By Susan Hollis

Photograph by Jeffrey Bosdet.

With a crown of Titian curls and a direct gaze, architect Pam Úbeda, owner of Coast + Beam Architecture, is hard to miss as she enters the café. Dressed comfortably for tromping around an Uplands project site, Úbeda is every part the modern architect, waxing fondly over roof styles, clerestory windows and 70s-era post-and-beam architecture. She is also refreshingly matter-of-fact and observant, likely because evaluating people to better understand their needs as they embark on a building or renovating project is critical to her work as an architect. Clients are captivated by her ability to meld this mild Pacific climate and lush topography with unobtrusive design that translates the geographic spirit of a place into a home. And while contemporary architecture is her bag, Úbeda lives in a century-old Emily Carr house and admires all types of building design — just as long as it properly reflects the souls of the people who live there. 

What’s your idea of perfect happiness? 

Sitting in a cabin I designed in the Gulf Islands. I would love to design and build my own cabin there.

What’s your greatest fear? 

It’s not public speaking, let’s put it that way. 

What do you admire most in your friends? 

Their unwavering friendship. At this age, with young families, we all struggle to balance everything and don’t get to see each other as much as we’d like. So when you can pick up the phone after a month of not hearing from or seeing somebody, that’s a pretty good friend. 

What trait do you most deplore in others? 

Other than driving slow in the fast lane? I would say lack of opinion, being somebody that always has one! It’s your chance to have a say — use it!

Which living person do you most admire? 

My parents. They came from Europe with close to nothing and told me I could be anything I wanted to be. There were never any restrictions or question that I could be an architect … 

What’s your greatest extravagance? 

Art supplies, stationary and books. Anything to do with painting or architecture. 

Who or what is the greatest love of your life? 

My little family. For me the idea of home is everything — it’s a big concept for me, so to have my little family there means a lot. 

On what occasion do you lie? 

You’re not going to find me lying. It’s a waste of everyone’s time and memory. 

Where are you happiest? 

At a three-Michelin Star [restaurant] in Spain. That’s a pretty sweet experience.

If you could change one thing about yourself, what would it be?

I stopped doing that at 40. As Popeye says, “I yam what I yam.”

What’s your most treasured possession? 

This necklace my mom and dad got me. It’s a Celtic knot they got in Glasgow, and it’s designed by Paloma Picasso — Picasso’s daughter. 

What’s your greatest achievement?

Other than parenting daily? Becoming an architect —that was 20 years in the making. 

What piece of technology do you wish was never invented?

Weapons. It’s too easy to say iPhone — we have to see how that one plays out. 

What piece of technology do you wish existed?

A time machine. 

If you were to die and come back as a person or a thing, who or what would it be? 

I would come back as a tree, because besides being beautiful, wood is the ultimate sustainable material … and as for the trees, quite simply, they are the bestowers of life.

This article is from the March/April 2019 issue of YAM.