As a full-time teacher at the renowned College of Architecture institution and founding partner of AGENCY - an award-winning interdisciplinary practice converging architecture, urbanism and advocacy - the noted researcher doesn’t exactly have a lot of spare time. But employing her expertise to lessen social suffering is so compulsive that it could be in Ersela’s DNA.
And not without good reason. The daughter of a construction engineer, Ersela’s inspiration to enter the industry struck early.
“I remember being around my father’s blueprints and drawings and loving that there was a way to transfer physical information onto a two-dimensional plane. It’s so fascinating to me that physical space can be drawn.”
But the El Paso resident’s path was far from ordinary - or easy. Ersela was born in Albania, where she grew up under communist rule until the fall of the dictatorship in 1990.
“I was a refugee in Greece for about three and a half years to escape the civil war and unrest. I went back to Albania for a little while and then came to the US as an exchange student.”
When civil war broke out in Albania again, Ersela was able to file for political asylum. The now-American citizen attributes her accoladed advocacy and action against social injustice to her early experiences.
“I grew up in a politically persecuted family, which means we were always surveilled and spied upon. Then as I was going through architecture and grad school, my partner and I were looking at issues around nation building and what that means in terms of design and aesthetics.