Featured Member - Yanitza Brongers Marrero, AIA

As the first Hispanic president of AIA Columbus and only the fourth female president in the chapter's history, Yanitza Brongers Marrero believes surrounding yourself with diverse voices leads to better designs.


Yanitza Brongers Marrero, AIA, grew up in Puerto Rico and attended what was then the only architecture school on the island; she was one of just 60 students accepted that year. Now she is director of housing and associate principal at Moody Nolan, along with being the first Hispanic president of AIA Columbus and the fourth woman president of the chapter since it was chartered in 1913. As such, she has embraced one of AIA Columbus’s strategic goals: to push for diversity and to ensure that design is inclusive and addresses multiple perspectives.

As a youth, I was always inclined toward architecture without really knowing that it was a profession. Growing up very close to Old San Juan, I have always been amazed that buildings and urban patterns from the 16th century remain so relevant in modern times.

As I grew up, I was never sure of what I wanted to study. People would say, “You like drawing and you’re good at science and math; consider architecture.” I had a neighbor who was a draftsman for a big firm and he said, “You should come to my office and see what architects do.” I did, and was very impressed by the high-rise residential buildings that they were designing and developing. It struck me that they were significantly shaping the future of a city by doing work that would leave a legacy and have an impact. I thought about how, after we are gone, something that we work on could still stand and make a difference in the world. Like Michael Graves, FAIA, once said, “Don’t make something you are not going to be proud of in your lifetime, let alone 100 years from now.”

Find out more about AIA's efforts to broaden equity, diversity, and inclusion and create a stronger profession.

After architecture school at the Universidad de Puerto Rico, I made my way to The Ohio State University for graduate school and stayed in Columbus, a thriving and interesting city. I have been involved with AIA Columbus for 18 years, engaging with my community through fun opportunities and great people. I have led events and developed my leadership and design skills by working with others outside the office. I believe it is extremely important to engage and to serve, as at times I've wished that other Hispanic moms were across the table or in the room. It is key to have role models in our communities; our youth and our clients need it. I want to prove that balancing a family and a career is a doable task. I want to support women, Hispanics, and other rising voices.

Housing is the focus of my practice at Moody Nolan. Columbus’s current mayor has emphasized the relevance of providing affordable housing in the city’s downtown; it is is a growing city, and young people want to live in urban centers. We need to provide housing for all; housing with diverse pricing options; housing with convenient access to safe schools, transportation, markets, libraries, and healthcare. As architects, we can play a huge role in creating livable cities through thoughtful planning. We need to be mindful of social, economic, political, and climate issues. We need to consider these issues on every project.

Through my involvement with AIA this past year, I have participated in community forums and communicated what architects do and how we can contribute. Recently, I spoke to a resident who resides in one of our projects; she said that living in this community was better than winning the lottery. She reminds me to remember the people we serve.

Architects must advocate for policies that preserve and promote community-minded projects and urban places. AIA has given me opportunities to speak to policy makers and community leaders about the importance of architecture, of affordable housing, and of historic tax credits to policy. Architects must realize the relevance of our advocacy for policies that strengthen our cities. We need to be outwardly focused professionals, communicating the relevance of design and the impact that it has on everyday lives. Architecture is a social enterprise. We should welcome the chance to serve the needs of our communities; all architects are citizen architects. —As told to Steve Cimino

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Image credits

Yanitza Brongers Marrero, AIA - main image

Moody Nolan

Poindexter Village Community Transformation Project - Moody Nolan

Feinkenopf Photography

Bridge Park in Dublin, Ohio - Moody Nolan

Moody Nolan