On private residential projects, Ms. Castellanos has worked enthusiastically to improve the design of residences or designed new residences altogether, thereby creating an enhanced lifestyle for her clients. Ms. Castellanos develops a strong team atmosphere with her clients, colleagues, and consulting engineers, and stays involved, hands-on, through all phases of the design and construction of her projects. Her strong leadership skills have turned ideas into very successful projects. Two of her projects were featured on HGTV.
On commercial and institutional projects, she has zeroed in on what are the most important issues or challenges confronting a client, to give these the most cost effective and practical design solutions. Over the years, Ms. Castellanos has developed strong listening skills and is able to put aside her own preferences, in order to work closely with the clients to achieve their goals.
Ms. Castellanos’ interest in architecture started in high school when she lived in the small town of Macon, Georgia. On Sundays, accompanied by her mother and her sister, she would visit model homes. When she was given the floor plans for a particular house, she would imagine what she would do differently to improve them. Later, her interest in architecture was cemented while pursuing a degree in architecture at Georgia Tech, eventually obtaining a Master of Architecture. While still pursuing her degree, she had the opportunity to participate in a student internship in Barcelona, Spain, where she worked for an architectural office and experienced how other countries practice architecture.
Maria Luisa Castellanos is almost a product of Miami-Dade County. Although born in Cuba, she lived her childhood in different places throughout the eastern United States. However, every year she would vacation on Miami Beach or Key Biscayne with her parents and sister. She watched Miami grow into the international, multi-cultural, multi-lingual metropolis it is today, where people from all over the world come to live and play.
Before founding United Architects in 1986, she worked for several local architecture firms where she was in charge of projects in the Miami area as well as in Saudi Arabia, Fiji, and Costa Rica. After several years, she became a partner in the firm of Alligator Construction Corporation. Holding a general contractor’s license, and working in the field as a contractor for 5 years, offered Ms. Castellanos invaluable experience. Now when she works out the details for a project, she first works them out in her head as though she were building the project, to make sure the details are actually buildable and practical. Because her drawings are well detailed, the contractor does not have to waste time trying to decide the best way to build something. In the end, this saves the client money. Because United Architects is not a large firm, the client is guaranteed direct principal involvement in all aspect of his/her project.
Ms. Castellanos was recognized in 2003 by Georgia Tech, at its 50th anniversary of admitting women to the institution, as the first minority woman to receive a Master of Architecture degree from the College of Architecture. She has been a guest on the radio show, Topical Currents on WLRN, National Public Radio (NPR) and World News Tonight with Diane Sawyer. She is a regular contributor to EzineArticles.com
Among her community activities, Ms. Castellanos is on the board of directors of the Downtown Bay Forum and the Association of Women Architects and Engineers. She mentors a student at Ponce de Leon Middle through the Take Stock in Children Program run by Miami Dade College.