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Meet Trailblazer Fernanda Oppermann

Today we’d like to introduce you to Fernanda Oppermann.

So, before we jump into specific questions about the business, why don’t you give us some details about you and your story.
I grew up in Brazil, received my Bachelors in Architecture and Urban Design from UFRJ Rio de Janeiro. I met my American husband while backpacking in Europe and as a result, moved to Los Angeles. I received my Masters in Architecture from USC.

My business partner Jose Herrasti and I met while working at Eric Owen Moss Architects and we discovered that we have similar interests in exploring innovative ways of doing architecture. Mutuo was created from our mutual desire to blur the limits of architecture in order to make space for innovation, in terms of finding new affordable ways of construction, expanding the architects’ role, promoting social inclusiveness.

Great, so let’s dig a little deeper into the story – has it been an easy path overall and if not, what were the challenges you’ve had to overcome?
My experience starting an Architecture studio is that it requires a lot of time and dedication. Architectural projects take years to be completed, especially in Los Angeles, where there is a long permitting process. And, as a result, it takes years for an Architecture studio to be established in the market.

In addition, I joined Mutuo at the same time that I started my family. Having a large family of three kids while working on a start-up hasn’t been easy! However, I have found great partners in my husband (at home) and my business partner (at work). I also have great examples of women in my life. The best one being my mom. She made a decision to stay at home to raise me and my siblings and I can’t appreciate more her dedication to all of us up to this day. She has been one of the strong voices telling me not to give up on my career.

My advice is for young women to pursue their passions, acknowledging that the road is often long and you will need a good support system along the way. Find the right people to surround yourself with. Also, there is no right time to start a business. When you are ready to try, do your best, persist, and know it is not going to be perfect, but it will be an interesting journey.

Alright – so let’s talk business. Tell us about Mutuo – what should we know?
Jose and I both grew up in Latin countries (Jose is from in Mexico) and we have seen that our different perspectives are often helpful to challenge some of the status quo in the US. For example, we are trying different methods to build more affordably, we are also thinking of ways to make public spaces more accessible to all.

We have been trying to create architecture that socially impacts life in the city of Los Angeles, creating more opportunities for people to access housing and meaningful built spaces. Through architecture, we hope to foster inclusiveness. We have also been working on our own real estate developments as we believe architects should be more active in high-level decisions that transform our cities.

So much of the media coverage is focused on the challenges facing women today, but what about the opportunities? Do you feel there are any opportunities that women are particularly well-positioned for?
My experience juggling family and work made me more flexible, adaptable and required thinking outside the box to accomplish tasks. Time also became more valuable. I have had to think strategically about what work is really important to me and worth the time I’m spending away from my little kids. It gave me more focus and energy to pursue meaningful projects. By training these important skills (adaptability and strategic thinking) women can position themselves to better accomplish their career goals.

Contact Info:

Image Credit:
Fernanda and Jose_photo by Luciana Varkulja
Boyle Tower – Photography by Caca Santoro
Camulos ADU – Photography by Caca Santoro
Leon Adaptive reuse 1-photo by Caca Santoro
Leon Adaptive reuse 2-photo by Caca Santoro
North Shore Pavilion 2 – image 1 by Marilu Godinez
North Shore Pavilion 2 – image 2 by Marilu Godinez
North Shore Park Pavillion 1-image by Luis Tornel

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