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Turning an idea into a building: Meet Katie LaForest

Katie LaForest enjoys the familiar feeling she gets every time she enters a building during construction. Even though, up until that point, it has never existed, except in her mind or on paper.

"That initial moment gets me every time!"

She loves every piece of the process - from the initial creative spark, interactions with people throughout the various stages of the project and ultimately witnessing the final product once built. 

What do you want to be when you grow up?

Ironically, upon architecture being suggested as a potential career, Katie admitted, "I was skeptical."

As a child, she didn’t actually know what an architect did. However, for one who showed a growing aptitude both artistically and mathematically, architecture offered an avenue for marrying those natural abilities. Though reticent, she listened to the recommendation and pursued her degree.

photo credit Anthony Musmanno

It was within the design program at Virginia Tech which included a hand’s on studio environment and travel programs that her hesitation was alleviated. 

“The program solidified my love for buildings and how they impact people's lives both intimately and as part of the greater urban or natural context.”

Just what we love to hear at Mycelia Development!

Finding her tribe

Following graduation and a stint at a small Pittsburgh firm, Katie landed as an Associate Principal with mossArchitects, gravitating towards their portfolio of urban projects with a high focus on design - which is perfectly suited for a project like the Portobello.

photo credit Anthony Musmanno

Katie is both intrigued and appropriately challenged by the mix of uses within the Portobello. The project strives to protect the unique personalities of each separate space, ranging from ceramics and theater to shopping and offices while also creating a fluid, cohesive experience for staff and visitors. Natural connections between such unique spaces may be unheard of in a traditional building, but Katie chooses to celebrate this tension. 

photo credit fl.2/Fairmont Pittsburgh

It's not the first time she's tackled a challenging project. While working on the Floor2 restaurant within the Fairmont Hotel in downtown Pittsburgh, she worked with an interior designer located in Barcelona, Spain, while also coordinating construction within the 24/7 occupied hotel. Through collaboration with the design and construction teams, creativity, and a fantastic hotel owner, the 2-year project was a success. 

A tale of two architects

Married to an architect, it would seem their eyes are always looking up and around to critique the spaces and buildings they visit. Only, when not working, those eyes are on their three young sons. 

“If I wasn’t an architect, I’d be busy wrangling the boys, reading or baking.”

Though a trip to Scandinavia, whose modern, yet functional architecture she finds appealing is also on her bucket list. 

“I enjoy how their architecture responds to the environment.”

With a passion for urban settings, design and how the Portobello will respond within the environment of 7th Avenue in Beaver Falls, Katie, one of several team members working on our project, is positioned wonderfully to guide us through our countdown to breaking ground. 

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