Melanie Harris kicked off her career in healthcare design in 2006, after graduating from Texas A&M University. She’s held positions at several firms, most recently joining BSA LifeStructures in early 2020. After four months, she was promoted to the role of national healing practice director, focusing on the firm’s healthcare strategy. In her spare time, she’s becoming a certified tea sommelier and researching her next trip.

What drew you to a career in healthcare design?

I was the high schooler who read the medical and architectural terminology dictionaries. When I was 15 years old, my mother passed away after a hard battle with cancer. I made it my mission to help people heal and pursued a career in architecture because I can use my creative and analytical sides.

What was your first healthcare project?

A small elevator lobby renovation for the pediatrics floor at MD Anderson Cancer Center in Houston. I had just graduated, and it meant a lot to work with children who were immensely hopeful and ever-curious despite all that they were facing.

What design lesson did you learn that you still carry with you today?

Never underestimate the power of design and what it can mean to those who live it and use it. The elevator lobby façade became an abstracted version of artwork created by the children. They were invested in the project and truly cared about how other young patients would experience the space.

Three unexpected items on your desk

1 LED ring light. It’s been great for all the video calls this year.
2 note from a past colleague that reminds
me of the value of friendship.
3 Kylo Ren bobblehead (because it makes me smile).

Favorite …

Quote “We are more often frightened than hurt; and we suffer more from imagination than from
reality.”—Roman philosopher Lucius Annaeus Seneca

City to visit I’m equally torn between Tokyo (shown); Havana; La Paz, Bolivia; and Auckland, New Zealand.

What’s a new hobby you’ve picked up since the coronavirus pandemic?

I’ve been exploring tea a lot more and enrolled in a course to become a certified tea sommelier. Yes, that’s a thing!

Three healthcare projects you’ve worked on in the last year and your role

1 Orlando Health Children’s Comprehensive Care Clinic, Orlando, Fla., project manager at HOK (where she worked prior to joining BSA).

2 BayCare St. Joseph’s Main Bed Tower Addition, Tampa, Florida, project manager at HOK.

3 Confidential client, vertical tower expansion, project manager at HOK.

Dog or cat?

Cats forever. I have two—Cujo and Michael—both with unique personalities.

Morning person or night owl?

Night owl, though I’ve tried to like mornings.

Fiction or nonfiction?

Both. I’m currently reading “Caste—The Origins of our Discontents,” by Isabel Wilkerson.

My latest is stand-up paddle boarding.

First album you ever bought?

Rush’s “Moving Pictures.”

Cocktail of choice?

Tamarind Margarita with Mezcal.


Airbnb. I love finding unique places to stay across the world.

If you weren’t an architect you would be…
A fashion designer or a lawyer.