Success Stories



Growing up, performing was always a huge part of my life. I had been involved in theater since I was 13, but I never really considered making a career out of it. So, I entered the School of Architecture at Washington University in St. Louis, because I wanted to learn how to design.

But as a senior Architecture student, my interest in creating places had waned, and I went searching for a way to combine my love of the theater with the skills that I had developed in Architecture school. A professor pointed me in the direction of PGAV. What followed was a semester-long independent study of entertainment design work, a summer internship at PGAV, and a Masters of Architecture degree from the University of Texas at Austin. With a passion for entertainment design, I chose to come back to St. Louis and work as a designer at PGAV.

In the ten years since, I have been involved in all phases of our Destination Consulting design work, from Master Planning to Attraction and Roller Coaster Design to Architectural Design. I've helped to develop master plans for zoos and aquariums, attraction concepts for world-class theme parks, and design for some of the most popular cultural destinations around the globe. PGAV has given me the opportunities to pursue my love of entertaining people, while letting me experiment with, develop, and combine my artistic and technical skills in an environment surrounded by talented, creative and fun people. And I even have time to perform on stage now and again.




I knew early on that architecture was something I wanted to do. I was always good at math and what I really like to do is solve problems. I started my college career in architectural engineering, but found myself gravitating toward the design aspects. I realized that if I got involved in the architecture, I could do more to create the idea and, well... solve the problem. I worked for a couple of other firms during and right after school, and then found an exceptional fit at PGAV. PGAV really helped me further my professional development by allowing me to explore every facet of the process. Early on I was involved in master planning, interior renovations, client interaction, detailing and construction administration on a wide variety of projects. I wasn't pigeon-holed. I know that getting to follow projects through to the end has made me a better project architect, and you don't get that everywhere. In the 12 years I've been with PGAV, of course my life has changed. My husband decided to pursue another career, which meant a move from Kansas City to St. Louis. In that time, we also started a family and have watched it grow. This can be tricky when you're pursuing a career of your own. PGAV has been like another family to me. As life demanded I make changes, PGAV supported me every step of the way. I've worked in both offices and both allowed me the flexibility I need to make sure that I really can maintain a balance in my life.




When I was a kid, I had this toy that I wish I still had today. It was a set of wood blocks and a mat that was pretty much the old-school, analog version of SimCity. I sat on our living room floor and built a city however I wanted. As I got older, I gravitated toward drawing, ceramics, painting and jewelry and realize now that I just liked making something. I liked being able to start from scratch and create something that was going to last. Now, as an architect, that's what I get to do every day.

Even in architecture school, though, I never would have guessed that I'd be helping to change lives and even save them. Working on some of the region's most important research facilities has allowed me to get close to the people working to cure disease. It may be a small part, but I feel like I have helped make it possible for them to create a breakthrough by giving researchers the best facilities possible to do their work.

And it's not just research facilities. I had the opportunity to work on a center that will combine about a dozen different services for the homeless into one location. Others in the office are working on facilities for developing biofuels and other renewable resources. As architects, we have a real impact on the built world around us. But with the projects we do at PGAV, we have a real opportunity to have an impact on the world itself.



Zoologist/Landscape Architect

Around here, I'm known as the "Animal Lady," because of my passion for all things furry, feathered, slimy, or scaled. My passion for designing their homes began in high school after my family traveled to Brazil. We had visited the zoo in Rio de Janeiro, which is one of the saddest places I've ever been, but it served as a catalyst for my future. After that experience, I used every opportunity I found to visit zoos and aquaria, meet designers and zookeepers, and study zoo design. I received my degree in Zoology from Michigan State, and went onto North Carolina State for the graduate program in landscape architecture.

PGAV found me several months before graduation from the Masters program. Actually, I found them, and they took a chance on me. Since then, I've worked on projects ranging from a small cock-of-the-rock exhibit for the National Aviary, to multi-million dollar bear exhibits for both Louisville Zoo and Brookfield Zoo. I've worked on zoo master plans, aquaria, theme parks, and resorts, but always with animals. PGAV has encouraged my growth as a designer, not just as a landscape architect, but in all aspects of projects, including building layout and construction. PGAV has understood and fostered my passion, allowing me the freedom and responsibility to explore animal habitat design. PGAV believes in innovative guest experiences, and I'm dedicated to the ultimate of guest experiences: the connection between animals and people. I'm known around here as the "Animal Lady," and, at PGAV, I'm proud to bear that name.



Rockwork/Model Specialist

My name is Steve Zeilstra, and I've been a designer at PGAV for eleven years now.

My education is in the fine arts, printmaking & photography, and after university my work experience took me through many phases of residential construction, from timber framing to cabinetmaking.

Along my journey I met a project manager from PGAV who told me about his company and the exciting projects he was working on. He invited me down to his office to see for myself all the fun stuff that was going on, and I was hooked.

I've been managing the 3D model shop ever since. We have gotten accustomed to designing with physical models as well as digital models, whatever the project requires. No two projects are the same and I'm never quite sure what we may be asked to come up with at any given moment, so it certainly stays exciting.

Over these last eleven years I've had the chance to work with some of the most talented and enthusiastic people I've ever met, on some of the most exciting projects being built in the world; I can't wait to see what challenges the next decade brings.




Family theme park vacations are among some of my favorite childhood memories. A place where your wildest dreams are brought to life and something as simple as a killer whale or cartoon mouse can help create strong bonds between family members.

In college, I studied Architecture and Engineering at The University of Texas. I remember sitting in the career center inquiring about internships when I noticed a book on Disney Imagineers. As I flipped through the pages, I felt my heart swell in my chest. People actually get paid to design these attractions? I found a few companies that work in this area, including PGAV. Upon graduation, I submitted my resume and the following week I was packing my bags and moving to St. Louis.

Four years later, I'm still working at my dream job. I enjoy the diversity, both in the type of projects and the roles I fill in each. I never know what I'll be learning about from week to week - the number of people who have tried to go over Niagara Falls in barrels, the swimming patterns of Manta rays or how nets are installed under rollercoasters to catch prosthetic limbs and keep them from hitting guests below. It's always interesting and fun.

I love having the opportunity to design places where people can participate in extraordinary experiences and create lifelong memories. I hope that with every project, I can touch at least one person, giving them a story that they can relive with friends and family for years to come.