A group photo of METROPOLIS's Arch30 honorees in Chicago

METROPOLIS Celebrates the Arch30 Chicago Cohort

They city’s most promising emerging architects, affiliated with influential firms, convened for METROPOLIS’s Arch30 event held in November.

METROPOLIS’s Arch30 program recognizes the next generation of leadership in architecture, with leading firms in a city identifying their top talent under the age of 30. Each group meets for a workshop led by METROPOLIS editors, followed by networking opportunities with program partners. This past November, METROPOLIS honored its third cohort of young architects in Chicago.

The selected professionals from Chicago represented prestigious firms, AECOM, Bailey Edwards, DLR Group, Eckenhoff Saunders, Geniant, Gensler, HDR, HKS, Krueck Sexton Partners, KTG, Landon Bone Baker, Moody Nolan, Nelson, Perkins Eastman, Perkins&Will, Ross Barney Architects, SmithGroup, SOM, STUDY Architecture, Valerio Dewalt Train. The workshop was hosted by Gensler Chicago and presented in collaboration with Fry Reglet, GAF, Pure + Freeform, USG, and Turf.

METROPOLIS editor at large Verda Alexander and SANDOW DESIGN GROUP EVP and Design Futurist, AJ Paron, led the workshop, guiding the young professionals on how to identify and pursue work that imbues purpose, and how to navigate challenges within the workplace.

Group of young architects watching presentation

Exploring the Complexities of the Modern Workplace

The Arch30 honorees actively engaged in a series of three insightful workshops. The initial session delved into the ongoing challenge within the architecture profession—expectations for an almost machine-like productivity pace—and explored strategies to shift away from the prevalent “grind culture” toward a more balanced yet equally productive work environment. This discussion naturally led to an exploration of the merits and drawbacks of adopting a hybrid work model, where architects split their time between working from home and the office. For many participants, remote work offered a welcomed break from the stresses and distractions of the traditional office, such as commuting and non-work-related chit-chat. However, the drawback highlighted was the difficulty in finding a mentor, as success in a hybrid model often requires self-driven and independent learning skills.

The discussion then delved into the complexities of the modern workplace, which can often resemble an emotional minefield with unclear power structures and unwritten rules. Participants exchanged ideas on the importance of expressing the right emotions to enhance both personal happiness and professional effectiveness. The conversation focused on strategies for bringing one’s best and authentic self to work each day. A particularly emotive topic arose concerning the perceptions of the architectural profession and the challenges of a comparatively low pay scale for recent graduates. An attendee poignantly remarked, “We undergo extensive schooling, testing, and internship requirements—comparable to those of doctors or lawyers—but our profession is not always held in the same regard.”

Guiding Arch30 Honorees Toward Their Purpose

Lastly, the group engaged in an Ikigai exercise, a practice rooted in the concept of “reason for being.” This ancient ideology provides insight into the answer to the profound question, “What is my purpose in life?” During this session, the Arch30 honorees were encouraged to reflect on their passions and values, explore their interests, consider their strengths and skills, and actively seek out new opportunities. The Ikigai exercise served as a valuable moment of self-discovery, guiding participants toward a more profound understanding of their purpose, and aligning their professional journey with their intrinsic motivations.

The workshops culminated with insightful demonstrations by program partners Fry Reglet, GAF, Pure + Freeform, USG, and Turf. In the break between sessions, the participants had the opportunity to connect, exchange insights, and establish networks that will undoubtedly support their promising careers.

The METROPOLIS Arch30 event in Chicago was presented in partnership with:

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