Our 40th anniversary celebration continues with partner Ana Smetana. She'll be taking over our social media all week, so follow along on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram!

Originally from Mexico and a native Spanish speaker, Ana’s upbringing gives her a unique ability to work with different cultures and project types. She joined MZA in 2017, and her experience includes fast-track educational, adaptive reuse, retail and commercial projects. She served on the board for “Rebuild Together Knoxville” where she developed projects for veterans and low-income homeowners, and she is a frequent juror for design reviews at Watkins College of Art. She is an associate member of AIA and is enrolled in IDP.

Ana earned her BArch from the College of Architecture+Design at the University of Tennessee Knoxville, While there, she mentored freshman and sophomore architecture students via AIAS and studied abroad on The Iberian Peninsula Grand Tour.

1. Where did you grow up?

I was born in Ciudad Victoria, Tamaulipas, MX and grew up there until around 13 years old. Then moved to Mexico City for about 6 months and then Wausau, WI for about 2 years. Then moved to White House, TN where I attended high school. I then mostly stayed in Knoxville for college and a handful of years after.

2. Where did you go to college and why did you select that institution?

University of TN Knoxville. I chose to go there because I felt at home. I have always considered TN my adulthood home. I also wanted to get in-state tuition, so that was a plus. When I visited the campus, I fell in love with how big it was and all the landscape.

3. What did you want to be when you grew up?

When I was very young, like 4 I wanted to be a Vet. Then I realized how much I loved animals and how their care or health weighted on me very heavy. I probably couldn’t do things that may hurt them but would be best for them. When I was around 6 I wanted to be an oceanographer. I was a bit obsessed with the Free Willy movies and really any whale I saw. When I was around 8, my mom put me in oil painting classes and I started to love drawing/painting. From then on, I steered closer and closer into architecture.

4. If you weren’t in the architecture business, what would you be doing?

I would probably do something related to building, like building furniture and working fulltime for an organization similar to Habitat for Humanity.

5. Where is your favorite place to eat in Nashville? Lockeland Table – I don’t know what it is about it, but my fiancé and I always end up having the most enjoyable time and deep conversations.  We just feel taken care of there, the food is excellent, and the staff is always very warm and kind. 

6. What was the last concert (before times) you attended? What venue?

Jan 14 2020, Brandi Carlisle at the Ryman. Amazing.

7. What initially excited me about working with MZA was…

The type of work, the office space and to speaking/meeting Manuel for the first time.

8. Where haven’t you been to visit yet, but have at the top of your bucket list? 

Norway, Sweden, Finland.

9. Have you ever had a nickname?

My American family calls me Annie; my Mexican family calls me Anita.

10 Are you a collector?

I collect pins of places I have been, I have a hat with about 50 of them.

11. What is something that you’re really passionate about?

Helping others, cooking, animal rescue, and coffee.

12. What’s the most beautiful city you’ve been to?

Valencia, Spain

13. Where do you get your coffee from? How do you take it?

Different from day to day.  Sometimes I brew a simple Seattle’s Best coffee with a regular drip coffeemaker.  days, I have a little ritual and brew a chemex of the coffee I have on hand from Trade Coffee. On a special day, I stop for an extra-dry cappuccino from a local coffee shop.  My favorites are East Side Portland Brew, Humphrey’s, or Sip Café.

14. What is your favorite ice cream flavor?


15. Which languages do you speak?

English and Spanish

16. Is your glass half full or half empty?

Half full

17. Where do you volunteer?

Design Your Neighborhood program through NCDC and directly with teachers who want to have me speak in their class about my Hispanic background and my profession.

18. What's the best career advice you've ever heard?

Do what you love and it will not seem like work.

19. What are 5 adjectives to describe you?

Caring, stubborn, generous, adventurous, dedicated

20. What is something surprising that you good at?  

Cooking?  But I guess not super surprising to most who know me.  Gardening would be the next thing.

21. What do you put on your pizza?

Okay with meat or not, green peppers, onion, spinach, mozzarella rounds. Once it’s on my plate, I put Worcestershire sauce and ground pepper flakes.