We had the good fortune of connecting with Oscar De las salas and we’ve shared our conversation below.

Hi Oscar, have you ever found yourself in a spot where you had to decide whether to give up or keep going? How did you make the choice?
Experience has taught me to always keep perspective in every decision made. My to-go questionnaire when I have to make the decision whether to keep going or to give up could be resumed into reviewing these simple considerations. 1. Measure your efforts prior to starting any idea and gauge the length and type of commitment. 2. Ask yourself if it is worth putting all efforts into getting to the finish line. Perseverance is a great asset but could blind you to other aspects of life. 3. An overly responsive emotional state could derail you from your original goals. If you feel that you are getting emotional, take a break and re-adjust the process. 4. See yourself in the future, and make sure to have these two emotions in check: Remorse and Relief. Always visualize a positive outcome, or an outcome in your favor. 5. There are extraordinary factors that cannot be controlled and sometimes the outcome depends on those factors – or even other people. Being creative and ingenious in finding new ways to solve big questions – or new opportunities that might not require a gamble – will help to alleviate the stress a decision like this could bring. Give yourself a pat in your shoulder for being a hero! Every experience and idea we embark on, is part of our growing process and a learning process. Make the best of it!

Let’s talk shop? Tell us more about your career, what can you share with our community?
My career started as part of a hand-selected team of bilingual professionals within the word of engineering and architecture behind the construction of the American Embassy in Bogota, Colombia. It was a very exciting opportunity for someone fresh out of school! They were a firm where I was able to contribute, be part of the team, expand my knowledge and build the roadmap for a long-lasting career. I started with Dillingham Construction as an apprentice of the Construction Finishes Project Manager, and to be completely honest, my journey was not easy. The early days found me managing construction documents in the office at a draftsman level, proving my value and understanding of details of each project, translating details into local construction systems and managing the implementation with the local crews, earning me more responsibilities. That process allowed me to grow with the construction itself, as well as on the project. I was able to coordinate and inspect multiple aspects of the project – installation, implementation and delivery to the client. That first big “gig” introduced me to my mentor Mr. Randy Stevens. With Randy, I learned to appreciate the traditional handcraft method for each object, as well as the excitement behind new ways of construction methods and techniques. After this experience, I felt the need to make a move, and experience the world as a professional ever since Dillingham had already allocated team members for a full year. So, I returned to learn more from academia, while a new opportunity with them opened (which never happened). That urge took me back to Europe where I finished a second master’s degree in Architectural Interiors at the one of the oldest universities in the world, University of Salamanca (Spain). The freedom of being a student and the ability to do internships, allowed me to place myself where I wanted to be. I worked in a large number of projects at the intersection of architecture, fashion and photography. This is a creative process understood by only a few professionals and a process fueled by many aspects of management, budget and specific design abilities that are required for a successful delivery. I learned the importance of developing and nurturing spontaneous creative thinking. I learned I needed to add acute assertive decision making to my list of management abilities, no matter the budget or the schedule of the project/installation. I was entrusted with the design of sets of all kinds for magazine/video editorials in a very, very fast paced environment for “THE” agency. This allowed me to be later added to the creative team of a talent agency with offices across Europe which was focused on luxury labels. But, since I had to close the loop on my master’s degree in Spain and finish my thesis project, I decided to come to the USA, in search of face-to-face material for my research paper. Fast-forward to being in the states hosted by Randy (who was my boss at the Embassy project) and his wife, I found myself contributing to a small architecture studio. Parallel to the writing of my theses project, focused the theory of design and the life of one of America’s greatest architect, Frank Lloyd Wright. After working for that small firm for a number of years, I ventured out on my own with a series of projects that gave me freedom to execute my point of view. My need of making an impact in our community and help to create the city of the future by being participant of urban transformation at a larger scale, needed the muscle and apparatus behind a substantial firm. So, I searched for firms at that level. For the past few years, I have been part of the Gensler team, where I’ve learned many impactful career answers. Perhaps learning that resilience, discipline and team trust are the key when it comes to working in any project. These qualities allow me to be centered and have the ability to conquer any new challenge. As I see my professional life written, I believe that I’ve been blessed with a steady growth in my career and in a fascinating learning curve that only few professionals experience. All these opportunities have allowed me to use my own talents (professional and personal) to fabricate my own momentum. These experiences have helped me to hone the many facets of my professional life and have giving me the opportunity to understand what true leadership is, as well as the definition of responsibility. These opportunities – whether in my field or presented as an opportunity to lending my talents for the purpose of making a difference – have given me the experience to create the beauty we all long for: empowered me to conquer the complexity of municipal committees; driven me to develop unique urban projects that are known to all of us; unique structures or exciting interiors or even art installations and inspire me to raise funds for those in need. What I am most excited about is the renaissance of the economy and the “back-to-school” feel that is already in the air for 2021 and the years beyond. I am incredibly excited to see how all aspects of technology will help us to design and build a sustainable carbon-free footprint for our society. I am looking forward to seeing the synchronized societal-switch to using new power sources based in solar gain – at least for us here in the Sonoran Desert. I am looking forward to the implementation of new inventive transportation systems that reduce the commuting time in large cities like ours. I am looking forward to the day that our groceries are delivered by drones, or our kids are picked up in front of the house by an automated electric vehicle that takes them to school, or the days that our dwellings are self-sufficient and when water is completely recyclable. I look forward to complete climate resilient thinking and universal global wellness thinking. We are not far from there. As for me, I am looking to keep growing exponentially, and using my talents to deliver energy and environmentally-socially-conscious projects to the client. I look forward to working with my team to create long lasting relationships with developers, with public and private institutions that understand the value of projects, as well as developments which are based on a culture of design – they belong to the site where they are planned. I look forward to projects based on research with a thoughtful understanding of the trends of today, but with a foot in the future. I look forward to continuing to learn and adjust to the times ahead. If I learned anything during this pandemic it is that we need to be open to adaptation, to learn how to adapt, since the times as we once knew may never be the same. Adaptation is the operative word for 2020 and on!

Any places to eat or things to do that you can share with our readers? If they have a friend visiting town, what are some spots they could take them to?
Metropolitan Phoenix has so much to offer to anyone visiting. No doubt the pandemic has changed some of “the spots” where we all used to enjoy, but I am confident that once the vaccines have made a difference, we will all leave behind these sullen pandemic days and our town will shine once again. A weekend in Metropolitan Phoenix is designed for a diverse set of adventures. And of course, it depends widely on what time of the year you come to our desert town. All in all, remember that we have 300 days of sunshine in the valley, and if you visit, I am sure you will experience the endlessly open blue skies for at least one of those days. Recently, I realized that the first stop to learn about us, is to get to know our Sonoran Desert lifestyle, which depends greatly on our environment and our landscape. My new suggestion for anyone visiting is to dedicate a couple of hours early in your visit to the Desert Botanical Garden in Phoenix. The lush xeriscape and local plants will instruct you about the heritage passed to us from the native Hohokam tribe and their knowledge of how to use and store water for crops and to live the day-to-day, plus you will learn about our water canal heritage. And an addition for this time of the year is the beautiful luminarias! A beautiful array of sequenced lights in paper bags side-by-side along the paths which softly directs your path. It is a great way to enjoy a visit to the gardens at dusk and into the cool nighttime. The Tempe Town Lake is right down the street and has a wonderful view of the new Tempe cityscape, and hosts multiple events through the year. You can take the light rail at any of the metropolitan Phoenix stops to enjoy seeing the city from another angle, but make sure to take few minutes and learn about the art on each station. They were all designed to reflect some artistic idea. At dusk, the light rail tracks over the Tempe Town Lake lit up with multicolor LED lights. Super cool! My first stop would be Downtown Phoenix! The local art scene mixes small retail spaces and little eateries of all flavors, with gallery spaces, performance rooms, patios and open-air restaurants which have created an exciting walk-around experience full of watching and enjoying painted murals. The local artists work from the past decades are now part of a buzzling residential area that vibrates and pulsates within the several blocks which comprise the bustling Roosevelt Row. The best way to start in downtown is by visiting Monorchid, a co-working space in an adaptive reuse building that also has shopping, a small restaurant and café and hosts artist shows, special events, community gatherings. Monorchid is also a photo studio and hosts large art installations. The new Sake Haus is about to open and I am sure good sushi and a sip of sake in downtown should be in order. After that, get a cup macchiato-to-go at Khavi Coffee and check the latest curated fashion at the Phoenix General boutique space. Step into Now or Never and Bunky Boutique, then step out of the remodeled building to start to do your own art walk. After leaving Monorchid, you can head south towards the Phoenix Warehouse District, where there are a series unique spaces and a district life of its own. As you head down, you will pass the Civic Space Park and you can enjoy the monumental sculpture by Janet Echelman, “Her Secret is Patience”. A great photo-op! Stop at the Phoenix Symphony Hall, and walk through the halls of the Phoenix Convention Center to get face-to-face with the very tall magnifying glass public art piece by Louise Burgois by the name “Art is a guarantee of Sanity”. If the café is open, they have great smoothies! I am sure there will be some event at the Phoenix Suns Arena, house of the Phoenix Suns, our basketball team, or next door at the Chase Field Park with the Diamondbacks playing a game, our local baseball team. Steps from there is the CityScape, where you will find all sorts of eateries and places for local events, so perhaps give a try to Bitter and Twisted for a cocktail. Stop at Arrogant Butcher for any meal, they are part of a local restauranteur chain with several brands and they are all affordable, and yummy! If want to experience more, stop at the office of Downtown Phoenix Inc. on the second-floor plaza, and they can provide you with information on all events around the downtown area. Turn north and walk about the new remodeled Arizona Science Center, and check what is coming for theater, plays and musicals at the Herberger Theatre Center. Stop for a photo-op at the Rosson House Museum and for sure, stop at Hanny’s, for a good cocktail in the former local mens clothing store turned hot-spot. A little further north is the Burton Bar Library which has views of North and South Phoenix like no other building in town. Ask the attendees about the magnificent occurrence during solstice in the columns. Take a stroll around the Margaret T. Hance Park, and visit the Japanese Friendship Garden, a gift from the Republic of Japan to Phoenix with a replica of a traditional Japanese Tea House. Next door is the Irish Cultural Center. If you are hungry and on a budget stop at the Blue Fin for fantastic teriyaki, and if you want authentic Italian food, Forno 301 has the best calzone in town. Across from Forno 301 is our iconic Phoenix Art Museum, which also serves as home to the Phoenix Theatre. Make sure to visit the Ellman Fashion Art Gallery to see the latest exhibit. Walk about two blocks north and peak from the outside a sample of one of our best the Mid-Century Modern Condominiums building in the city, the all-pink Phoenix Towers. Next to these midcentury beauties the Heard Museum will appear with a vast front courtyard, where year after year, the city celebrates the annual Gild Indian Fair & Market. Schedule a visit to learn about the native Arizonans and art and science behind the art of basket weaving. You could venture out of the downtown area and find my new favorite relocated spot for coffee and a pastry at the CHESTNUT & The Vintage located in Arcadia ‘light’ area. Their “patisserie” is done with much perfection, and out of the array of goods, the almond croissant stands out from all of them. After your first bite, I am sure you will feel like you gave traveled the Parisian cafés, just like Emily! The Chestnut has a front and back patio with small tables, as well a long bar to have food to have cocktails, and the space hosts a local boutique Vintage Market with Modern Waves, called Home. Their menu is very fresh and east coast, and the Bully Club sandwich is my favorite item. A visit to Old Town Scottsdale during the daytime to do what I call “micro-shopping” on the many small stores and art galleries that flank Scottsdale Road, is a must to someone who is visiting for the first time. These quaint shops carry all sorts of jewelry, southwest souvenirs, and many other mementos of the area. Now, if you really want to learn the history of the area, head to The Western Spirit, Scottsdale’s Museum of the West, which is located within this district, and I hope you make time to catch one of the many western movies they play in their little theatre. It will give you an idea of the challenges faced by those who came to the Valley of the Sun during the early days. Down the street is the Civic Mall, a large pedestrian park area surrounded by administration buildings and the main art buildings owned by the City of Scottsdale and managed by a non-profit enterprise called Scottsdale Arts. The must stop is inside the Scottsdale Museum of Contemporary Art (SMoCA) to seat inside of the “Knight Rise” of artist James Turrell’s living sculpture that will make you stop to contemplate the ever-changing colors of Arizona’s sky. I urge you to go at sundown when the spectacle is multicolor. Steps from there is AZ/88, a staple restaurant/bar in the area and one that you ought to visit to have a yummy “au poivre” burger with raw vegetables and fruit accompanied by a full-to-the-rim Cosmopolitan martini, while enjoying the art installations that rotate inside the restaurant, or the views out to the Civic Center. And while there, do not miss taking a selfie at the iconic LOVE sculpture by Robert Indiana. I have yet to introduce you to the many resorts and spas in the valley, and for those of you who like or love to golf, we have the best courses in the country and the world. To see an Arizona sunset, drive to the top of the mountain where the Wrigley Mansion is perched and its local traditions await you at Jamie’s Bar. A dinner by Chef Christopher Gross is a must if you decide to stay through the night – perhaps in his spectacular kitchen – but I assure you that the colorful pinks and sienna colors of an Arizona sunset will mesmerize you. There is so much to enjoy in Metropolitan Phoenix that I know we will thrive! And like the Phoenix, we will rise once again!

Shoutout is all about shouting out others who you feel deserve additional recognition and exposure. Who would you like to shoutout?
When it comes to who to recognize and who should get a shoutout, there is always a list. Of course! Haven’t you watched the televised awards? They have to cut with music because the list is always so long. Hopefully, I will include all of those to whom I want to give a shoutout here. Next time you see me, ask me who am have overlooked, or perhaps let me know that I forgot about you! First and foremost, I want to shoutout to my dad and my family who offered me the basis and gave any aid I needed to develop into the man that I am today. A family, whether given or chosen, at the core should always be anyone’s foundation, and I was lucky to have that footing. Thanks to my Mom Lidia, my sister Margie, and to my late Dad for providing that balance. At a professional level my big shoutout goes to my first boss from the world of construction, and who became my first and most significant mentor, Mr. Randy Stevens. Without a doubt, this generous and down-to-earth man was the person who saw my potential as a professional and allowed me to spread my wings. Because of his trust I earned confidence in making solid decisions in business. From Randy, I was encouraged to listen and think in terms of team members, to help identify their strengths and use those individual differences to make a team. In all candor, I am in the U.S. today because of him. He motivated my curiosity about America, and even offered me a place to stay when I came to Arizona. He believed in me to the core, and even helped me to take my first steps professionally as an architect by training me on building codes and systems. I learned so much from him and I am forever thankful, and forever grateful to my friend and mentor. Forwarding to this moment in time, professionally, I want to shoutout to my boss at Gensler, Martha Abbott. She is a leader who has the perfect balance of business savvy, mixed with plenty of experience and that blend allows me to move forward to create my own business space at work, both inside and outside of the office. It is vital to me as a professional to have a person that believes in me and someone who is willing to listen to the opportunities and ideas in the real world and helps guide me through the process to make them a reality. I believe that we never stop learning, and I am so thankful to work with such a leader. In a different sort of shoutout, I consider the Golden Arizona icons of Billie Jo & Judd Herberger to be voices which need to be heard, and the power of their voices have shaped a community for the better. I am fortunate to be able to spend time with them talking about the big scale, evolving details of the world of arts in Arizona, which is one of my passions – and is the foundation of their contribution to the legacy of Arizona. They have provided leadership and supported our state in ways which have changed the face of the arts and every conversation is both a joy and an education. I am honored to share my shoutout for these two visionaries, Billie Jo and Judd Herberger. As an adult, I want to shoutout to my husband Gary Jackson, who is my support and confidence. He makes everyday a true experience and I know that a life with him is a present from the universe. To all of those Americans that opened their arms, gave me a hand and helped me to become one more than 10 years ago, this is a shoutout to you – along with my endless gratitude.

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Image Credits
@block_studio @loomisphoto @hautephotovideo @naderabushab @dasfotohaus @ranysvision @carrieevansphotography

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