Cara McConnell: Structural Integrity

At the core of  everything we do is a propelling idea, emotion, or inspiration that we can not always explain. It drives us in towards our goals and shapes the trajectory we take for our lives. Along this path we most assuredly find distractions and obligations that can deter our course and break from our path, and separate us from alignment with that core. These considerations form the world around us, the context in which we operate that without, may leave us wandering. It is argued that pure creativity is thought and feeling realized in the absence of limitation in a free environment, but Cara McConnell and the work she does proves otherwise. As a designer, planner, manager, engineer, and woman she must exact her motive within the context of her environment. Her creativity thrives not only in spite of the ruleset, but because of it.

Anyone that works in a client based field understands the concept that “the customer is always right” but when the customer is asking you to protect their investment, property, or brand some times they are not right. Having to manage expectations of the client, building code, and aesthetic all influence Cara’s intent and in fact it is that influence that really defines how good she is at it. “My job is to say, ‘This is where we can do something creative or cool and this is where we can’t.”she explains.


It is not as if all the parameters are necessarily laid out, there is prerequisite quoting, mapping, and drawing that fleshes out more considerations on this original intent. So not only will there be a maze of prices, timelines, and measurements to navigate but the task also requires an investigative approach to finding and resolving problems before they happen. It’s a bit like building a spaceship, which is somewhat ironic given that she is currently an architectural designer and project manager for the hospitality design and construction firm Spacecraft. Their boards are a familiar sight in Los Angeles, covering multiple locations through out the city that is always getting a facelift.

Since Spacecraft provides architecture services as well as general contracting McConnell spends about 50% of her day at the desk and the other half on the job site. When you are looking for the general contractor on a location the person you are least likely to associate with that title would tend to be the one with bouncy curls, a perfect smile and high heels. This brings to light a whole series of considerations that we don’t often acknowledge when we think of creativity. That is the social context of the work and the artist. In order to be effective she needs to be assertive and competent to gain trust and respect, but not overbearing.


From a personal standpoint Cara has the option of toning down her personal style or femininity, but it is not one she chooses to exercise. She also has the option of taking every opportunity to remind the people on her teams that she is a woman, this is also not the approach she chooses to take. She had this to say on feminism, “Supporting feminist ideas, has to be subtle in its application. Because it so charged, I do not apply it to my work. It is neither feminine or masculine, it is just my work.”

Of course no one needs a reminder that she is a woman, and her proficiency and position command attention, so when she pulls up in her racing striped Mini-Copper and steps out in heels and a chiffon blouse with a set of plans. People listen. She fancies her self an ok cook stating, “I am good at making simple things seem better than they are by using other ingredients.” But that tactic isn’t needed at the workplace. Cara has the meat and potatoes to get things done and finds satisfaction in being able to technically produce a vision for a client as well as her own visions.


She is working on a lighting fixture that she describes as “romantic industrial”, contrasting the masculinity in traditional industrial design. This idea is mixing large pieces that create a monumental feeling with more delicate things. Cara still has to take talent into mind as well. You might have a great idea but there is always the burden of the manufacturing process and whether or not it can be made cost-effectively or on within schedule limitations.

Cara McConnell’s creative energy persists through the maze of architectural design, while conduction a social balancing act of  confined by materials, finances, and unrelenting constraints of time. Each compromise impresses its will on her design, and motive, but she collaborates with the parameters and works within the confines to build something new where there was nothing. She works with a high level technical skill but the spaces she crafts are exist beautifully and organically much like Cara herself.



Cara McConnell




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