Every day is a learning experience when you restore buildings in New York City

Kelli Crabtree

Kelli Crabtree ’17 had always heard stories about Auburn from her mom, an Auburn graduate, but she knew it was the place for her the second she stepped on campus her senior year of high school. “I thought it was so beautiful,” she said.

“It’s just something about Auburn — you can feel it when you get there, it’s so special.”

Now living in New York City as Project Manager for Scott Henson Architect, Crabtree looks back on her time at Auburn and how her college experience prepared her for the fast-paced lifestyle of an architect in New York. “Auburn is really good about preparing their students in architecture for the practical aspects of the job, as well as the creative side.”

The aspiring architect travelled to Rome for the International Studies Program, exploring the city and learning new sketching techniques. Crabtree later participated in Auburn’s Urban Studio Thesis Program in Birmingham, where she ultimately got the idea to consider New York. An Auburn career service specialist, Crystal Jalil, gave Crabtree some advice to book a trip, stay with friends that lived there and tell the architectural firms she applied to that she would be in town, in case they wanted to interview her. Taking her advice, Crabtree got three interviews and landed a job at Scott Henson Architect in New York.

The fast pace of New York didn’t phase this small-town Auburn graduate, either. “Even though it is hard, the clients are straight to the point, and you have to be quick on your feet, it’s made me a better architect,” Crabtree said.

Crabtree’s love for old buildings stemmed from an early age, going to look at old houses with her mom throughout her childhood. Today she enjoys working on projects involving the historical preservation and renovation of old buildings in New York.

“There’s a real purpose behind preserving the history of the city and the special buildings that they just don’t make as detailed and beautiful anymore.”

One project Crabtree is working on is Passive House, a full-gut renovation of a three-story townhome in a very small historic district in Long Island, New York.

“We’re completely gutting the inside, redoing the whole structure and doing all the interior design,” she said.

Although she loves her big city life and job, Auburn is not forgotten to Crabtree. She regularly reminisces over times in the studio at lunch alongside a close friend and former classmate, Chloe Deutschman, who works just a block away.

The options for Crabtree’s future in architecture are endless, but she and a friend she met in New York have come up with one ambitious idea. “Eventually I would love to be able to start my own business, so we’ll just see,” she laughed.

“I’m really glad that I’m getting this experience, I wouldn’t get it anywhere else.”


“I’m really glad that I’m getting this experience, I wouldn’t get it anywhere else.”