The Unstoppable Marissa A. Iamello, AIA, in the AIA New Jersey Women In Architecture Spotlight

March 15, 2019

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Like most kids, I grew up playing with LEGOs, however, I also grew up in an architect’s office (TTIA in Deal). From a young age, I colored with Prismacolors at my Dad’s drafting table. In high school, I learned CAD and interned at his office picking up redlines and learning how to read drawings. That was back when blueprints still smelled like ammonia.
I went to Cornell to study architecture, graduated with a B.ARCH and was recruited right from school to work for KPF. I wanted to venture out and learn on my own. Two years of curtain wall buildings and the recession hit, I moved back home. Working locally at the Jersey Shore, I dabbled in Residential architecture while studying for and passing the LEED exam. Then I was asked to return to KPF to work directly with Principal Jill Lerner who took me under her wing and mentored me. I learned a great deal about programming and planning for universities, client relationships, and design. I studied to get my license. I finally passed all 7 when my boyfriend (now husband) and I committed to spending every Saturday and Sunday at the library as he simultaneously studied for the CFA exam.
After a few years of fast-paced NYC life, I got burnt out and came back to the quiet Jersey Shore working again in Residential, and now in Civic architecture. During the course of a year, I got married, bought a house, and found out that at a young age, I had a rare cancer that affects one in a million people. It was at almost precisely the same time I was approached to get more involved in my local chapter of the AIA. Why not, I thought? Becoming more active in my new president-elect role, I kept busy by planning the programs for my members and keeping my mind off my reality. I showed up to meetings bald, and sometimes sporting a chemo fanny-pack. Now, 2 years cancer free, I serve as the Jersey Shore President and have a baby on the way. “How is the pregnancy affecting your presidency?” I have been asked. I’m a woman, a survivor, and an architect…I can multitask.

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