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Heather Mertes, Senior Associate/Architect with KMA, recently opened up about her personal life and career in architecture. She credits five guiding principles with keeping her grounded and inspired. So, what’s on her mind?

Competition fuels creativity. Heather says, “In an industry that has become increasingly competitive in the face of a changing economy, staying ahead of the curve, or sometimes going against the curve, can give a company a strong advantage or unique niche. You constantly have to ask yourself ‘how can you set yourself apart from your peers when there are hundreds of gifted architects out there doing great architecture'.” She continues, “KMA has been extremely successful during the past 40 years in keeping relationships at the heart of its success. I see a strong future for us as we continue to provide excellent client service and value-added design. We have started to think more about like-minded people vs. project types as we move forward. We are confident our work has and will continue to make a positive impact on the development side and in the AEC industry.”

Reinvent! Rethink! She says, “Something that recently inspired me was a church renovation I read about where an architect repurposed an old satellite dish into a dome, and I thought ‘this is genius!’ She continues, “This is the kind of thinking that is essential for changing our industry for the better. It's not really about repurposing found objects, it's about reinventing and rethinking the way we design and build buildings and about looking for ways to save time and money.”

When you understand light, only then do you understand architecture. Heather says, “I am most passionate about designs that capture light and views and employ color simply and honestly. When design solutions are initiated from the idea of capturing and controlling an environment instead of abandoning or disguising it they can make a positive impact on someone’s life. I believe it comes down to understanding the human psyche and how humans respond to and interact with the natural and built environment.”

Do less and make it more meaningful. “I learned this from my husband who is a constant source of inspiration for me” she says. “I try to make this motto part of my personal and professional life as much as possible. Simplicity in thought, action and design keep me really grounded, and I end up being more productive and find inspiration in the end.”

Dance. When asked what she does outside of work, Heather replied “I salsa dance. If I wasn’t an architect, I would probably choose a full time career in dance. It is life changing. The true beauty of salsa dancing emerges when you learn to really connect to the music. It is no longer about one foot in front of the other anymore.” She says, “I think there is way too much talking in the world and not enough dancing! The happiest people that I have ever encountered in the world are the ones who are dancing.”

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