Taylor Funk graduated from U.C. Berkeley with a B.S. and received an M.S. in Civil Engineering from University of Texas, Austin. She joined Structural Focus in 2012 as an intern and re-joined the firm full-time in 2013. Taylor is a licensed Professional Engineer with experience in historic renovations, commercial buildings, and educational facilities. She has worked on several significant projects including the Ole Hanson Beach Club, the Sony Pictures Akio Morita building, and the newly completed Scripps College NEW Residence Hall.
What does Structural Design mean to you?
Architects imagine the aesthetics, shape and functionality of the building and structural engineers design the structure necessary to meet those project needs.
Latest Project, Favorite Project, and Biggest Challenge
As the Design Engineer for Scripps NEW Residence Hall, this project was a great learning experience. Scripps’ NEW Hall, their 10th residence hall on campus, consists of three Mediterranean-style concrete masonry and steel buildings, two and three stories, with a floor area of 38,700 square feet and a capacity for 110 beds. Structural Focus worked closely with Drisko Studio Architects to mirror the existing historic halls in style, character, and longevity. This project differed greatly from previous projects I’ve worked on because my level of responsibility increased. As a newly licensed Professional Engineer, I was able to do structural observations on site and be fully in charge of the Construction Administration phase. During the early construction phase, my Project Manager, Wayne Chang, S.E. guided me through our responsibilities and after I demonstrated my understanding, he took a step back and gave me the opportunity to formulate my own solutions before providing his experienced review. I worked very closely with Wayne, we spent many hours working together to make tight deadlines and keep the fast-paced construction schedule on track. Before this project, I was self-conscious about my ability to produce constructible details, but with Wayne’s mentorship, I’m gotten much better at detailing, a very important skill when working on a fast-paced project.
I’ve also been having a lot of fun with the challenge of transforming the historic Santa Monica Post Office into the new Skydance production offices. The historic nature of the post office adds a lot of constraints to this project. The design team led by HLW International is working around the existing conditions to add three new floors within the existing post office structure. Designing a large, open screening room was an interesting challenge because of the limited structural space that we had to work with. We worked hard to find innovative ways to accomplish the design intent.
Structural Focus works on a lot of projects for innovative media companies that commonly involve the transformation of large open spaces into creative and interactive environments. I love to work on these projects because they are usually a challenge – we are tasked with working some structural engineering magic to hide the structure behind the novel architectural elements.
What’s your favorite part about working at Structural Focus?
I love our company culture. I constantly brag about it. I am really proud to be part of such a great team. Did you know that Structural Focus was named one of the Top 5 Best Places to Work in Los Angeles? Not surprising to us.
The Future of Structural Engineering
I hope that in the future our contributions are appreciated even more, especially at the beginning of projects. A lot of interesting designs can be explored and accomplished if structural engineers are brought in at the beginning of the project’s design phase. As the project moves along it’s more difficult for the structural engineer to prioritize the aesthetic elements over the project’s budget. With advances in technology, we are going to have to work hard to keep bringing value to the project and to our clients. Luckily, Structural Focus works on more complex projects that take a special set of skills, many involve the retrofitting of existing buildings.
What advice would you give young structural engineers?
Keep an open mind. You never know where or when you’ll learn something from someone you might not expect that could affect your career.
What would we be surprised to learn about you?
Both of my parents are classically trained photographers, very artistic. I definitely did not inherit those genes, I have always had a passion for making buildings. When I was a little girl I would make castles for all my dolls.