Through the Eyes of an Intern at PHA

  My very own PHA mug! 

It’s a Monday morning in August and I find myself looking forward to a nice cup of coffee with the good company of my colleagues at Paul Halajian Architects. Sadly, however, this is my last week of work before I leave for Graduate School.  My experience at PHA has been one of the best experiences of my life.  Not only do I enjoy working there but I enjoy each new friend that I have made.  I feel welcome every time I walk in the door to the small but comfortable office we call PHA.  Each day is a great experience starting with a theme to our Pandora Station for the day—“Any Requests?” they range from classic rock to jazz to even dubstep.  FUN is the only word to describe the work at the office.  Memories of finding new innovative ways to retrieve your keys from inside your locked car by fitting a T-square through the window, sharing memories of a baby’s first visit to the office, group discussions around the “conference table” aka the center of the room, creating our very own revit entourage by taking pictures of ourselves, and sharing weekend stories are amongst the great memories I have. 

It is clear that we all enjoy what we do and we love to share it with each other.  Although we do have our frustrating moments with the beloved program REVIT, in the end it is a group effort and one way or another we find a solution.  It has been such a privilege to be able to work alongside such talented people who are eager to help in any way.  I have learned more from this group of people than I could have ever imagined and it excites me to know that I am doing exactly what I love--ARCHITECTURE.  What I didn’t learn in school was that architecture isn’t just about the creativity or the design it is a process of many steps from programming to the final construction and even documentation well after a project is complete.  I had the privilege to document some of the work that the staff had previously worked on.  Through the lens of my camera I was able to explore the design and urban settings of some very innovative projects in downtown Fresno.  Not only did I realize that Fresno has such a great potential for design, but I discovered places that I had never seen before. 

My colleagues at Paul Halajian Architects have not only been a great learning source they have been great friends as well.  I can only hope to create an environment as well put together, collaborative, and welcoming as the one at PHA.  You all will be greatly missed!

San Francisco here I come! 




Fresno Pacific University selects Paul Halajian Architects to design new Fine Arts Facility  

Paul Halajian Architects was recently selected to design the new $12 million Fine Arts Facility on the Fresno Pacific University campus, and will be working with Quiring General Contractors.  Programming and pre-design is expected to begin on the project shortly.

From Classroom to Office: What I've Learned My First Year


The end.

Just kidding. But really, so many things! A year ago, I was a fresh graduate from the University of Arizona’s BArch program. I was still recovering from the sleep deprivation and endless caffeine overdose.

Having grown up in the Central Valley, I returned to Fresno to pursue a career. After several interviews with local firms, I interviewed with PHA. I immediately knew that this was where I wanted to be.  Finding PHA was the breath of fresh air I needed after five long years of architecture school. It was exciting to see the passion this small group of people had for making the Valley—their home—a better place to live, work and play.

And here I am a whole year later!  Honestly, how am I supposed to summarize EVERYTHING I’ve learned?? Yes, my education prepared me to enter the workforce, but there are many things I didn’t expect (or thought I knew) that really were completely different. So, here’s my best attempt at a few takeaways from my first year of employment and advice for new graduates or young professionals entering the workforce:

Work is life. Life is work.

Let me explain. This isn’t school. At first, it was so exciting to leave work most days with no homework. But as much as I don’t want to admit it, I realized that I actually missed the homework. I wanted to read, listen to podcasts and get involved in the community. Connecting with Downtown Academy (shameless plug here if you’re interested in changing your city) and getting involved with service projects have opened my eyes to the way architecture not only impacts my day job, but my hours spent outside the office as well. Granted, there are some nights you’ll work late, and early mornings filled with coffee and endless emails. But, in the same way that school consumed and often overwhelmed me, work overwhelms me with a passion for learning new parts of Architecture in each day.

Another thing: Architecture will ruin you. Mostly for good, but it can and will haunt you. In school, I’d notice pieces of history or great details in buildings. After working for a year, you have no idea how many buildings I’ve walked into and all I’ve noticed are the code violations.

It’s all in who you know.

Your parents, if anything like mine, probably told you this endlessly growing up as you rolled your eyes back at them. But IT’S TRUE people! Finding connections (and maintaining them) through positive work relationships is so critical. I’ve seen every member of our firm interact with clients, community members, owners, and consultants with a great respect and integrity. Makes me proud to be a part of a team that represents such good business practices in a field I heard would be lucrative and egocentric.

The butterfly effect.

Small changes ALWAYS = huge changes. You’ve got to think in 4D. A change in plan has an effect on the building section, on the elevation, on the aesthetic of the space. Investigate how that quick plan tweak is going to resolve itself in the other dimensions before jumping into it.

There’s a joke I shared with some of my classmates about everything in design taking “20 minutes”. Turns out, this still applies to work. Oh yeah, just change the door swing? That’ll only take 20 minutes. Cut 1,000 square feet out of a plan? 20 minutes. Review a hardware submittal? 20 minutes. Right… try multiplying that by that mysterious time factor no Architect can define.

Things cost money. Shocker. But even though they told you these things mattered in school, there weren’t real consequences for overlooking them. I’ve realized that every line drawn in CAD or Revit is someone’s money, someone’s home, someone’s investment—and it puts a lot more importance on designing each project efficiently, beautifully and practically.

Holistic designing trumps menial tasks.

This means fun schematic sketches, historical precedents, research and case studies. But it also means some days will be seemingly endless reviewing of toilet accessory submittals. But Mies was right when he said “God is in the details”. Those details are the annoying things that a trained eye will instantly pick out if they’re bad, and the uninformed public probably won’t ever notice. But nonetheless, the most important part of the design and what sets Architecture apart from Building!

Remember the part about maintaining good working relationships? This applies to understanding what your role is and how important consultants are. Even in the earliest stages, it’s important to consider building systems and how their requirements affect the design. Just a general understanding of shear walls, HVAC systems and electrical requirements will help keep consultants happy (and produce a greater environment in the end) when it comes time for them to collaborate on the design.  

In school, I said I’d never work in a small firm, because it would be too quiet and not have fun, big projects. How wrong I was! It’s been great to be in a small collaborative studio the last year, and I’ve learned how important it is to ask questions.  Although terrifying sometimes, the best way to learn is to jump in and learn by doing.

In the past year, I’ve taken (and passed) *fist pump* one ARE section, grown so much as an individual and professional, and been so much more than the intern endlessly drafting away in a windowless cubicle. All this while being surrounded by my great coworkers, willing to teach, mentor and encourage me. I hope to continue to learn more, observe more and travel more. I’m so proud to be serving my city on this team, and can’t wait to see where the future takes us.

-Stephanie Reed

“Architecture should speak of its time and place, but yearn for timelessness.”


Groundbreaking of Faculty Office and Lab Building at Fresno State


Construction is officially under way on the Faculty Office and Lab Building at Fresno State.  Paul and Carolyn were on site for the groundbreaking ceremony held on May 14th, 2014.  It is anticipated that construction will be complete in August of 2015.

For more info on the project, see

See also for ABC 30's coverage of the ceremony.

Paul and Carolyn with President Castro

Groundbreaking Ceremony

CSUF Aquatics in CMACN

The CSUF Aquatics Complex was featured in the October edition of the Concrete Masonry Association of California and Nevada's publication Profiles in Architecture.  See the full digital version of the publication here:


PHA Anniversary

September 1, 2012 marked the second anniversary of the launch of PAUL HALAJIAN ARCHITECTS. Some of the most notable developments that have occurred over the past two years lie in the realm of things that cannot be measured.  Things like:

Personal, professional and spiritual growth

·         Satisfaction with the work product

·         Excitement of getting new projects

·         Learning new technologies and better ways of doing things

When I set out to launch a solo practice two years ago, in one of the most severe economic downturns in U.S. history, I was advised by many that the fall of 2010 was absolutely the worst time to start a business.  Others, mostly consultants who did the same thing I was contemplating, said that they launched their practices in a recession and that’s the best time to start out.  After two years at it, I don’t know for sure, but maybe those whose experiences were positive were on to something.

Starting and running a practice has been exhilarating.  Often, architects complain that they don’t teach you how to run a firm in architecture school.  While true, I am not sure if one can get from a text book all one needs to know about how to start a firm, market, land work, pay bills, recruit and hire talent - all while trying to design great buildings. 

Leading up to this milestone it occurred to me that the greatest measurable sign of the health of PAUL HALAJIAN ARCHITECTS is most graphically represented by a quick look at the two iterations of business cards that I have had since the firm’s inception.  The letter “S” tells the story.  In September of 2010 the “firm” was PAUL HALAJIAN ARCHITECT.  Six months later it is PAUL HALAJIAN ARCHITECTS.  The firm went from an “I” proposition to an “us” reality and the future looks bright.  It is the “us” that speaks of the firm’s success so far.

image caption: graphic depiction of the growth from "I" to "us"

At first my wife Carolyn and I did everything, with my office located at home.  Work started coming in and I had to relocate to an office.  Architect Jamie Steinmetz came alongside early to do lots of heavy lifting, getting things up and running. Her design and technical skills are amazing, making her one of the brightest young architects in the region.  Eight months, later Architect Scott Cochran joined and shortly thereafter, Shaunt Yemenjian.  Scott is very talented and smart.  He dives right in to every project, taking ownership and making it his own with great outcomes.  Shaunt is pursuing architectural licensure and, with a Master’s degree in architecture and a Bachelor’s degree in city planning, his skill set is unique in this area.  The four of us have worked together over the years and have developed a strong collaboration that defines how we choose to practice.

image caption: view of PHA Command Central North Wing

This past summer we had the pleasure of mentoring a bright architect-in-the-making, Cassie Stevens, who is now off working on a Master’s degree in Architecture.  She embodied the apprenticeship nature of architectural practice.  She reminded us that we have all been mentored by someone to get to where we are.

Mike Pinheiro is the most recent member to join the firm.  Mike teaches Maya (a gaming design software language) at College of the Sequoias, has a Bachelor’s degree in Philosophy, is passionate about architecture and is working towards licensure.

Firm culture is huge in terms of success.  One of our greatest strengths is that we share common values about our firm culture, which places importance on being passionate about architecture, veneration for the technics of building and mutual respect for one another believing that better design comes from critical dialogue.

Thanks to Carolyn, Jamie, Scott, Shaunt, Mike and Cassie, as well as those outside the firm who have supported, volunteered, cheered us on, PAUL HALAJIAN ARCHITECTS is looking forward expectantly to what lies ahead in an uncertain time.


Speaking in Support of General Plan Update at Fresno City Council Meeting

Thinking twenty five years ahead is not easy for a person or a small group of people, let alone an entire city with nearly 200,000 residents yet to celebrate their 18th birthday and 112 square miles in land area.

For over a year, the City of Fresno, the General Plan Citizens Committee, the Long Range Planning Team and its citizens have been working towards building consensus around the vision for the future in preparation for a General Plan Update.  For Cities, this most commonly comes in the form of a General Plan or a General Plan Update.  It requires elements which address a number of issues including population, transportation, environment, land use and so on.  Perhaps the most important outcomes however are not the quantifiable items like how many housing units, or travel times for public transportation, but rather the comprehensive vision that is developed for the next twenty five years.

On Thursday, the City Council held a hearing to initiate the General Plan Update to allow for the future adoption of the 2035 Fresno General Plan.  Recognizing the importance of this effort and the impact upon the built environment, Paul Halajian spoke at the meeting to offer enthusiasm and a charge to initiate the process which will improve the City.  Through his involvement in the process of developing the “2035 General Plan Initiation Draft” document, Paul has witnessed an effort that has gathered momentum and inspired several stakeholders to participate in the process and bring their respective issues to the table.  Paul indicates that more than 16 public meetings have taken place, four ‘Alternative Models’  have been prepared by the consulting team and the option which City Council has adopted – ‘Alternative Model “A” - as the path forward is one which “has been vetted and fairly represents several groups.”

As architects, the quality and form of the built environment is important to us but the General Plan and the City’s vision for growth provide us with the ‘where ‘ and ‘how’ that built environment takes shape.

“The plan here given is a program of improvements calculated to cover a period of many years.  The order in which improvements are made, and when, is not so important as that each shall be done as to fi

t into its place in the general plan.”

Harland Bartholomew

2035 General Plan Initiation Draft:

About the Effort:






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