architects

Most significant lesson learned: Jack of all trades is a master of none but oftentimes better than a master of one. Not to downplay specialists, because those persons are important also. However, the more years I’ve put in, the more I’ve been put in positions where I’ve had to understand a little bit about everything.

Best way to overcome a creative block: Go to sleep, think while doing so, wake up, try again.

Favorite food: Peas soup and dumpling! Growing up in the Bahamas, this dish was a big part of my diet. Peas soup is a tomato based soup comprised of meat, a bit of vegetables and dumplings. Once I moved abroad, my appreciation for the dish grew even more.

Favorite drink: Gentleman Jack…..because who doesn’t love a smooth whiskey on the rocks?!

John Ryan, AIA, Past President
Design Group

Why I belong to AIA: I love architecture. I cherish the discourse we share on the places that shape our lives and how we in turn work to create new spaces. Together, as the AIA, we offer so much to the community at so many levels. It’s thrilling to share in this work.

Best way to overcome a creative block: Take a walk. And, make time to do nothing. Un-structured time often provides the best opportunity for free thinking, and usually finding the best solution to a problem.

Favorite Pittsburgh space: Schenley Plaza – I love the monumentality of the space. The civic and institutional buildings surrounding this plaza give it a scale that can feel both inspiring, as well as intimate and welcoming.

Favorite drink: Guinness. It’s good for you.


Stuart Coppedge, FAIA

Most significant lesson learned: It’s not about me.

Best way to overcome a creative block: Forget about the problem for a while, get something done, and then come back to it.

Time is valuable, why AIA?: Because I believe the organization is a great way to serve both the profession and society. And as a side benefit, I’ve become friends with all kinds of amazing people.

Favorite Pittsburgh space: I’m still exploring and don’t have a favorite yet (but I’m really glad some engineer figured out that the inbound lanes of 376 needed to exit the Fort Pitt Tunned on TOP to capture one of America’s iconic city views).

Favorite food: Ice cream, but I rarely eat it.

Favorite drink: Smoked Old Fashioned

Summer reading list: I actually read more in the winter (summer is for being outside), but I enjoy books by Erik Larson, on Jon Krakuaer, Doris Kearns Goodwin.

Mantra: Do justice, love mercy, walk humbly.

Joshua Lee, AIA
Carnegie Mellon University School of Architecture

Best way to overcome a creative block: Go for a walk

Time is valuable, why AIA?: AIA provides a network for collective action that transforms practice and the built environment

Favorite Pittsburgh space: Frick Park’s Iron Gate mountain bike trail

Favorite food: Steak and potatoes, chilli

Favorite drink: shakerato, mocha, vanilla sweet cream nitro cold brew, hefeweizen

Summer reading list: Obsolescence by Abramson, The Architecture of Persistence by Fannon, Laboy, & Wiederspahn; Designing Disorder by Sendra & Sennett; Adaptable Architecture by Schmidt & Austin; and Adaptive Reuse by Wong…


Christine Mondor, FAIA

Most significant lesson learned:The race is really the prize. We all have a fundamental need to shape our built environment and we architects are uniquely prepared to lead those efforts. I recognize that the built environment influences what people do, how they feel, and what they believe, and we need to be deliberate about how we work, knowing that the process can be equally transformative to an organization or community. The race is really the prize.

Best way to overcome a creative block: Eat chocolate and read a book about someone who inspires me. I love NOMA chef Rene Redzepi’s book, A Work in Progress, where he chronicles how he and his team dream up novel dishes that challenge people’s expectations. I love that he is honest about the frustrations and the dishes that didn’t work out. Also love how he makes otherwise unappealing ingredients desirable!

Time is valuable, why AIA? There is an energy on the board that I appreciate. We architects are needed now more than ever and I enjoy being around folks who are equally inspired by this moment in time.

Favorite Pittsburgh space: Market Square is an amazing public space. This is the best place in the city to see such a rich layering of the old and the new…vernacular buildings and signature buildings…the intimate scale and the monumental scale. When people shape the space with festivals and furniture and farmer’s markets, it is never the same place twice.

Favorite food: Anything meal I am eating with my grown son and daughter…best food ever. Usually Mexican or Vietnamese.

Favorite drink: A morning cappuccino at a coffee shop. No matter how fancy my coffee equipment, a cuppa at a local coffee shop is amazing because I did not have to make it.

Summer reading list: I have a serious list…Reciprocal Landscapes: Stories of Materials Movement and Breathe: Investigations into our Tangled Futures, etc., but my summer reading guilty pleasure is any Clive Cussler historic adventure mystery. They are enjoyably predictable and the hero is always confident about the right thing to do. What an escape from reality!


Christopher Pless, AIA
NEXT architecture

Time is valuable, why AIA? Service and responsibility.  I’ve reached a phase in my career where I feel a responsibility to give back to my profession and the community of people who have invested their time to help me in my career and life.

Favorite food: Almost anything from a street vendor.

Favorite drink: A strong brown ale or an old fashioned, Woodford double oaked.

Recommended reading:  Jim the Boy, Tony Earley

Quintin Kittle, AIA

Best way to overcome a creative block: Take a nap.

Time is valuable, why AIA? To promote/inform the value of an Architect’s service.

Favorite Pittsburgh space: Glass enclosed stairs at the Scaife Gallery.

Summer reading list: New York Times and Washington Post (daily to get caught up)

Mantra: It’s all the same (one word)


Brenna Martin-Schaffer, AIA









Prerana Paliwal, Assoc. AIA

Time is valuable, why AIA?
Architecture is my passion, my profession, and my calling. It offers me the opportunity to curate the built environment for restorative experiences. Experiences that make people feel nurtured, empowered & inspired by the spaces they inhabit. AIA empowers architects by sharing knowledge, enriches problem-solving by building networks & reinforces the impact of our profession on the world by engaging with public policy. Being a part of the AIA is an opportunity to build robust systems for creating restorative experiences.

Most significant lesson learned: “As for the future, your task is not to foresee it, but to enable it”: Antoine de Saint Exupéry

To enable a future in which all individuals have an equal opportunity to thrive, we need complex and systemic problems to be solved by diverse combinations of thinkers and doers through evidence-based innovation.

Favorite Pittsburgh space: The view of the city from Mount Washington. There is something magical about watching the city rise & roll out across from the Monongahela. The narrow streets that were once designed for horse-drawn streetcars, the bridges connecting neighborhoods and the beautiful vistas of the city nested within a drapery of dense green – Pittsburgh’s contagious charisma draws me in every single time.

It inspires, encourages to reflect & re-energizes the designer in me.

Mantra: लोकः समस्ताः सुखिनो भवन्तु – Lokah Samastah Sukhino Bhavantu is a Sanskrit mantra meaning – May all beings everywhere be happy and free, and may the thoughts, words, and actions of my own life contribute in some way to that happiness and to that freedom for all.


Catherine Wick, AIA
IKM Architecture

Best way to overcome a creative block: Take a walk. Get away from the screen and get outside.

Time is valuable, why AIA?  We can achieve so much more together, and AIA is about leveraging our collective talents to build a robust design community. I find it very rewarding to be part of this effort.

Favorite Pittsburgh space: The Fred Rogers Memorial on the North Shore.

Most significant lesson learned: It’s not a sign of weakness to ask for help.

Favorite food: Japanese food, especially sushi and tempura zarusoba

Favorite drink: Pumpkin beer

Recommended reading: Piranesi by Susanna Clarke. The house is as much a character as the people in the story.

Mantra: Know your value.


Michelle Fanzo, Executive Director
AIA Pittsburgh

Best way to overcome a creative block: Get out of your head. Stop trying to make your brain do something and instead move your body. Yoga, cross-country skiing or kayaking tend to work for me. Another way is to cut myself off from all distractions and let my thinking be less cluttered and more expansive for a number of hours – like when walking in the woods or on a long-haul flight.

Most significant lesson learned: a. Be ready for what comes up. b. Work with it. c. Be ready to let it go.

Favorite food: Oysters (followed by ice cream)

Summer reading list: Quiet: The Power of Introverts by Susan Cain (fascinating), Why Nations Fail by Acemoglu and Robinson, United by Corey Booker, The Bone Clocks by David Mitchell.

Mantra? “Less is more!”

Kevin Kunak, Board Public Director
Asst. Director for Public History, Art & Design Division of the Dept. of City Planning

Best way to overcome a creative block: Take a break and go for a walk, preferably with a colleague to discuss solutions.

Favorite Pittsburgh space: The experiences along Strawberry Way – audio public art, asphalt murals, pop-up seating, Guastavino vaults, and the shortcut through the Smithfield-Liberty Garage (let’s bring back those blue pathway lights!)

Most significant lesson learned: Listening.

Favorite food: Anything on Dish Osteria’s menu.

Recommended reading: Bicycle Diaries – always appreciate how non-designers experience cities; Why We Sleep – puts into perspective why all-nighters are counter-productive to wellness; and looking forward to starting Gen X Pittsburgh by David Rullo, which looks at 1990s South Side culture post-steel industry.

Michael J. Cremonese, Esq.
Burke Cromer & Cremonese


Best way to overcome a creative block: Swimming.

Favorite Pittsburgh space: PNC Park.

Most Significant lesson learned: Be Confident. Be persistent.

Mantra: Every day is the best day!


Omar Khan, Professor and Head
School of Architecture, Carnegie Mellon University

Best way to overcome a creative block: Walk in the forest or a hot shower, preferably in that sequence if it’s a serious block. Doodling can assist.

Summer reading list: Novels by Susan Sontag. Just was reading some of her essays in Under the Sign of Saturn and was moved by her intellect and writing.

Most significant lesson learned: Your experiences don’t necessarily translate to others, never assume your truths are universal.

Favorite food: Chicken Curry

Favorite drink: Tea- hot and with milk.