Anna Alexandra Kissell

Owner, Summit Architecture + Design

Manhattan Beach, California

Master of Architecture, Boston Architectural College

Bachelor of Science in Architecture, University of Maryland

Why did you become an architect?

I became an architect because of my influences: family, friends, and travel experiences, as well as my desire to design for people. I believe architecture can change the way we live.

Why did you decide to choose the schools, University of Maryland and Boston Architectural College? What degree(s) do you possess?
Please describe the transition between the two degrees.

I chose the University of Maryland with its Bachelor of Science in Architecture primarily for its architecture program; the location, campus, athletics, and community were other greatly contributing factors. The architecture program allowed a greater exposure to non-degree courses during the first two years and an aggressive studio approach and focus on degree courses for the last two years.

I chose the Boston Architectural College (BAC) for the flexible structure of the Master of Architecture and ability to gain professional experience in parallel to my education. The program is designed to fit the schedules of working architectural professionals who would like to continue working full-time yet have the ability to achieve a Master of Architecture. In the profession today, non-academic experience is an advantage in a competitive field of talent.

I decided to start the Master of Architecture program part-time at the BAC in the fall after receiving my degree from Maryland because my employer provided educational assistance.

Given your educational path, do you have any insight to share?

Starting a career in architecture is exciting and time consuming. There are myriad paths that lead to the same professional standing and the path you pursue does not necessarily require graduate education or a licensure. Take time between undergraduate and graduate studies may be beneficial to affirm what path you want to pursue. From my experience, once you start your profession then add in graduate studies, you need to be prepared for the demands from both, simultaneously. It will require a systematic balance of your schedule, relationships, and work load.

Why did you wish to start your own design practice, Summit Architecture + Design

I primary reason I decided to start my own design practice is growth. We do not grow unless we challenge ourselves. I knew starting my own practice would be a tremendous challenge as I would now have to learn and run all aspects of a business in addition to the performing the actual design work.

"We do not grow unless we challenge ourselves."

There are constraints and limitations working for someone else. Pre-pandemic, firms provided little flexibility in regard to our work schedules and physical location. Mid to large scale firms tend to hold onto outdated practices and policies. Starting a design practice has given me more creative space, mentally and physically, the ability to lead decision-making and most importantly, build a new type/generation(?) of practice.

What are your primary responsibilities and duties starting a design practice?

  • Building relationships within the industry
  • Acquiring new business
  • Setting up a strong creative strategy and portfolio on platforms that are relevant to the audience you are targeting.
  • Researching and implementing the financial, legal, and liability-based demands and requirements of a new

What has been your greatest challenge as a new business owner

  • Building credibility and trust

When starting a design practice, it is important to establish credibility and trust.  I am transparent about my past experience and current capabilities with my clients up front.  This will contribute to building credibility over time.

Where do you hope your design practice will be in 5 to 10 years?

In 10 years, I aspire to lead a well-rounded business. To work alongside diverse talent, collaborate with creative professionals, and bring in unique clientele and projects that are challenging. Lastly, I would like to contribute to thoughtful, adaptive, and sustainable design solutions that make people healthy and happy.

Who or what experience has been a major influence on your career?

Travel, near and far, has been the most influential on my career. I have a yearning for experiencing different cultures, climates, land, food, people, and architecture. Sensory experiences are the most impactful on my designs; they give me multiple ways to approach a design project or problem, while focusing on what part of the design is most important.

"Travel, near and far, has been the most influential on my career."