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Irvine, CA—We’re pleased to introduce Gillian Crane, AIA, Senior Project Architect in our Irvine Studio, as this month’s Studio W Spotlight team member. With over 18 years of experience, Gillian brings extensive experience in K-12 education, college/university, civic and religious projects of various types and sizes. Her focus in her first three years at Studio W has been on implementing Huntington Beach City School District’s $160 million Measure Q Bond Program, as well as lending her expertise to our Paradise High School New Classroom Building & Central Quad project and the Pendleton Elementary School Administration Building in Buena Park, California.

Gillian grew up in New Orleans, and her fabulous Southern charm is a staple to our Irvine culture. She adores her husband (we think Michael Henning is pretty amazing too!) and enjoys creating beautiful, well-functioning spaces for her clients that include thoughtful construction details that enhance the design intent. Learn more about Gillian…


What is your hometown, or where do you live currently and what do you like about it?
I grew up in New Orleans, a city with a rich architectural heritage. I wonder if that had anything to do with my career choice?!? It’s hard to say because I did spend a good bit of my childhood rearranging the furniture in my bedroom, building couch cushion forts and treehouses.

I was lucky enough to attend an architectural gem of a school growing up — The Academy of the Sacred Heart, built in 1886 on St. Charles Avenue, which is where the streetcars run and the most amazing Mardi Gras parades take place. It has a beautiful wrought iron fence around the entrance, a long circular driveway, wrap-around galleries and guillotine windows, which are those cool windows that extend from floor to ceiling and you walk through.


What is your favorite restaurant or food?
Since we’re on the subject of New Orleans, I never really liked the food there….all those cream sauces—meh. I do love oyster po boys though. Crawfish Boils are fun, but that’s more about the festive gathering than the food for me.

What is your favorite song, movie or book?
All this talk of New Orleans reminds me of the best book ever—A Confederacy of Dunces by John Kennedy Toole.

Who is your hero or a person that inspires you?
My husband is pretty amazing, and I’m so lucky to have found him. We met at LPA 25 years ago. I kept hearing his name over the intercom, ”Michael Henning, park 900, Michael Henning, park 900.” Who is this person getting paged all the time?!”, I thought, “He must be very important.” Then, I heard he did construction administration (getting the buildings we design built—it always seemed like a stressful job to me), and I was impressed. When I first saw him walking through the office, he looked so calm and peaceful (the opposite of me) and I was intrigued. When he came to the office Halloween party dressed like Scary Spice with the ladies from accounting, I was even more interested. One thing led to another and here we are.

How did you find architecture as a career?
I thank my dad for getting me into architecture. I started college in interior design, a program that wasn’t really exciting to me at the time. I was bemoaning the situation to my dad, who knew me very well and offered, “Well, you probably shouldn’t switch to architecture because you’ll never pass physics.” That was that, and I changed my major immediately! It was the best decision I ever made.

What is your most memorable project and why?
I worked on the tower portion of the Las Vegas Hotel, Paris Las Vegas, that was kind of cool. Back then you had to count the number of hotel rooms without any computer-aided assistance. I must have counted the number of rooms 10 times and got a different number every time. So painful.

What is your favorite aspect of working at Studio W Architects?
I used to think that to have the best career in architecture, one had to work at a big, famous design firm. It took me a long time to realize that is not the case! Working at a small firm with a trusting CEO can be life changing! I’m designing buildings now in addition to producing the construction documents, which has been a lifelong dream of mine.

What project have you worked on at Studio W that made you grow the most professionally? Why?
I’ve really enjoyed designing the Administration and Locker Room Buildings for Sowers Middle School in Huntington Beach City School District. The challenge of incorporating the staff’s functional needs into a beautiful and efficient layout was the most fun I’ve had in a long time (boy, do I sound like a boring geek). The project has a pretty steep schedule, so the task was no small feat, but we’re succeeding in meeting the timeline. We break ground in the fall.