HKS’ Margarita Aguirre Ushers in Her Own Field of Dreams
How determined was Margarita Aguirre to one day work at HKS? So much so that when she was an architectural graduate student at the University of Texas at Arlington, she supported herself by working not one, not two but three part-time jobs at buildings designed by HKS. A huge Dallas sports fan, Margarita worked as a tour guide at AT&T Stadium and as an usher at Globe Life Park in Arlington and the American Airlines Center in Dallas.
Even now, three years after becoming a full-time architectural designer for the firm, she still holds one of those jobs. Margarita remains an usher, or rather, customer service representative, at Globe Life Park.
So, while by night she helps Texas Rangers fans to their seats, by day she’s one of the project members specifically assigned to work on the Rangers new $1 billion home, HKS-designed Globe Life Field opening in 2020.
Many would say it’s a dream come true. But to 29-year-old Margarita, her life’s path is “way better than a dream.”
“Every time I tell my story, or someone else tells it, it just seems so surreal,” said Margarita, who graduated from the University of Texas at Austin with a degree in Hispanic Studies. “When I think about my story, I just want to pinch myself.”
Margarita is a strong believer in fate, and it seems she was destined to work at HKS. Her architectural journey began at age 10 when she and her family visited an aunt in El Salvador. The aunt — actually her mother’s cousin who is close to Margarita’s immediate family — was an architect. Looking at her drawings and models, young Margarita quickly became enthralled by her work, and she wanted it to become hers. “It just struck me that I wanted to do this,” she said.
Destiny intervened a few years later when Margarita was in middle school. She attended a summer camp where they randomly split the campers into groups for a field trip to various Dallas businesses. Margarita’s group wound up at HKS. She couldn’t believe her good fortune, but she was ecstatic. As the tour concluded, their guide — an architect — gave them her business card. For most of the youngsters, the gift was simply a piece of paper with a soon-to-be-forgotten name and phone number.
But to Margarita it meant much more. It was a tangible confirmation of the vision that began in her aunt’s home. That business card became her beacon, motivating her through the long days and nights of schooling, inspiring her when she thought about giving up her dream, lifting her when her spirits were down.
From that day forward, Margarita carried that business card everywhere. Even to her initial job interview at HKS in 2016, where she had an unexpected reunion with the architect who gave it to her, Jessica Mabry.
“I told her that she was my inspiration this whole time, without knowing it,” said Margarita, who keeps the now-framed business card on her fourth-floor desk. “And she was like, ‘oh my gosh.’
Jessica, who has now worked at HKS for more than 15 years, was just starting at the firm when Margarita’s summer camp group visited. Back then, she often led tours and routinely handed out her business cards, so she didn’t remember Margarita when she came for her interview. But after hearing her story and the part she played in it, Jessica said that she was “very humbled.”
“You never think when you’re giving a group of kids a tour through the office that you’re going to change one of their lives,” she said. “I was definitely shocked and surprised. When I give tours to students now, I have a different perspective.”
Jessica said that she never thought of herself as a role model for other young women in architecture and is proud of her influence in Margarita’s career and of how the young designer is helping other youngsters pursue their dreams. The two are friends and Margarita even returned the favor and gave Jessica one of her business cards after she was hired.
“It’s been a joy to see her progress and mentor other students,” Jessica said. “She’s definitely paying it forward for the next young architects to be.”
Unfortunately, the other strong influence in Margarita’s career, her aunt Mayra (pronounced My-ra) Ramirez, died during her final semester of graduate school. Her death was a devastating blow to Margarita, but it also made her more determined to reach her goal.
“My aunt had been this force for me,” said Margarita, who gets emotional talking about her. “She would tell me that when she graduated, she was the only female in her (architecture) class. She lost count of how many times that she quit and just went home because it was that tough. And her professors would call her and say, ‘you have what it takes. You can do this.’ And obviously she did it. She would be the only one that would truly, 100 percent understand me.”
She said her aunt’s indomitable spirit is still with her each day and helped her push to become part of the project team designing Globe Life Field.
“I’m a persistent person,” she said. “I have my goal, I’m going to get it somehow.”
Margarita initially worked wherever she was needed on the stadium, her first major project since she obtained her master’s degree. She is currently serving as the BIM manager, helping to support and manage the digital technology on the project.
Her role means that from now until the project’s completion, she’ll spend most of her time at the construction site, learning more about the profession and the intricacies of the new stadium. But her day job won’t stop her from spending her seventh season as a Rangers usher. The idea of giving up working Section 209 never seriously crossed her mind, although she said she’s constantly quizzed about her moonlighting activities.
“My family and everybody ask me, why?” she said. “But I take on my grandma’s personality, which is a big people person. I love meeting people. I know that people don’t just pay for the tickets, they pay for the experience. That’s a really close connection with architecture . . . because in architecture, we try to make those experiences for people. It’s just fulfilled my heart in so many ways, I just can’t let it go.”
Margarita’s unique perspective as an employee of both the Rangers and HKS has come in handy. In part because of her discussions with the project architects, they added three fully-apportioned break rooms for the ushers to the new stadium’s plans, a place of their own where they can eat, mingle and relax.
“I tried to start a dialogue of thinking about the ushers’ spaces,” she said. “It all goes back to making a difference.”
But Margarita probably won’t get to enjoy those new breakrooms right away, at least not on Opening Day 2020. Instead, she’ll be at the new ballpark as a fan as she treats her parents, grandmother and younger brother, Nathan, who will soon become the family’s second college graduate. She said it’s the least she can do for them.
“They went through so much more than I’ve ever gone through because they sacrificed for my brother and me,” she said with appreciation and humility. “I’ve seen the different ways they’ve persevered and not taken no for an answer. I’ve tried to mimic that and mirror that in everything that I do.”
Next spring will be quite busy for Margarita and her family. Just a few weeks after the new stadium opens, she plans to marry her longtime boyfriend before hundreds of relatives and friends. It will be just one more step in her magical journey and she’s proud that HKS has been a critical part of it.
“Like I mentioned before, it’s better than living my dream,” Margarita said. “I truly believe this is where I was destined to be. What more do I want?”