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Conversations with the Inspiring Sona Gevorkyan

Today we’d like to introduce you to Sona Gevorkyan.

So, before we jump into specific questions, why don’t you give us some details about you and your story.
I was born in a town called Ashtarak in Armenia and lived there until I was 10. When I think back to my childhood, it seems like it was someone else’s life, but as I grew older and moved around the globe, I realized I have a keenness for big cities. Metropolitan areas with tall buildings and busy life give me thrill and inspiration. Everyone looks like they are hustling and I want to be a part of it. Yet, I am thankful for my childhood experience in a small town, because it gave me exposure to the vernacular – the smell of the old and the taste of the traditional. Going back to visit is always a meditative experience, where the mind rests and reflects.

Some people know what they want to be from a younger age, but this was not the case with me. However, the last time I visited Ashtarak, I realized that it greatly influenced my perception of the natural world and the man-made environment as well as, at times, the blurred edge between the two. My journey to architecture is somewhat cliché, I liked math in college but I also really enjoyed my art classes so I decided to “try” architecture. From the first class, I fell in love with it. It was the combination of many things but mainly the design process – both creative and analytical, the collaborative and competitive studio culture and the multifaceted approach of the profession in general. I completed my undergraduate degree at the University of Wisconsin – Milwaukee and then attended Southern California Institute of Architecture for my Graduate degree. I had two long-term traditional jobs in an office setting and both were in Interior Architecture. This helped me broaden my field of interest and confirm, one more time, that there is no limit as to how far the design of the built environment can go when one immerses themselves into the creative task.

I founded my practice SGAO (Sona Gevorkyan Architecture Office) in 2015 and have been working on a variety of projects ranging from residential to commercial. I am also currently teaching in the department of architecture at Cal-Poly Pomona. Teaching and practicing are mutually beneficial in many ways, and the challenge is to maintain a healthy balance between the two.

We’re always bombarded by how great it is to pursue your passion, etc – but we’ve spoken with enough people to know that it’s not always easy. Overall, would you say things have been easy for you?
I perceive obstacles as challenges and everybody has challenges. I welcome them, my analytical side kicks in and I try to identify it as a problem and find a solution. This way, I grow. Every few years, I ask myself: am I learning, do I feel challenged? If I feel like I am comfortable I try to find a way to change that. This is not quite an obstacle or a challenge but something I have learned along the way that might be useful for someone who is just starting out: there is a hunger for mentorship, especially amongst women. For the longest time, I thought I needed a mentor because I functioned so well in school under the guidance of my instructors that I felt like I needed someone to tell me how to function after I stopped being a student. Over the years I realized that we romanticize this idea of a mentor. I think you should take advice wherever you can get it (and be critical of it since one formula does not work for everyone). I’ve had and still have many great people in my life who are crucial in my personal and professional development, but ultimately we are our own best advisors. Align yourself with the right people and organizations, read books and never stop seeking education for yourself, and then weed out what is useful to you.

We’d love to hear more about your work and what you are currently focused on. What else should we know?
I am an architect and an interior designer. These are traditional ways of describing what I do. I believe that every detail that goes into creating the environment around us is important, whether it’s graphics, objects we use every day, furniture, finishes, spatial arrangements and experiences, forms of the structure itself, or the landscape around it and how it relates to the broader site settings. How we live makes such a difference in the quality of our lives; this is true to the space that we call home, as well as the office/professional setting in which we spend more than half of our awake hours (and lives), or places that we frequent for entertainment and leisure, such as bars, restaurants, hotels, spas, salons, etc. Spaces we design can be pampering and indulging, comforting and uplifting, precious and meaningful. These are places that not only help create memories but have the potential to serve in defining and shaping who we are.

When I start a project, I try to understand what the client’s and the user’s needs are and how I can make their lives better, not just with the final space, but also through the design and construction process because this can be very frustrating at times. I have worked on a variety of projects since I first opened shop ranging from residential, commercial and hospitality. For me, each project is a treat, I love to immerse into the creative process, solve challenges and bring a space to life. It is very rewarding to see your finished project. (I call them my babies.) It’s a thrill and nothing else has come close to that feeling for me. I think I am one of those lucky people that don’t see their work as a “job.”

Do you have a lesson or advice you’d like to share with young women just starting out?
I usually tend to read either professional books or self-help books. One of the best professional books I have read was a collection of essays in a book called “Architecture: In Fashion” which went through parallels of fashion and architecture and touched on gender issues and what’s perceived as “feminine” and “masculine” in architecture (irrelevant of the author’s identity). This book helped me become aware of my own work. When I was younger, my dad told me to read “How to Win Friends and Influence People” and although the title sounds a bit scheming, I believe it is about approaching the world and others with care and compassion. Last year I finished reading the “Sapiens: A Brief History of Humankind”, which was both educational and cultivating. It explains how the world around us came to be, how Homo Sapiens came to be and thrive, why we might behave the way we behave and what the future might hold for us. I just started reading “Gutsy Women” and am learning so much about the trailblazers that helped us get to where we are now (although we all know there is more work to be done).

I also started running for the first time in my life, and I am using the “Couch to 5k” app. This app is great for someone like me who is an absolute beginner and needs structure and a precise goal for everything, including workouts. I am not big with podcasts but XX|LA is great to introduce you to all the women in the architecture and design community around LA you need to know about.

Contact Info:

  • Address: 117 W 9th Street, Unit 1016,
    Los Angeles CA 90015
  • Website:
  • Phone: 323.813.5497
  • Email:
  • Instagram: @sgao_la

Image Credit:
Jasmine Monet Davis, Tigran Nersisyan

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