Team Spotlight: Melanie Starneri

Team Spotlight: Melanie Starneri

Meet Curran’s newest team member, Melanie Starneri! Melanie has more than 30 years of experience working as an architect and appreciates our close-knit culture. Since starting at Curran earlier this summer, Melanie has worked on projects of all types at all stages—veterinary clinics, franchise stores, industrial warehouses, you name it. For her, it’s exciting to work on “a little bit of everything.”

Here’s what Melanie had to say about good design, client relationships, and what really matters—family.

What drew you to Curran?

For 10 years, I worked at another firm here in Indy. But when they decided they weren’t going to pursue architecture anymore, I floated around a little bit and had several interviews. I quickly decided a large firm was not for me. That’s when my husband mentioned that he thought Curran was looking for someone. I contacted Shawn through LinkedIn and ended up coming in and meeting him, Dave, and Melissa. The conversation flowed very easily, and it didn’t feel so much like an interview as it did people hanging out, getting to know each other.

It sounds like the culture at Curran is very welcoming.

Absolutely. I feel very valued and very welcome.

As a woman in architecture, have you experienced adversity? 

When I was in school, I was really impressed by a woman professor I had. I was in a class that was probably 90 percent men, so when I had her, I thought, “Yeah, I can do this.” After I’d been out of school for about a year, I had a client who wanted some really large pieces of limestone. I remember going into a meeting and the limestone provider was sitting across from me. The first thing he said to me was, “Honey.” In that condescending tone. I let him talk, then said, “You bid on this project. The client’s needs are very clearly called out. If you bid on this and can’t make it work, then you need to tell the owner the reason why you can’t provide the limestone.” I looked at the person who called me into the meeting, and they nodded. So I turned back to the limestone provider and said, “And don’t ever call me ‘honey’ again.”

It’s important to establish those boundaries and expectations at the beginning. How do you do that with a client—especially if you’re working on something with an out-of-the-box solution?

You have to get to know that client not just as an owner or a building manager, but as a person. That’s how you learn their level of understanding and what they might be willing to do. They have to trust you’re doing the best thing for them, too. Some clients are set on what they want and how they want it. As an architect, you have to explain why some things won’t work. It’s about guiding the client.

How do you explain “good design” to clients? 

Good design is about creating environments that allow us to live and work efficiently. Architecture is also a form of art. I studied art before going into architecture and can absolutely see a lot of it in architecture. I see a lot of other things, too. Anthropology, sociology, and psychology are all part of architecture and guide a project. Take McDonald’s, for example. They purposely used bright colors—yellows and reds that were stimulating and associated with activity. People would come in, eat quickly, and then move on before the next crowd came in.

Speaking of moving around—would you like to travel anywhere? 

I would love to go to Italy. My husband is a first generation American; his parents are both from Italy. That’s definitely on my bucket list, but I would like to see all of Europe, actually. I’d also like to see the Grand Canyon. It’s a shame that, at my age, I haven’t been!

What else should we know about your family? 

I’ve been married to the same man for 27 years and we have a beautiful daughter. My family means everything to me. When they’re happy, it makes life a whole lot easier. I mean, even while working at home during 2020, we did OK. We actually kind of missed being together after I went back to the office and my husband was still working at home!

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