Perspectives 10.08.2020

Conversations with Colleagues: Morel Orta

A Project Designer in our Boston studio, Morel reflects on Hispanic and Latin Heritage Month 2020

Q: What message about design’s positive influence on the world would you most like to get out there?    

A: As designers of the built environment, we must concentrate on leaving the world in a better shape than we found it. I am not talking only environmentally, I am talking about creating buildings that generate jobs, create buildings that are comfortable for people to live in and thrive, create buildings that heal, create schools that are conducive to learning, create a built legacy that, when your kids/grandkids drive by them, they can say dad/grandpa worked on the design of that building. Remember that our work will outlast us, and buildings take so long to complete we may get 20 to 30 chances at designing buildings in a lifetime, so get them right! They are all important!

Q: What drew you to the design profession, and what is keeping you here? 

A: I believe I was born to be an architect, so it has always been my bedrockAs a kid, my parents used to buy little matchbox cars for me (like most parents), and instead of just playing with them, I used to build models of cities so my cars could drive around. Highways of cardboard, handrails of spaghetti, light poles of Q-tips. I loved creating cities and I still do, now just in real life. So, what started as a hobby and playful games became a career. My first job after my Bachelor’s and even before my Master’s was as a model maker and I loved it. During the interview I said I had decades of experience and told this story.  

Q: In what ways do you feel your work is contributing to diversity, inclusion, and engagement in broader society?  

Hispanics are the largest minority in the US, though I do not believe this ratio is always reflected within the design profession and especially within its leadership. I do believe, however, that my experiences of living in different places, of extensive travel, and growing up in a modern Latin American city plays a huge role in my designs and on how I tend to view the world.

I am a Latino immigrant from Venezuela, not from riches but from a medium to poor household, where my grandpa was an illiterate carpenter, and my grandma was a homemaker. My dad is the oldest of nine kids and graduated with honors from Boston University, so I have seen what effort does, and regardless of background you can make anything happen if you believe in it enough.

Q: As a leader in the design industry, what steps do you take to expand professional design opportunities to members of Hispanic communities? 

A: I volunteer in many fronts, from design reviews for Master’s Thesis of Architecture, to being a member of the Board of Directors at a nonprofit for artists, to teaching sailing at a local sailing school. I try to get my voice out there as much as I can and connect with other Hispanics in our language to engage them and encourage them to be comfortable. It is easy to feel like a minority here, and to feel like your voice will not be heard. I encourage the people I meet to reach for their goals, and to think about opportunities they may not have thought of or be aware of. We are all a team – I know that our world will be richer for the inclusion of other voices and their perspectives.