Megan Nielsen Hegstad, AIA, NCARB, Brings 20 Years of Expertise to BRPH’s Expanding Entertainment Sector

woman in glasses in green dressMELBOURNE, FLA. Oct. 13, 2022 – BRPH, a nationally ranked architecture, engineering and construction firm with nine offices nationwide, recently welcomed award-winning architect Megan Nielsen Hegstad, AIA, NCARB, to its growing entertainment market sector as a senior architect.

Nielsen Hegstad brings 20 years of experience in global zoo and aquarium, museum and exhibit architecture and master planning. She has won multiple awards for her work at the Auckland Zoo, New Zealand (SE Asia Jungle Track, SE Asia Phase 2 and SE Asia Canopy Climbers); WCS New York Aquarium (Ocean Wonders: Shark!); Lincoln Park Zoo (West Entry and Regenstein Macaque Forest); and Los Angeles Zoo and Botanical Gardens (Elephants of Asia). She also has provided master planning for Lincoln Park Zoo and Zoo Miami, as well as extensive exhibit design work for Zoo Knoxville and Toledo Zoo, among others.

“Our entertainment clients are looking for compelling experiences and new ways to keep guests engaged — spending more time per visit, and coming back again and again,” said Francisco Alvarado, AIA, NCARB, vice president and director, entertainment. “Megan is not only adept at designing for zoos and aquariums, but in creating experiential designs that create a profound connection with guests of all ages, across the hospitality, education and entertainment sectors. BRPH has a long history of leveraging our expertise in multiple markets to provide the very best solutions and we look forward to putting Megan’s extraordinary talents to work for our clients.”

A lifelong animal lover, Nielsen Hegstad’s passion for conservation has been a driving force in creating spaces where animals can thrive, where visitors are inspired to learn about and protect all species, and where zoological professionals look forward to working. Her instincts and expertise in creating experiences that resonate with guests are fueled by a minor in anthropology and museum studies, and her early career experience as an exhibit coordinator and installer, and an environmental and museum educator.

“I love seeing guests’ reactions on opening day, helping them experience joy, wonder, and a sense of exploration, and make memories with family and friends,” said Nielsen Hegstad. “I joined BRPH to focus on projects that do just that. BRPH offers deep expertise in solving complex problems, as well as the ability to support projects with all architecture and engineering disciplines, allowing us to become true partners in bringing clients’ visions to life.”

Prior to joining BRPH, Nielsen Hegstad served in leadership positions at well-known zoological design firms including Jones and Jones, Studio Hanson/Roberts and The Portico Group in the Pacific Northwest. In 2020, she founded her own architecture and design consulting business, Maristella Studio.

Nielsen Hegstad is a member of the AIA Seattle Chapter of the American Institute of Architects (AIA), served on the AIA Seattle Women in Design committee, and is a member of the Themed Entertainment Association (TEA). She serves on the Association of Zoos and Aquariums (AZA) Annual Conference Program Committee and recently presented at the AZA national conference regarding the importance of designing for sensory inclusion. She also moderated a panel on incorporating children’s-museum-style play into zoos and aquariums.

Nielsen Hegstad earned a summa cum laude Bachelor of Architecture with a Minor in Anthropology from the University of Tennessee and has completed the American Council of Engineering Companies (ACEC) Core Competencies for Principals course, Professional Services Management Journal (PSMJ) A/E/C Principals Bootcamp and PSMJ Project Management Bootcamp.

ABOUT BRPH – BRPH is a technically focused, creative architecture, engineering and construction (AEC) company providing solutions to mission-driven clients’ most challenging programs. Drawing from its technical AEC talent, the firm partners with clients in the aerospace, defense, manufacturing, commercial, education, entertainment, and hospitality markets to identify gaps in their program delivery and to create innovative solutions. Founded in 1964 to support America’s space program, BRPH is consistently ranked among the nation’s top firms and has completed a wide range of projects across the United States and throughout the world. Headquartered in Melbourne, Florida, BRPH operates regional offices in Orlando; South Florida; Atlanta; Charleston, South Carolina; Huntsville, Alabama; Seattle; Phoenix; and Palmdale, California. For more information, visit