Questions For A Designer: Cody Solberg
A diverse array of backgrounds, experiences, and worldviews come together to shape Marvel’s designs across public and private spaces. This series aims to offer insight on the colleagues and teammates that are essential to Marvel’s success.
What brought you to Marvel?
I had been talking to Mitch [Crowder], who I had always seen as a strong mentor and saw that he had rejoined Marvel. I felt incumbent to reach out and we just started talking and catching up. The more I heard about Marvel the more I felt like it would be a great next step in my career, somewhere where the office was well established in New York and San Juan, but had the excitement of a new space and new opportunities in Richmond.
Everything fell into place and after I spoke with Mitch and Caroline, I took the leap. It was the spark I needed to get out of my comfort zone and join a new team. The fun thing about this year is that so much has happened, and I know that it’s only the beginning as we get planted and grow roots here in Richmond.
I think it's one thing to step into Marvel New York or Marvel San Juan where it's a little bit more of a known entity; but when I started, Marvel Richmond had just a couple of people, and I was going through the process of figuring out how to interface with all of Marvel’s various teams— all while making these connections work between Richmond and our other offices. I think ultimately the drive to bring all the aspects of Marvel New York and San Juan to Richmond was because there is so much opportunity here in our city. With firms like Marvel, who are truly multi-disciplinary, it allows for a more vibrant and cohesive cityscape to be formed. That was one aspect of why I was drawn to be in such a collaborative environment.
Why did you pursue architecture and design?
I had a great opportunity as a kid to live overseas in England for five years, which was really an exciting moment for me as young kid. I think that the nature of traveling and seeing buildings, spaces, and landscapes sparked a bit of curiosity in me. I've always been creative by nature, with drawing and photography, so I decided to take a couple courses in the arts and tech realm and felt that the right career path would be to meld those two together, which is when I started looking into architecture.
I landed at Virginia Tech, and I always think back to when I was 18, and if I made the right decision to follow this career path, and I would say ultimately yes. I love that this profession has a lot of flexibility in it. Yes, I am a capital “A” architect, but that doesn't mean that I'm not practicing design and being creative in other ways. I'm able to tinker with a camera and practice photography, or if I wanted to, I could take it to a different career path and maybe work in film or media—it is a very versatile profession. I've so far enjoyed the aspects of architecture that allow for a multitude of ways of working, from creative to technical.
Where is Marvel's office in Richmond, and what is the importance of the location?
We're on the corner of Third and Main, in a historic building that used to be an old Masonic Lodge. Our neighbors next door to us are a tattoo parlor, which is very Richmond. It's a perfect spot for the team, really bike friendly, accessible to residential areas and nearby historic parts of the city.
One difference from the New York and San Juan offices, is that we are on the ground floor, with huge windows showing off the workspace, giving it a very public-facing nature. Every so often we do have someone that'll walk by, and they'll glance over and do a double take, and hopefully see our decal and look up the practice. I think it’d be great to continue to have a ground floor presence, which allows for a very welcoming environment and lets us invite our community, stakeholders, and collaborators into the office.
Are you involved in any community groups or organizations?
When I had joined Marvel last year, I was part of a group with AIA Virginia called the Emerging Leaders in Architecture Program for the Class of 2023, which was a year-long seminar where we traveled the state of Virginia learning about the profession while working with 16 other colleagues that are either practicing in the profession or in school. I also serve on the AIA Richmond board of directors, trying to do everything I can to share architecture with our community and young professionals through the lens of enrichment. I also serve on the Young Architects Forum committee, which is geared towards helping new professionals with mentorship, getting licensed, seeing local work with hard hat happy hours, and providing other opportunities for them to get engaged and meet other people that are fresh out of school or new to the city. I have met some great collaborators and mentors through these initiatives so I'd recommend reaching out to your local AIA chapter to see how you can get plugged in to your communities.
What else do you like to do outside of work?
My parents, back in the day, would let me use their film camera while traveling around Europe. For me it's always been just such a fun escape to be creative in a more immediate way than architecture can be. I recently was looking to challenge myself, so I started to get into astrophotography, which is a whole bucket of challenges in and of itself but thankfully Richmond is not too far from a few dark sky certified camping sites, which are great. Last summer I drove out to Watoga State Park to see the Milky Way at night and practice photographing the night sky. You're thrown into the midst of the darkness at two in the morning, trying to get your camera gear all set up, and hoping your lens doesn't start to fog over, but I have enjoyed figuring it out on the fly.
I’ve always been a fan of hanging up some prints here and there and when we first moved to Richmond, my husband and I realized that we had a few empty walls that needed some artwork. I said, “Well I can solve that” and thankfully he’s very patient with me putting my photography up on our walls, but I have also enjoyed sharing my work with family and friends.
What are you looking forward to for the rest of 2023?
I’m going into my 33rd year in 2023, and I feel like I’m making the right strides. I enjoy where I’ve landed at Marvel, but I see a lot of opportunities to plug back into the area of focus that I’m most passionate about, which is interior architecture. So, as I wrap up work on my current project, I hope to land more into the interior architectural realm, and I see that as a great opportunity for where I am in the Richmond office. We currently have Mitch, Caroline, John, Kim, and myself as architects and then Tyler, Tonghuan, and Chieh as landscape, and Erin as graphics and business development so I feel like having someone that's a little more devoted to interiors would help round out the team.
I feel like the last three years have flown by with two years of remote work, so I'm just hoping to get out there and enjoy life, slow down a little bit, and take those opportunities to do what I find most impactful and most enjoyable for myself. I think that's the great thing about Marvel, is it allows for flexibility to find the right work endeavors that you're excited about while also flexing our individual creative muscles outside of work.