Julia Mandell, Associate AIA, LEED AP, is a designer and project manager with broad experience in architecture, landscape, and design journalism. Currently an Associate at Wilson Associates, a small design-build-development firm in Oakland, Julia received her Masters of Architecture from Rice University in 2008 and her Bachelor of Arts in Architecture from Columbia University in 2001.
At Wilson Associates (WA) Julia has served as project designer and manager on commercial and residential projects, including the renovation of a historic brick industrial building into a live/work complex and a mixed-use multi-building expansion on College Avenue in Rockridge. Julia appreciates the collaborative culture at WA, where design and development logics are equally valued and explored during the design process.
Julia has always been interested in the intersections of architecture with other disciplines. She began her career as an editor at Architecture Magazine in the early 2000s, editing technology coverage and casting a critical eye on digital innovations that were irrevocably altering methodologies of design and construction.
During her graduate studies at Rice, Julia focused on landscape urbanism, interested in how ecological and infrastructural processes shaped the city. While her disciplinary scope had expanded, her interest in technology and the processes that create built projects remained: for her Masters Thesis, Julia excavated the history of the Mississippi River and the Atchafalaya Basin Swamp, tracing the ways in which natural systems and institutional mandates shaped the city of New Orleans and its environs.
Building on this work, Julia began her design career with SWA Group, a landscape design firm based in Houston and San Francisco. With SWA Julia acted as project designer on major Houston city parks Lake Houston Park and Buffalo Bayou Park. She designed pedestrian bridges for Buffalo Bayou Park, including the Rosemont Bridge, which has become a new icon for the city. Julia also worked on various projects in
China, most prominently spending three months in Shanghai designing the programming and buildings for an eco-tourism park on Hainan Island.
While designing city parks in Houston, Julia became interested in the funding and approval processes that made her design work possible, pursuing a research fellowship for SWA in environmental mitigation funding for park improvements. Public funding is very different from private development, yet Julia’s interest in the mechanics of urban growth was sufficient to justify a move into private development. In 2012, Julia left SWA to turn her attention to development and design. Her work at Wilson Associates focuses on North Oakland, shaping the city project by project as she did in Houston with SWA.
Julia is a fifth-generation architect and the first woman in her family to pursue the profession. Given this family influence, Julia was passionate about architecture from a young age, seeing it as an outlet for her artistic inclinations.
Julia lives in Oakland with her boyfriend Chris and her cat Rex, reading, writing, dancing, and making things.