Featured Member - Rebeca Carrerá, AIA
A recently licensed architect who wants to bring interactive architecture to her home country of Puerto Rico, Rebeca Carrerá didn't let six failed exams in a row get in the way of her dreams.
Rebeca Carrerá, AIA, is a recently licensed architect from Puerto Rico with a detailed story of perseverance. She’s the sort of person who sets her mind to a goal and sees it through; for quite a while, that goal was getting licensed. Through the support of her superiors at her father’s firm, Carrerá Arquitectos, and with the benefit of an all-encompassing commitment to architecture, she was able to power through a particularly rough patch on the road to licensure.
I was born into architecture. My dad is an architect; I remember going to his office when I was little, being fascinated by all the drawings. By the middle of high school, I decided that I wanted to be an architect. Architecture has an immense power over how we grow and evolve. I always thought—and my dad spoke about it in the same way—that architecture stimulates society, and provides spaces with social purposes. It has a direct impact in how we develop.
One of my goals, as I approached college, was to continue playing tennis while simultaneously pursuing a degree in architecture. Syracuse University was the only school I applied to where I didn’t aim to be on the team; I applied because of the amazing architecture program. The other 10 schools I applied to had amazing tennis teams and good architecture programs. And even though I received scholarships to some, none of them would allow me to study architecture while being on the team; I could study anything besides architecture and medicine.
I was faced with the decision of playing tennis with a full scholarship or architecture. I loved tennis but I chose Syracuse, and architecture. From that point on, I never played tennis again, and architecture has been my new obsession. My friends always say that my personality has an obsessive element to it. When I’m doing something, I get obsessed with it; I hate the word obsession but it’s the best way to describe it. And when it comes to architecture, if you’re not completely in it, it just doesn’t feel right.
"My dream is to bring interactive architecture to Puerto Rico; to provide environments that reflect our culture and celebrate our community and diversity."
When I started studying for the ARE, I took my first exam—Schematic Design—and passed after a few hours of studying each night. I thought it wouldn’t be that hard of a ride, then I failed six in a row. It wasn’t the same exam every time; it was a mix of three different exams. I took one and failed; another one, failed; six in a row.
It was hard, leaving work at 6 PM and then studying until 11 PM, so I started working in the mornings and taking the afternoons off. It’s a huge sacrifice, and it affects your life in other ways. At the same time, I have to admit, it tapped into the obsessive part of my personality.
There was perhaps one moment where I doubted myself and thought I wouldn’t be able to get through it all. But after getting upset a few times, I grew more focused. I said to myself, “You don’t have to rush. Don’t procrastinate, but you also don’t have to set a deadline.” So often, we put more pressure on ourselves than we should. My mentality was: I needed to get licensed. If I stopped, it wouldn’t be because I didn’t want to get licensed. It would be giving up. As long as I got there, that’s what would matter. It really doesn’t matter, in my opinion, how long it takes you to get to your goal, as long as you get there. That’s what’s important.
I was lucky enough to be able to coordinate with my job and my supervisors at Carrerá Arquitectos; I know that not everyone is that lucky. I could not imagine having a boss who isn’t flexible, who doesn’t give you the time and the resources you need. The exams take a long time and require a lot of work; not every exam requires a sabbatical but for the harder ones, having the support of your firm is vital.
My dream is to bring interactive architecture to Puerto Rico; to provide environments that reflect our culture and celebrate our community and diversity. I want to make a big difference here, to bring along the ideas I studied in the United States and contribute as much as possible to the development of my father’s firm along his side, pushing us to the edge and beyond our comfort zone. For the small island that we are, we’re highly developed in a lot of ways; in terms of architecture, Puerto Rico has huge potential. One of my dreams is to help the island fulfill that potential. —As told to Steve Cimino