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Shawna Mabie, a Project Manager at Hanbury and a recent recipient of both the AIA Young Architects Award and the AIA North Carolina Young Architect Awards, hails from a small, rural city in Central New York State. With a deep-rooted passion for service and hard work, Shawna has devoted her career to nurturing the next generation of architects. Her contributions span volunteerism, academia, and professional practice, with notable contributions spanning local, state and national levels of the AIA. Shawna has been pivotal in launching leadership initiatives, such as the Leadership Forum and Mentorship PODS, and she serves as an Adjunct Faculty member at her alma mater, NC State. In our conversation, Shawna shares her earliest Hanbury memory, the critical role of mentorship, and her sources of inspiration.

What is your earliest memory at Hanbury?

Walking into a client meeting on my second day for a new project I was going to work on, it turns out the client and contractor were ones I'd already worked with. When I walked into the room, the client greeted me like family. It was really cool that on my second day at Hanbury, I walked onto this project with a team I already felt comfortable with. It made me excited to dig in and work with them. They had even provided my recommendation to Hanbury without my knowing!

A standout project

All of sPARK, really. It helped me grow and stretch in ways I hadn't imagined I could. Working on seven projects simultaneously on one campus had its challenges, but it was also really rewarding to think about the project more holistically, as a whole campus instead of just a single building. It feels like we've had a greater impact on the site and community by being a part of that project from the beginning.

sPARK LS campus in Raleigh, NC

A mentor

It's someone I worked with at a previous firm, Joe Wagner. I worked with him for three years, and he significantly contributed to my growth and learning. I was doing lab planning with him, which I really enjoyed, and he was just so patient. Whenever I had a question, he would stop what he was doing to answer it and walk me through things. What stands out the most about Joe was his understanding that I'm a very impatient person. I consider it one of my greatest strengths and weaknesses. Recognizing this impatience in me, he shared one of my favorite quotes: "Architecture is a marathon, not a sprint." I try to remind myself of that whenever I start to get frustrated that things aren't moving as quickly as I'd like. So, you could say he taught me patience, or at least helped me become conscious of it.

A recent source of inspiration

It's going to sound so cheesy, but my daughter, who's four. Watching her grow, learn about the world, and see things with fresh eyes has been so inspirational. She looks at everything with such an innocent, fresh perspective and makes profoundly observant remarks sometimes. It's just fun to watch and be inspired, knowing she represents the future we're all working towards. So, she inspires me a lot.

What excites you the most about our industry?

It’s humbling to realize that we have such a big impact on our clients and the communities in which we work. These things that we're designing and creating - these buildings and spaces - will become places that people visit, possibly spending more time there than they do at home. So, the thought of becoming a backdrop to someone’s life is really humbling, knowing that we will be a part of their lives in a very tiny way.

A favorite city to visit

I know it sounds cliché, but Venice, Italy, is one of my favorite places to visit. The absence of cars and the presence of canals make it feel like such a different world than the one I live in everyday. It’s a fun place to completely get away and disconnect, almost like living in a novel.

A place you'd like to visit that you haven't yet.

The thermal baths in Switzerland, which I'm hoping are a part of the upcoming design retreat! (It’s why I applied for the design retreat.) I studied them in school, so they've been on my bucket list.

If not architecture, what alternative career path would you have pursued? 

A veterinarian. I love animals so much, but I’d probably take way too many home.

One thing you can't live without. 

Ice cream.

Early bird or night owl.

Pre-kid, I was 100% an early bird. Now, as a mom, I stay up really late because that's the only time I can get things done after she's in bed. So, now I'm a night owl. We'll see—maybe when she goes off to college someday, I'll go back to being an early person.

Do you have any special hobbies, talents or interests? 

I used to be cool and ride a motorcycle. This again, was before I had a kid. The last time I rode was when I was pregnant, and it was so nerve wracking that I never did it again. Now that I have my daughter, I feel like it's so incredibly dangerous to ride a motorcycle.

Someday I will go back to riding. We're getting to the point where we're going to take the motorcycles back to the racetrack again. We might not ride them on the street, but we like to take them to the racetrack. So my cool, fun hobby is that I like to take motorcycles to the race track and race, and I hope that I can live up to that again someday.

I also read a lot. I read a ton of books, fiction and nonfiction.

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