Monday, February 1, 2010

AIA Young Architects Forum Presents: Architects and Beyond

Last Thursday, the Young Architects Forum of AIA Chicago Chapter put on a presentation hosted at HOK's office. In the description, there was mention of learning how to identify skills and networking techniques. It turned out to be more of a presentation, however we had the opportunity to ask questions in these areas if we wanted. Aside from the fact there wasn't any beer provided I thought the event was both timely and great.

All four presenters were traditionally trained in architecture but the first three have since gone on to start their own, non-architecture, businesses while the last, Cagri Kanver, works with HOK's Advance Strategies division.

The first presenter, Jessica Lybeck, runs a business consultancy called Till Creative. She quit her job at SOM's Urban Design Studio to start her own business which she sort of fell into. That is to say, she had a number of ideas for a business but it wasn't until she helped a friend start hers that she realized she had a natural talent for it. Since starting Till Creative two years ago she has received media attention from Time Out Chicago, The Wall Street Journal and Crain's Chicago Business.

Next up, Nathan Benjamin, principal and founder of Planet Reuse, LLC., a first to market company whose goal is to make using reclaimed building materials effortless, matching materials with designers, builders and owners to save projects money.  Their main customers are people building sustainable projects. As such, they provide LEED services of the reclaimed materials portion for new projects - free of charge. They have decided to make their money from selling the material, not from the consulting services. The recession has actually been good for him. Aside from all the material available from places that have gone out of business, much of it practically new, it has given he and his associates the time they need to restructure and organize things after learning more from their experience and past mistakes.

The third presenter was, Annie Mohaupt, founder of Mohop Shoes. Ms. Mohaupt has one of those American Dream stories you've heard of. In her words, one day in 2005, while driving in her car she had and epiphany: "Shoes!" After 18 months of trial and error with steaming and bending plywood and testing different straps the first shoes were ready to go out. Today she runs a small shop off of Elston and employs 10 people. Her manufacturing method has changed slightly. Instead of bending plywood the soles are carved out of wood blocks from a CNC machine. In her words again, "I model everything in Rhino, set up the blocks on the CNC machine before I leave for the day, and when I get back in the morning, poof, I have shoes!" Priceless. A friend of mine commented afterward on the contrast between how lightly she described her process whereas architects are normally very intense and serious when talking about the design process involving technologies like Rhino.

Adina Balasu, co-chair of YAF for AIACC,

Given that the market is not calling for Architects we thought it'd be a good idea to provide architects with inspiration to take their skill sets outside of the pure "Architect" arena and identify new areas where they can apply their vision and thinking by learning from those that already made the jump.

Adina says they received some great feedback and people were inspired so they are now planning the next session. She's currently looking for presenters,
I'd like one to be an architect that successfully marketed themselves to land a position and talk about how they did it. An architect that has a positive story of how they took matters in their hands and did something out of the ordinary to defeat the market.
The presentations were certainly inspiring and it's easy to be envious of people like Ms. Mohaupt that are doing what they love while making money at it. Whatever their advice for those about to embark on their own endeavors, personality has got to have a lot to do with it. After she finished presenting about her shoes even I wanted a pair, er, for my wife, I mean.

Photo Credit: Darya Minosyants

1 comment:

  1. Great article Steve. I will definetly be checking some of these presenters out online.