We recently caught up with Gabriella Bermea, AIA, NCARB, NOMA, LEED AP BD+C, an associate and design architect working at VLK Architects in Austin, Texas. A firm licensing advisor and NCARB volunteer, Gabriella shares how she is amplifying the voices of emerging professionals in an effort to build a more inclusive profession. 

What or who do you think most shapes your approach to architecture and design?  

As architects and designers, we must be community builders as much as we are professionals. Our role as architects and designers extends beyond protecting the health, safety, and welfare of the public and creating space. We have the responsibility to serve our communities‘ needs and advocate for all voices to be heard and acknowledged in public interest design. 
We have the ability to inspire an emerging generation of architects to serve as trusted advisors, community activists, and champions for design excellence. My professional journey has afforded me opportunities to work with public educators, through servant leadership, toward the greater good of our education system. This work is a reminder that design is not just about personal expression—it is a tool that can bring hope, provision, and prosperity to all. 

You currently work as an associate and design architect at VLK Architects in Austin, Texas. Can you tell us what a typical day looks like for you? 

Every day is a dynamic journey. I am fortunate to work on projects that allow me to collaborate, create, and innovate. My work takes me to different parts of Texas, primarily focusing on serving our central Texas educational clients.  

The nature of my projects means that my day is never the same. It can start with engaging in design conversations and gathering valuable feedback from educators, administrators, and students. I may then transition into a full day of charette sessions with our VLK team, where we brainstorm and bring ideas to life. As the day progresses, I might find myself engrossed in reading or attending client events. These activities allow me to stay informed and strengthen relationships with our clients. 
Overall, my day is filled with a diverse range of activities that keep me engaged, inspired, and motivated to deliver the best possible outcomes for our clients and the communities we serve. 

Rendering of entrance to Eagle Mountain High School.
Eagle Mountain High School, Eagle Mountain Saginaw ISD. Projected completion, 2024. Courtesy of VLK Architects, Inc. 

What motivated you to start volunteering as a licensing advisor? 

The journey toward licensure was a challenging one for me. I was fortunate to have an amazing community that supported and encouraged me every step of the way, and in turn, this experience inspired me to serve as a source of support for others. 
One initiative that has been instrumental in this regard is NCARB's licensing advisor program. It allows me to connect with licensure candidates at any stage of their journey and provide guidance and assistance. My firm licensing advisor role with VLK seamlessly integrated with my support of our emerging professionals and my involvement with the ACE Mentor Program of Austin, where I help students discover their path in architecture. Being able to support and mentor others in their pursuit of licensure and their passion for architecture is incredibly rewarding. I am committed to paying it forward by helping others achieve their goals and find fulfillment in the field of architecture. 

Do you have a piece of go-to advice for anyone working to earn their architecture license? 

I encourage those who question their path or may be having difficulty in their process to persevere and find a supportive community of advisors, study partners, and friends who will cheer them on. In very practical terms—put your study time on the calendar. It's important to schedule the time needed and invest in oneself to reach this accomplishment. Motivating factors are always a plus, too. Whenever we had a successful study session, I’d reward myself with a new book or try out a coffee shop that’s been on my list. 

Becoming licensed has been one of the greatest highlights of my career thus far. It’s deeper than a stamp—it's a confirmation, a freedom, and the foundation of trust to build a legacy upon. 

Rendering of entrance to Legacy Ranch High School with parking lot.
Legacy Ranch High School, Liberty Hill ISD. Projected completion, 2026. Courtesy of VLK Architects, Inc. 

You currently volunteer a lot of your time in the profession—what advice do you have for people who want to get involved in their communities but might not be sure where to start? 

Uncover your purpose! When we shift our mindset from mere volunteerism to a genuine desire to serve, we can change our perspective from "if I have time" to "I’m making the time."  
When we have a clear understanding of our why, whether it's in our career, board involvement, or community service, we can achieve a higher level of work-life integration. This allows us to transcend the roles we fill and embrace life as purpose-driven individuals. As a result, we can create more meaningful projects, foster greater space for play, and become better mentors and colleagues. 

You’re currently a member of NCARB’s Futures Collaborative. What have you enjoyed or learned so far volunteering with NCARB? 

I was fortunate to begin my involvement with NCARB as a licensure candidate on the Experience Committee. This experience provided me with a comprehensive understanding of the organization and heightened my commitment to achieving licensure. 
One of the most enlightening aspects of volunteering for NCARB has been the opportunity to collaborate with other service-oriented professionals. Together, we are working towards creating a better future for our profession. As a member of the Futures Collaborative, I am inspired by our team's efforts to shape the future of our industry through forecasting and strategic discussions to inform the Council. 
Being able to connect with the wisdom and experiences of member board members from across the country and bring that knowledge back to my community at VLK is something I am grateful for. I encourage others, regardless of their career journey, to seek out similar opportunities for growth and connection. 

Want to read more stories from real architects? Check out NCARB's Architect Spotlight series