My pathway to licensure was accomplished by way of the patience and willingness of my mentors. In 1970, due to social and financial circumstances, I determined that the best opportunity for me was licensure through apprenticeship. Military veterans were eligible for a two-year, $250 per month education benefit. The nation’s opposition to the Vietnam War essentially narrowed veterans to re-enter society through the back door, or so it felt. Continuing onto a university after community college with certain encounters and witness of protest and demonstrations was not a comfortable option for me, so I selected the alternative California apprentice pathway.
The two significant mentors in my career development were men of faith, dedication, and integrity, each of them influencing my approach to professional practice in different ways. Eduardo J. Samaniego, a sole proprietor, instilled in me what it meant to be an architect and advocate for community; contribute to the profession; and carry the responsibility of protecting the public’s health, safety, and welfare. Mel Gianni, a masterful technician, raised my consciousness, respect and attention to detail in the balance of art and science. Mel served as chief architect for Kistner, Wright & Wright, a legendary civic, healthcare, and school architectural practice in Los Angeles.
We make a living by what we get; we make a life by what we give.
Eduardo J. Samaniego
Eduardo’s office was a converted Victorian, located on the west edge of downtown Los Angeles. We would lunch in the kitchen where his resident younger brother would often cook. The Samaniego family migrated from Mexico after the eldest brother had become a successful movie celebrity. The topic of conversations would revolve around art, architecture, history, travel, and current news.
Eduardo would coach me on the powers of persuasive speaking and the values of "big picture" perspectives. I would stay up late racking my brain researching, analyzing, and finally formulating at least one solution to various architectural details. The next day, when presenting my ideas, he would always respond with the same sentence, “Let’s see, you can solve this in a number of ways,” where upon he would sketch out several ideas. It was not until I learned the value of big picture perspective that I could truly appreciate what he was teaching me. Eduardo’s business approach to architecture was simple and matter of fact—“if you charge nothing for your services, your services are worth nothing.”
Mel would impress upon me to "Think." Quality document deliverables should mean what they say, and say what they mean. He would share stories from his days at Kistner, Wright & Wright and his experiences with client/contractor interactions. Visiting a job site with Mel was like walking through a learning laboratory. He would point out details from drawings and how they contributed to the constructability of a project. Mel’s lessons in leadership were measured; discipline was exemplified by his examples of professional conduct.
Today, I often find myself echoing the teachings of Eduardo and Mel, which have been instrumental in the shaping of my approach to practice and commitment to mentorship. My pathway to licensure was made possible by their willingness to invest in me, and impart the lessons of their journeys.
Pasqual V. Gutierrez, AIA
Managing Principal, HMC Architects Los Angeles