Emerging Professional Award

The Emerging Professional Award recognizes and honors a junior design leader who has advanced the Interior Design profession and enriched Interior Design in Oregon through their hard work and passion for design. Congratulations to the 2020 winner of the Emerging Professional Award: Laura Kienlen! Learn more about Laura in her video feature.

Film credit: Videos filmed and edited by Bryn Silverman.

Laura Kienlen, Associate IIDA
SERA Architects

Design Leader: Laura has proven to be a committed, thoughtful, and subtle but very effective design leader at SERA.  Her leadership in the arena of healthy material tracking coupled with her ability to carefully guide clients and partners through the design process at both large and intimate scales is impressive. She is always curious, always asks the hard questions which is invaluable to moving design forward. Laura is an advocate for design in every role.  She listens to her clients and end users, helps synthesize their goals and ideas, and then uses her intuitive and well-researched design approach to create spaces that are focused on human experience.  She has an ability to pull an unlimited amount of opinions, ideas, and references and interpret them in new ways.  In her current role, Laura has taken on the challenging position of design and programming lead for SERA’s future office, and has approached this political role with a refreshing perspective, both educating the firm leadership on the changing state of workspace (in the times of Covid 19), understanding the internal resistance to change, and still advocating for an adaptable framework for future decision making.  Her calm voice and thoughtful design sensibility go far – both with clients and with her colleagues  – to influence design at every scale. 

Excelled Growth: Over the last five years, Laura has grown into a talented, confident, and creative design leader at SERA.  She has taken advantage of opportunities to reach beyond her comfort zone in each of her project roles, taking leadership opportunities in design roles, stretching into new market areas, and becoming the main client contact in each of her roles.  With her tenacious focus on quality design and human experience, Laura sees each design or project challenge as an opportunity to educate her teammates, or to learn herself.  She approaches every conversation with interest and excitement, and has become a valued collaborator across the firm. Laura has grown from being a mentee to a mentor quickly.  She has become a subject matter expert when it comes to the Healthy Materials movement and has done an excellent job imparting that knowledge clearly to others.  She has gone from being the student to the teacher by creating a Healthy Materials 101 course, getting it certified as a CEU, and presenting it to the interiors group in order to further educate us on sustainable practices. 

Support and Value: Laura is flexible and versatile in her skillset.  She focuses on values she can provide to the firm in every role.  In the current, challenging, time, she has focused on mentoring others, helping them grow skills that she only learned in the last twelve months.  By shifting her focus from individual growth to bringing others up with her,  she is putting the strength of the studio and the firm first, making a larger impact than many others at her level. Laura pushes on many internal efforts at SERA that are centered around healthy materials and other key sustainability design initiatives. She recently finished her course certification for the Parsons School of Design – Healthy Materials course. Laura is taking the time to share her knowledge through training and mentorship. She runs BIM/Revit training sessions for the workplace studio. She takes the time to mentor and teach younger staff, as well as other more experienced staff in areas where she excels.

Community Involvement: Laura has been an active member in IIDA since she was a student and volunteered after graduation as the Director of Internal Communications. She later joined the Forums team in a director position and stepped up to volunteer as an interim VP of Forums. Laura also volunteers time for Meals on Wheels. Perhaps Laura’s biggest contribution to the design community has been her participation in the Portland Materials Transparency Collaborative.  Her openness to share knowledge and enable the design community to focus on incorporating healthy and ecologically-thoughtful materials into our built environment is admirable and a credit to her ethos and design approach.