Menlo Park-based architect Ana Williamson uses a number of descriptions about herself, among them rebel, agnostic, editor, that seemingly have nothing to do with her profession. Context gives the words meaning.

She grew up in Colombia, the only girl amidst four brothers. Her uncle was a well-known architect there, and early on she hung out in his studio. She always loved to draw and thought she’d become an artist.

“I was a bit of a rebel,” she recalled. “I resisted the double standard of educating girls who were then taught to not show they were smart.

“Luckily, my father really got me. When I set my sights on studying in America, he supported me. The experience opened my eyes to the world of women’s rights, being recognized for your brain not just your looks.”

Ironically, while Ana never lived in Colombia again, her first two projects were completed there in partnership with some cousins.

“Agnostic” is how she describes herself as an architect. “I’m married to good architecture, not a specific kind of design. When starting on a new project, there are intangible ideas tied to aspirations which we, as architects, give form to. We welcome exploration and challenges.

“The home site may dictate something about orientation and where to put the house. The client has goals. Our role is to be the editor.”

Ana was a new mother when she came to Menlo Park 20 years ago and her first projects were doing kitchen and bath remodels, work she got from other mothers who were hanging out in the park with their kids.

She lives in Ladera and has done 15 projects there, six of which were ground up houses. She and her staff of eight juggle as many as 20 projects of different sizes and stages at a time.

“A project is successful if you manage to distill the essence of the life the client perceives for themselves,” she said. “Someone told me, ‘Your homes have soul.’ To me that means  they aren’t empty vessels. That is satisfying.”

Photo by Scott R. Kline (c) 2017

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