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Architect Jennifer Luce is known for her artful designs. / Photo by Adriana Heldiz

Jennifer Luce has made a name as an architect who takes an artful approach to designing buildings.

Her firm, Luce et Studio, designed the Nissan offices in La Jolla, Extraordinary Desserts in Little Italy and dozens of other award-winning projects in San Diego and beyond.

On a new episode of I Made it in San Diego, Voice of San Diego’s podcast about the region’s businesses and the people behind them, Luce talks about how she got an unexpected break early in her career, and how she has worked to keep the momentum going ever since, with varying degrees of success.

At her first job out of architecture school, Luce was tasked with designing prisons. She needed a creative outlet, so she entered a prestigious international design competition.

More than 500 firms across the world applied, including people three times her age, with decades more experience. She wasn’t even a licensed architect yet. But the jury saw something special about her design, and selected it as the winner, effectively putting Luce in charge of a multimillion-dollar project, the Center for Innovative Technology in Virginia.

“Winning a competition early in life is a really pivotal thing to happen to you because you’re jolted forward even if you might not quite be prepared for it,” she said.

The experience gave Luce the confidence she needed to strike out on her own. She always knew she wanted to be her own boss, but she had to rebuild her firm three times before it finally took hold.

Finally, though, her firm is landing the kind of clients she’s always wanted. It’s behind the redesign of the Mingei International Museum in Balboa Park and is designing buildings for other arts and cultural organizations.

“Through that perseverance, the work that you’re meant to have comes to you,” Luce said. “And we are at a moment where we’re just doing exactly what we want to be doing.”

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Kinsee Morlan

Kinsee Morlan was formerly the Engagement Editor at Voice of San Diego and author of the Culture...

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