We are happy to welcome back one of our longtime Austinite Architects: Amy Coulston (AC,) and from the Arizona office we welcome Brittany Swasey (BS,) Adam Kogan (AK,) and Heather Graham (HG). To all four of you; welcome to Nelsen Partners, we are so happy to have you on our team!

Take 90 seconds and find out which of our new crew members is getting ready for Area 51 festivities, who is a retired Curling Pro, who can make their eyebrow dance, and last, who do you think can play a ukulele while devouring some S'mores?

Fall is knocking on our studio doors (although it doesn't feel like it at all in Austin)! Autumn seems like the perfect excuse for some hot cider, pumpkin carving , or jumping into random piles of leaves. Whatever you decide to do this season, remember that Renzo Piano might call; not to hang out, but to build that tree house of your dreams.

Read below for the full interviews!


Where are you from?

  • AC: Born in India, grew up in South Texas, Austinite for 17 years now
  • BS: Middletown, CT
  • AK: Arizona
  • HG: Phoenix, AZ ! Raise the roof for the Native!

Where did you go to school?

  • AC: The University of Texas at Austin - School of Architecture
  • BS: University of Hartford
  • AK: Cal Poly
  • HG: Art Institute of Phoenix

If you had to be a building, which one would you be, and why?

  • AC: The Chrysler Building, it’s classic and evocative. And I truly love New York.
  • BS: Harpa Concert Hall in Iceland. It's an incredible structure with views of the city and the harbor. The honeycomb glass facade lights up at night creating a magical experience. I would also never get bored with of all the concerts and shows that take place 😊
  • AK: The Bullitt Center in Seattle. What else can compete with a 250 year lifespan and Net-Zero energy use?
  • HG: The Pentagon, or the bunker in Area 51.

When not at work, what are you doing?

  • AC: Reading a novel, trying out a new recipe, and planning my family’s next adventure.
  • BS: Exploring AZ with my husband and furnishing our new home
  • AK: Reading a good book
  • HG: Video games, cooking, art projects

Favorite Pen?

  • AC: Ultra fine point Sharpie
  • BS: Pilot Razor Point
  • AK: I prefer pencils
  • HG: My Star Wars Fountain Pen that says "Do or do not, there is no try"

Would you let your favorite architect build you a tree house or an indoor fireplace (s'mores included)?

  • AC: Tree house! But can I still have s’mores?
  • BS: Tree house!
  • AK: Tree house of course! Have you seen Tree house Masters?
  • HG: Tree house

What makes architecture "cozy"?

  • AC: When the scale is just right, the details are thoughtful, and the materiality is warm and inviting.
  • BS: the warmness of materials used and designing to human scale
  • AK: Human proportions and natural materials
  • HG: You work in bubbles with talented people and it's mostly quiet until someone yells "free food!"

Jump into a pile of leaves, or worry about what might be hiding in there?

  • AC: Worry about what might be hiding in there.
  • BS: Worry for about 5 seconds, then jump in
  • AK: Worry about what might be hiding in there. I don't do bugs.
  • HG: Considering it's AZ and we'd be jumping in cactus and not leaves I choose to worry.

Your spirit animal?

  • AC: Seahorse
  • BS: Cat
  • AK: Panther
  • HG: Otter

Hidden Talent?

  • AC: I can play the ukulele!
  • BS: Curling - I was in a curling league when I lived in upstate NY.
  • AK: I can raise my right eyebrow.
  • HG: I can name all the Seven Dwarfs faster then anyone you know.

Pumpkin Spice Latte or Hot Apple Cider?

  • AC: Hot Apple Cider
  • BS: Pumpkin Spice Latte
  • AK: Hot Apple Cider - I don't like coffee.
  • HG: Neither..Blah. Venti White Mocha

What are you thinking about right this second?

  • AC: S’mores
  • BS: Drinking a latte
  • AK: I wish there were more questions. This is interesting.
  • HG: I want to change the color of this text.

When it comes to architecture, what do you think is the biggest challenge today?

  • AC: Being mindful of our social and environmental impact.
  • BS: Staying current with building products and technology that are constantly evolving
  • AK: Building energy use - architects need to encourage their clients to adopt sustainable design practices and push cities to do the same with their codes.
  • HG: People want bigger and newer and in a time frame that is not humanly possible.

What are you doing 10 years from now?

  • AC: In 10 years I’ll be the mom of a high school freshman - terrifying!
  • BS: Working on the floor plans for my house that will be built one day
  • AK: Ten years from today would be a Sunday, so sleeping in and dreaming about my latest architecture award.
  • HG: Hopefully working here and doing some traveling for fun.