Laura Hall is an architect and has been employed at Ford, Powell, & Carson Architects and Planners, Inc. for the past 13 years. A 1991 John Jay High School graduate (Northside ISD), Laura earned her Bachelor of Science in Architecture, UTSA, in 1996, then she earned her Master of Architecture, Columbia University GSAPP, in 2000.
Laura’s journey has been one of varied studying and traveling. She was an exchange student in Mexico City for five weeks as part of the UTSA/UNAM exchange program where she studied architecture with other students. She went on a mission trip to Guadalajara with Village Parkway Baptist Church in San Antonio where the group built pews for a Baptist church there. She has traveled to Montreal and Quebec City, Canada; to The Netherlands (Rotterdam, Utrecht, and Amsterdam); to Italy – where she was one of the Columbia University students who exhibited work at the U.S. Pavilion during the 2000 Venice Architecture Biennale – and while there experienced Florence, Verona, and the countryside near Traviso; a brief stopover in London where she visited a friend, Lesley; to Latvia on a mission trip with the singles group of Calvary Baptist in NYC where they taught arts and crafts at an English-speaking camp for orphans.
Back in 1999, because she had found herself struggling to find work with the architecture firms in San Antonio, Laura accepted an invitation from her friend Lesley who had invited her to stay with her and her family in Cape Town, South Africa. There, Laura subsequently took an internship. Not knowing what to expect, she found that the people were wonderful and embraced her, treating her like family. As a bonus, she found a great internship with GAPP Architects and Urban Planners. Laura’s boss there, the late Ivor Prinsloo, saw in her a determination and willingness to work. Because of his influence, she thinks of him as a “pivotal mentor in my career.”
Laura also spent eight years in New York City where she first lived as a graduate student at Columbia University and later as a designer at an architectural firm. She refers to this era as her “formative years,” in part because it was during that time that her Christian walk grew. She taught fourth-grade Sunday school at Calvary Baptist Church, was part of the worship team in the singles group, and taught Bible study with graduate students from all parts of the world.
Elaborating, Laura says that she found it easy to share the gospel with people in New York, “…whether it was with my classmates in graduate school, at the office, or with a stranger on a train, because people were willing to listen and willing to admit their need for something greater than themselves.” She admits that sometimes she “was put down for my faith, but, at other times, people were encouraged to return to church.”
While working in New York, Laura was introduced to the ACE Mentor Program when her boss, John di Domenico of di Domenico + Partners, suggested that she volunteer as a mentor. ACE was founded in New York City 25 years ago and has since grown across the country. ACE stands for Architecture, Construction, and Engineering – the industry usually refers to itself as A-E-C. The acronym ACE, however, is used for the mentoring program. Its mission is “to engage, excite and enlighten high school students to pursue careers in architecture, engineering, and construction through mentoring and to support their continued advancement in the industry.”
As a result of her experiences in South Africa and New York, Laura was inspired to help get the ACE Mentor Program started in San Antonio “so that other young adults would not have to struggle in their career path like I did,” she explains. Laura is the co-founder, past chairperson, and current board member of the ACE Mentor Program of Greater San Antonio, Inc. Currently, 245 students and over 90 mentors from the A-E-C industry volunteering are involved. Five school districts participate and 11 high schools are part of the program including Laura’s alma matter, John Jay HS.
Laura is thankful to be a part of “a wonderful mentoring organization that is positively affecting our community and the lives of young adults.” The organization is preparing to have a huge celebration in Washington D.C. later this year to commemorate this milestone anniversary.
Another event Laura experienced while working in NYC that was a milestone in her life was the 9/11 tragedy. “I witnessed the destruction of the World Trade Towers first hand. I rarely speak about that day and I never intend to see footage of the day,” Laura sadly relates. She elaborates, “What the rest of the country did not see is the loss of hope that I saw in the months that followed. New Yorkers were constantly being run out of the subway due to bomb threats; people were committing suicide; I found myself comforting children in the Sunday school class I helped out with as they were frightened by all the threats of attack; and, when the economy fell in response to the attack, many lost their jobs, including me. I was close enough to see the towers fall, but I am so thankful I was out of harm’s way and protected in my office several blocks away.”
However, Laura relates that by the following year, New Yorkers had begun to show hope. She observed that once again they were willing to help out strangers at a moment’s notice. Laura reflects, “To this day, I still find New Yorkers to be some of the kindest people I have ever met because they have proven in my life that they are the first to run to help in time of need. They may seem cold and too busy, but the truth is that they are honest and sincere. They tell it like it is, even if it’s not always what you want to hear. New Yorkers have no time for small talk.”
In her present position in San Antonio today, Laura says that, in general, she works primarily on higher education, waterfront, and trail-way projects. But the most exciting project that she has been a part of is the San Antonio River Walk Museum Reach. This extension of the River Walk and river boat tour runs from Lexington Ave. to just past the Pearl Brewery to Josephine Street. It is a surprisingly peaceful experience with a real lock that raises the barge, fascinating local art work, decorative bridges, and interesting vegetation – a true asset to San Antonio attractions.
In addition to her architectural work and work-related projects, including serving as a guest speaker at various events promoting mentoring, Laura also enjoys photography, piano, graphic design, and traveling. And she adds with joy that her marriage to Daryl Hall “…is the most exciting thing in my life. God didn’t introduce me to Daryl till I was 42 years old. Daryl is a sweet surprise and gift from God.”