Practice What You Teach – an interview with Chip von Weise
In this episode we get a chance to sit down with Chip von Weise of Von Weise Associates and discuss his practice, his teaching, and his mentorship as head of the Virginia Tech Chicago Studio – a six month internship program that brings architecture students from Blacksburg, Virginia to Chicago to live and work on real life projects with successful architects and developers across the city.
Chip shares his thoughts on the challenges of running a design studio during a pandemic, teaching students outside the bubble of academia, and lessons learned from mentoring the next generation of architects.
You can learn more about Chip and his efforts through any of the platforms below:
Welcome to the Architects Possibility Podcast with David Bradley of Blueprint for Living Coaching. Each week, we connect with design professionals, just like you, who are using their creativity, leadership, and passion to make the world a better place in ways both big and small every day. Now here’s the host of the Architect’s Possibility Podcast architect and executive coach David Bradley.
Good day, everyone. Welcome to the Architects Possibility Podcast. I’m David Bradley, and I have the pleasure of speaking today with Chip von Weise who is a Principal at Von Weise Associates Architects here in Chicago. Chip, Good to see you.
Good to see you again.
Thanks for for joining me here. We’ve had some previous conversations about what’s up. Maybe you can take a moment to let people know who you are and what you’re up to as an architect in this great city.
Great, thank you. We’re a firm of eight to 10 people founded in 1997 and we have a diverse, diverse range of projects. Everything from high-end single family homes to some school work that we do. Commercial building renovation, corporate interiors build out and the occasional restaurant and, you know, odds and ends sort of a classic design boutique focus on design sensibility, design interaction to clients and you know, a diverse range of projects, typologies and stylistic responses related there, too.
How long have you guys been in practice?
We started in 97. Had a brief hiatus where we merged in with a larger firm and then the last 15 years I’ve been practicing as we are now anywhere from as small as five or six during the 2008 downturn and as large as 12 or 14 which was a little bit bigger than I would ideally like to be.
Got it. When you started out, I mean, did you have the intention of having that diverse a portfolio or I’m curious if it was kind of a “we’ll take what comes in the door” or if there were some intentional…
Yeah, there was some of that, but the focus on diversity of self-conscious, the idea is that as larger architecture firms begin to silo people into areas of specialty for efficiency and expertise helps both in terms of producing the project. And in terms of marketing clients, if you talk to the people who were at those big firms in those areas, it’s difficult to stay there for a long time, because we do is really grueling and grinding. And for me, intellectual stimulation an important part of it. So we really try to have a diverse set of projects so that we can move staff around and have them stay intellectually fresh and motivated. And it’s selfishly for me, it gives me a day where I might be talking about a single family home, master planning at school and doing an office line.
Got it. I’ve gotten to know you have a better sense as an educator. How do you, how do you integrate that into your studio?
Well, thank you for asking. We have been for the last five years running a program at Virginia Tech out of our studio and the previous 12 years or so before that we were engaged with this studio, it’s called the Virginia Tech Chicago Studio. And it sends a small group of students to Chicago for the whole semester. And they take a design studio, they take a building technology seminar, and they have a professional practice course. And I am the director of the program and I teach the design studio and the building technology class. And I have a colleague John Stevenson who used to be the managing principal of OWP&P and then Cannon when OWP merged into Cannon, and he’s retired now and he is teaching the professional practice curriculum. So the students come here for 15 or 16 weeks in the spring and the fall. And we do a design studio that is a real project that has a real site or real client, or with typically a developer we’ve been doing multifamily mixed use developments like them to be pretty large in scale when students are coming from Blacksburg, Virginia. It’s a very good program, but Blacksburg is a town. Essentially the university is the town. There’s not much urban density. There’s not a lot of diversity other than the students. So you don’t have those typical urban issues. And so the students want to come here. They might grapple with those issues and they want to do a project on a scale commensurate with the scale of the city. This semester, for example, we’re going to be doing a multifamily affordable housing project at the Western Terminus of the 606,
…The 606 site development down in West Chicago, the Western side of Chicago…
It’s essentially Chicago’s version of the High Line elevated train track that’s been turned into a park, running path, bicycle path, right? And it runs through Bucktown and Wicker Park, really Bucktown proper. And the Western Terminus of it is a more diverse, not as affluent neighborhood. There’s a local developer that’s teamed up with a larger developer to do a fairly large mixed use affordable housing project.
So I’m curious, is that a project that you would do doing irrespective of study studio to Virginia tech studio? Is it something that was already in your firm and you’ve sort of brought students in to work on it for, is this a project specifically for…
We try to avoid that. It actually, it happened once where we started on a site with a developer and ended up working on it as a firm, but that’s not the goal. The goal is to, and in fact, we don’t specialize or specialized. We don’t specialize in anything, but we don’t do much of that multifamily work. We’ve done some developers typically don’t like our process. You know, we want to have a lot more intellectual dialogue in the design process. Developers typically are much interested in that, but it’s fun for our students to work on those projects because it’s not real, the developer’s not actually going to build the student projects. And so the students can actually have that intellectual discourse with it. And ironically, when they’re not paying for it, most developers are actually kind of curious about that, when we’re not telling them what to do, what are the urban issues that we might be ignoring otherwise, because we’re focused on our bottom line and it gives developers like working with us because it gives them the opportunity to have those discussions with the community, through the students. They don’t pay for that discussion. And our students get one heck of an experience doing it. And for the people in our office, you can ask what the relationship is between the education and the practice. Our staff gets a lot of intellectual energy from the students and excitement around their projects and architecture. And when you’re stuck in the rut of daily practice of architecture, the amount of intellectual energy and design focus that happens in every project, there’s a big burst at the beginning of the project. And then it diminishes sort of every step along the way. And as you get into the desire and the vicissitudes of construction, you have to struggle to reengage with those ideas. And having the students in the studio is really helpful. So they live upstairs. We live in our offices over on Ashland Avenue and we have a storefront that has two apartments. Upstairs is a double storefront. One on the other side, the 14 students live upstairs. They have studio space in our basement area and a classroom on our main studio floor that we pin up and our staff sees the work, interacts with the students. It will be a little bit different this semester with COVID.
Yeah. Right, right.
But it’s really great. I have younger staff volunteer and become teaching assistants. More senior staff come in as design critics. They help me teach the technical component of the curriculum. So some people will come in and help help me give a lecture to the students on code. Somebody else will come in and help lecture on building enclosure. We bring all of our consultants in so mechanical engineers, structural engineers, civil engineers, even our zoning attorney and our attorneys. We bring in different groups in different semesters, come in and lecture that the students who help them, coach them, take their building through the basic steps of an architecture project just like we would in the office.
Sounds like an incredible practicum experience for the students.
It is. And it’s, it’s, it’s part of the curriculum in a fourth year curriculum. Fourth year studio in a 55 year degree program. The content of the studio is what’s called the integrated studio. And it’s the focus of the curriculum that brings all of the elements to bear into a real architecture project. So then the accrediting board takes particular focus on this, this content in all the schools that they go around during their accreditation visits. And it’s really helpful for the students to do it in a place like Chicago in a working firm using all the consultants. Whereas if they’re in a studio back in Blacksburg, it’s one professor, maybe he can cycle some people through. There aren’t a lot of sophisticated consultants in Blacksburg, Virginia, right? So they’re somewhat limited as to the outside resources, they can introduce the students to. So it’s very helpful for them to do that here. Having said that when we are focusing on all the real world parts of the project, we really challenge the students intellectually. So, you know, I get them, I get them out of their comfort level. We’ll read some Wittgenstein, we’ll read some this semester. We’re reading a couple of excerpts from books social justice in relation to South side, the South side of Chicago in this case, our projects on the West side, but some of those same issues hold true. So we want to engage in that dialogue while simultaneously having them design and draw a reasonably, a reasonable facsimile of a real project. And the goal there is very, very self conscious on our part. We want to make sure that the students understand that by making the building real, in other words, having plumbing plans and structural plans and civil plans and having to negotiate zoning and building codes, that that doesn’t mean the building gets dumb and doesn’t have intellectual content.
Nice. What was the inspiration for all this? How did this actually come into being?
Serendipity, like most of life. You know, how do you meet your spouse? Well, you know, it happened to be in the right place at the right time. So I’m the academic Dean at the program at the school back in Blacksburg, a woman named Katherine Albright had just moved to Blacksburg to start teaching. And she came from Chicago and she worked at SOM and her husband worked at SOM and was staying in Chicago. So she was going down to Blacksburg to teach. And after two or three years of teaching down there, she convinced the Dean, the then Dean she’s the Dean that we’re having students come up to Chicago and doing a studio based out of Chicago might be kind of interesting. And so she started the program and I met her through a Virginia tech alum who thought I might be a good juror to talk to the students. And one thing led to another and we became involved. Our studios became involved in the program and I took it over five years ago.
Wow. I love how things like this to kind of develop out of thin air. Just what you just said about serendipity, like being in the right place at the right time with the right people. Where do you want to go in the future? I know you mentioned COVID. I mean, that obviously has…has that had any impact right now in the immediate future for the program, for the immediate future.
It makes it more complicated. So we’re going to bring students in and we’re going to quarantine for 14 days in our building. And create a cohort. This is the strategy. I hope it works. All the students, it’s going to take a lot of commitment from the students to come to Chicago, not want to go out and party and explore the city freely, at least not initially. And then we’ll see where it goes. We have contingency plans in the event that a student comes down with COVID and we’ll have to isolate that student either here or send them home. You know, like everybody else in the world, we’re just all gonna try to be super careful about it. Not all of the lectures in classes will happen in person, some of the lecture content for the building technology class and some of the lecture content for the professional practice class will happen a lot. So we’ll have a combination of his own lectures and in-person lectures, my conference room, the classroom space, which is also our conference room can only handle half the students in person with the proper social distancing. So we’re looking for another lecture location that we might use as an alternate, but we can get all 14 kids or we can get all 14 kids in the one room, but I want it to be local where we can walk to actually. Studio Gang’s was around the corner from us. That’s a space that we might be able to use every so often. So there might be some, some opportunities for us to do that, but and then all the desk crits and all that studio work will happen in person. And we’ll do pinups alternating half the group in the room for a pinup and then the other half looking digitally. And then we’ll rotate ethically with 10 students who were in the pinup lead and the ones who were watching the zoom will come back in and we have cameras in the classroom that can move around. And, and but I think what we’ll probably do with most of the presentations and the projects will happen digitally, which we’ve been doing fairly regularly. Anyway, it’s one of the biggest differences between that I’ve found between academia and real practice. In real practice. I can’t tell you the last time we exclusively showed a client, just some drawings on the table or end up on the web. It’s just, you don’t do that very often because the drawings are all generated digitally. We still draw by hand upfront, but even then we scan those in and work through them and in various software to manipulate them. Right. But everything’s digital. So, so the students come here and we would give them assignments. And for some of them, that’s the first time they had ever had to present digitally. And to me, that’s an interesting dilemma because I understand the power of a real physical pinup and the object quality of a real drawing in the academic setting. But the students have to understand how to work across different media and different kinds of presentations. So I’m not worried about the loss of the physical pinup. The digital presentations actually are pretty effective. We finished last semester online and the final review was via zoom. And it was actually, I thought very, very exciting. It allowed me to bring in jurors from all over the country. I had a buddy of mine who’s a professor out of USC. I have another buddy of mine who’s a professor at Pratt. And I had somebody who’s at the GSD and we all got together and critique the students online. It was really fun.
That is a huge benefit as if you kind of make lemonade out of lemons. Right? So just the, yes, we have to be socially distanced and virtual, but you do get to pull in a lot of resources that you might not have access to financially, otherwise asking people to fly in for a jury or things like that.
Yeah. And we’re, and we’re seeing in practice too. We have a lighting designer we love who moved to Philadelphia and our clients were squeamish about, but why don’t we use a local lighting designer and now they’re cool. It doesn’t matter. Right. So I just got off of a two hour zoom call for a lighting design on a really big vacation home. And it didn’t matter that she was in Philadelphia. We were all looking because my client may be in Ravenswood, but she was on a computer. She wasn’t in my office. We haven’t had a client in the office since February.
It’s an interesting pivot that everybody’s having to make. Is there, is there a program like this, is this unique or is there a program… I’ve never programs like it?
In terms of academic programs I’ve never heard of anything. Exactly. Like a lot of schools, you know, Harvard has a lot of studios all over the world and that format is that they, you know, they raise money and they fly the studio to the site location for a week or two, do some site research and then go back to Cambridge and then do the, do the studio. And that’s fairly typical, but moving kids to an off campus location like this, and then embedding them. The other thing that we can’t do this year that we have done in the years past, which is really how we engage with the studio is, is that the students come and we divide them into groups of four and then go off. And they each, they all have a desk at various firms. So they do their academic work and they have mentors at those firms who then will look at their academic work every week and give them coaching. And then the last three weeks of the program are a, an internship where they work at those firms on that firms ruler. So SOM, Gensler, Studio Gang Perkins & Will, Booth Hansen Juan Moreno architects, a bunch of firms some smaller residential firms. We sprinkle in to sort of the students we’ll have a look at a diverse group of, of architecture practices. And that, that probably if we can’t do this this year, because of COVID or mentors that have volunteered, the students will go to those firms periodically to meet with their mentors. But most of the interaction will be online and they’ll do an internship. And a couple of the firms will do those lives. And a couple of the firms will be virtual internships. But that portion of the curriculum is extremely unique where the students are in a firm, they do their academic work, but have mentorship at that firm. And the whole point is while they’re in that firm doing academic work, they’re still going to the lunch and learns so that when the rep comes in to talk about the critical curtain wall system, they listen in on that. They get to look and see, we all know from, from our own experiences that when you went to school or when you were starting out in practice, you learned as much or more by being in studio and looking around and seeing the peers and more experienced people were doing and modeling your behavior accordingly. So they get all of that, like during the normal semester when they can be live at the firms. And that’s pretty unique. I don’t know of any practice that at any school that does that. There are other travel options and Virginia Tech is trying to recreate this in San Francisco and Boston. So but those that there are new fledgling programs and they were put on hold this year that just wasn’t established. And so ours was the only one that will, that is going forth. And they’re struggling in those other cities because we’re pretty unique. We have a facility here that just by luck, as I was starting to take over the program, we were looking for office space to buy. And I bought a building that allowed essentially us to become the Virginia tech, Chicago campus. And most firms don’t have that situation. And so they struggle to find housing, find the space studio space for the students to work in. And so that’s, that’s a hard model and they’re trying to do it in cities like Boston and San Francisco, where the real estate component is super expensive. And so the housing costs go through the roof and it doesn’t fit their cost model based out of Blacksburg, Virginia. Or Chicago, actually our housing situation is much better. It’s still expensive, but in relation to those places or New York, or, or even in some cases, LA we’re, we’re much more cost effective. So the program works well.
I can imagine too, that the cohort or co-living experience probably is a huge part of it. So the students develop a sense of team.
Yeah, it’s, I think some semesters that goes very well and the students sort of understand and get a lot out of the group living experience. There are eight students in one apartment, six in the other apartment. Sometimes that works really well. And sometimes, you know, it only takes a couple of bad apples to make that really complicated for everyone. And, you know, we, there’s not much we can do about that. So, that’s part of life. Similarly, unlike most of their other academic work, but more like practice, we put them in teams of two, these are big projects. So, you know, anywhere from 300 to 700,000 square feet of building and anywhere from 150 to 600 units of housing, plus retail space, plus site planning plus parking, it’s a big project. And so we, we pair them so that they can produce more work in the semester. Which one of the program chairs back in Blacksburg has a real problem with, cause he was always asking me, how do you know, who does, what, how do you know? Who knows what? And I’m like, well, you know, Zaha Hadid won a lot of awards or did when she was alive. We now know that practice is doing very well without her, but it was always her name on everything. So there’s this way it’s no different than the practice. So, so we don’t, I’m not, I don’t worry about who does what I worry about what the product of the pair is. I have an understanding and I’ve seen enough of it now, but if they’re not working well together, the project’s never very good. Yeah. Right. So if they’re not sharing the learning and the output, it’s hard for one person there. I’ve only had one student who was amazing and she basically did the whole project and the other person was along for the ride. And that’s pretty unusual. Yeah.
Where would you want to take the program? Like if, if time, budget and COVID weren’t considerations or weren’t circumstances, what would you want it to develop into?
Well, and it’s an interesting question because it’s the same for practice, right? In other words, if you’re thinking that your practice is progressing in most cases, most people would evaluate that growth, you know, if you use the model of capitalism says, but if you’re not growing, you’re dying essentially. Architecture practices, especially boutique design firms like ours sort of fly in the face of that. So I actually merged in at one point with a firm that had offices here in Denver and I was running, there were 30 people here. And at the highlight, it was a two year stint and I hated it – to me, bigger wasn’t better. And the reason for that is if you’ve not, don’t have your hands on the pulse of the work. And also importantly, on the pulse of your relationship with your client, for me, I felt like I was missing everything that mattered about the world. I didn’t want to be in an airplane flying around showing pretty pictures to clients that I didn’t draw. And sometimes didn’t really have a good sense for what the real concepts were. And so the practice, the practice stay small for that. And I think the program will stay small for the same reason. 14 students is a gift in the teaching world. My peers down in Blacksburg have studios with 20 people. I know that’s the same in IIT and UIC. It’s hard to teach 14. I can’t imagine teaching 20, so I don’t want it to get bigger. Ubut what I do want it to do is I think we want to begin to take on different project types. And as the project types change, I want to be able to get, we’ve been concentrating with, you know, we’ve worked with Sterling Bay, we’ve worked with Related, we work with these high end sophisticated developers. And that was great because it gave the students a look at what those sophisticated companies do. And they were housed in big firms like Perkins & Will, SOM. And so that all fit really nicely. I’d like to change that up and have more diversity in the project type and get more out into the neighborhoods. And I think that as a practice, we’re doing the same thing and we’re beginning to apply for city programs to do work in underserved neighborhoods. That’s clearly very topical right now and what’s happening with the black lives matter movement and why our project is out West and an Hispanic, underserved, Hispanic neighborhood that abuts an African American neighborhood. And I’d like the studio to begin to engage more on that. And I’m hoping it’s time goes by that, that maybe we, we even have a studio that’s not an integrated studio where we can really engage more with urban issues, cultural issues and ideas around social justice and access.
Interesting. Are you teaching outside of this as well? Does that… Sounds like, okay, so this sounds like this is, this has kind of satisfied your desire to be teaching architecture.
Yeah. I’m a full time professor at Virginia Tech. So I can’t be a full-time professor and teach somewhere else. We do have staff members and because we’re, I think this is part of what being a teaching day studio is, is for example, right now CPS runs a program, a summer school program, some of the content of which or one component of it is architecture. And she goes and teaches for two weeks. We give her that time off paid and she goes and teaches Chicago public school kids architecture for two weeks. And it’s really an outreach program for mainly underserved kids to get exposure to different professional opportunities.
So, you know, there’s a, there’s a finance component. There’s a real estate component. There’s lots of other components, one of which is architecture. She goes out and does that when I have another woman who is involved in teaching English as a second language to Chinese students. So the studio essentially has one. I’m going to have that culture, people come here because they’re interested in that. And they, and they will reach out and engage in it above and beyond just what I do.
Okay. What are the principles that you bring from your practice into your teaching? Like how does, how does your personal philosophy or the way that you choose to run your practice translate into what you want to impart to your students?
That’s a good question. I think that the personality of our firm is based on dialogue, research and passion for design, and that’s all centered around a focus on the personal interaction between our design team and our client. So if you would, if you start with that, that it’s about people in general architecture and great architecture is about people and it’s not just big, sexy forms that look great on the skyline or other stuff that could be great. But if it’s not really working at the personal level, it’s not working. And our practice starts with that. And builds really good architecture around that. And that in turn creates good relationships with clients that creates repeat business. In the academic studio we have research and rigor when you respect each other as individuals, but we have really hard discussions. And I think one of the biggest differences between our studio environment and a typical academic studio is that when something’s really not very good or doesn’t meet the objective of the assignment, we’re going to talk about that in very direct terms. So it’s also sort of a Midwestern thing, right? I mean, we’re pretty straight forward, direct people. We’re not gonna, we’re not gonna couch our criticism in some sort of obtuse language that makes the students sort of feel good, but kind of confused with, it’s not very good organization. It’s not really very good. And here’s why, and here’s how you can make it better. And ironically, that’s kind of unusual. I have a reputation down in Blacksburg for being kind of tough. But the students come and they go back and they tell everybody down there, you should go up to Chicago because it’s hard. You’re gonna work harder than you’ve ever worked in your life. You’re going to, sometimes you’re going to have somebody tell you that something’s really terrible and you’re going to come away having learned a ton. And our practice is kind of like that. You know, we work super hard. We’re very direct. We have good relationships with the people so we can be, if you can’t be direct, no one trusts you. If you don’t have that trust, you can’t have a dialogue.
New Speaker (31:09):
I think it’s super valuable. I’m wondering what’s the having worked with students who are going through architecture programs, what are the things that you think that you notice are places where they stop?
They stop… It takes a little while, and this isn’t just an architecture thing. My kids, I have, you know, kids who are the same age as some of my students and or my kids are a little bit older, but uh… The notion that something they could make is bad to some of the students is a really novel idea because essentially they’ve been, they’ve been getting so much positive reinforcement over the years, that, that the notion that somebody would just stop and look at it and say, that’s really bad. Really throws them for a loop. And some of the students really struggle to overcome that because they, they’ve been so used to getting positive reinforcement, even when they produce something that’s bad, you know, in the form of, well, look, this is really good in this area, but maybe you should try this instead of, you know what, this is pretty bad, this series, okay, but overall it’s really bad. And here’s why, and here’s how I can fix it. That’s really hard to do. And when you’re in the working world, if the client doesn’t like something, they’re just going to tell you, you know, they’re like, I paid all that money for this? Are you kidding me? Hopefully that doesn’t very much in our practices, but occasionally it does. And you can’t let your emotions and your feelings get in the way you’d have to. You have to listen hard and ask smart questions rather than get defensive, to try to figure out how you can do better next time. And students struggle with that. But having said that, I think what I get out of it from the students and what my staff sees, and frankly, anyone who comes in contact with the students, the firms that they work with, isn’t there’s… Our generation is concerned. You know, I look at the world around us, especially right now, let’s go back and it’s hard not to get depressed. It’s hard not to feel that things aren’t going and to think. And as somebody who’s in a position of leadership, at least on a small level, in our small practice, it’s hard not to feel some accountability and responsibility for that.
And these students by and large, look at, look at the role. And they’re not saying…they’re not mad because our generation screwed it up and they’re getting a raw deal. But basically they are. They’re looking at it going, wow, look at all this stuff we can change. Let’s not do what we’ve been doing all along. Let’s do something different. On the sustainability side they have that, on the social equity side. It’s just why… It’s hardwired in… And in our generation it’s not, and we’re all working really hard to overcome that. But for these students, the social equity component, the way they look at how people want to live together. For example, in the housing complex, our generation looked at an apartment building and said, darn right, separate the corridors and when I go to my door, that my house is my castle.
Don’t, you know, I’ve got a ramp up there, I’ll pull the drawbridge up. And it’s all about my space. And that wasn’t that way for everybody. But you know, a lot of them, I think it was. And, you know, you started with the me generation in the sixties, in the seventies. And there was a lot of overlap between the way that space was designed and the way that people interacted when everything’s about how we feel and our feelings and how much money we’re making in our career. These kids are wired differently. They don’t, they want people to live together. They’re always finding ways in the projects to overlap programs so that people interact with each other more often, it’s just intuitive. And that is really exciting to see… That gives you hope for the future. And if we’re just siloed into practice, the way that we would normally be, we’re not, we don’t see that in everyday practice so much. And so to have the students interact with us and to see that energy and excitement around how design and architecture can indeed have a dialogue and make the world a better place. It gives all of us energy and excitement around that.
It’s really cool because like, one of the questions I wanted to ask him is what have your students taught you? And it sounds like I just heard a whole bunch about new perspectives and different ways to see things that might not have showed up if you hadn’t been working.
That’s true. And then I think any educator say that it also teaches humility because I’ve, I think I’m pretty well read. I practice for 25 years, seen a fair amount of stuff. It’s hard not to at our age, I’m 55 or 56 now, actually I’m pretending I’m going backwards a year that, that we don’t have sort of figured out. And that’s a dangerous way to be, and interacting with the students, whether it’s about the social equity component of it that comes naturally to them, or whether it’s just about a mundane way to enter a building. They’re just asking questions that I don’t ask, because I’ve been doing it so long that you sometimes fall into patterns of repetition. And there are a lot of different ways to do everything. And they have really good ideas sometimes that come out of left field. And sometimes I’m like, well, that’s really not good. And then, and then I’ll come back. I think about it over the night after having met with them, I’ll come back the next day and they’ll sit down and say, you know what, we need to have this discussion all over again, because I think what you were saying was absolutely right. And I just didn’t understand. And that’s every educator I think goes through that. It’s, it’s part of, what’s great about it, but it’s also very humbling because we were in this position of theoretically sort of imparting knowledge. And when it comes back at you the other way, it’s both exciting and humbling.
What would be your advice to somebody who’s looking to get into architecture or who’s in the, in the throes of it going through their education?
Well, I have a son who’s 23 years old when he was at a studio art major at a liberal arts college in New England. And he was declaring his art nature. And I’ve said, well, you know, I was an art major and that was my path to architecture. I went liberal arts and then got a master’s degree in architecture. And I was a drawing and painting major at a liberal arts college, Amherst college in Massachusetts. And I asked him, what, why do you want to be an art major? And I was looking for a couple of specific answers, and that’s really what you need in order to make a go in any creative profession. And he said, you know, dad, I’m really only happy when I’m making. And to me, that’s exactly right. And we’ve talked about it since then. And he’s now at a school in New York where he’s building a portfolio to become a creative director in advertising. He didn’t want to go to the architectural route. He’s actually interned for us for several summers, I think a pretty good architect, but he he just, he’s happiest when he’s making and to be an architect, you give up a lot. You have a lot of years of education, you work super hard on the school. You’re going to work really hard when you’re in practice, but you’re not going to make as much money as the amount of intellectual fire power and energy you put into it. If that same amount of intellect and energy was put into banking, real estate, law or medicine, the compensation would be much higher. So what’s going to balance that. And there has to be at its core, something else that’s going to drive you. And I describe that as “”you gotta make, you gotta, you gotta want to make stuff. And it doesn’t necessarily have to be, I want to draw some really cool buildings and really sexy design. It could be that I need to make details, or, you know, I really love putting together systems for curtain walls. It has to be that joy of making, it’s getting lost in the process of the making and having that be fulfilling and five or six hours go by and you look up and you’re like, Oh, wow, okay. Well, I just, you know, that was great, not, Oh, that was a real drag, you know, when do I get my paycheck? Because if that’s how you’re doing it, then it’s going to be a long grim road because your paycheck is never going to be big enough, you’re going to work much harder than you think you should.
Speaker 3 (39:57):
What do you what do you want your impact to be when all is said and done?
I don’t spend a lot of time thinking about that. And I always read stuff about, you know, you get a second term president and they’re always focused on their legacy and all that, to me, that seems self serving. But I think that if, if, if I had that sort of comment on, I think I’d like the legacy to be that we built good architectural projects that people can enjoy for multiple generations. And whether that’s a work environment that is good enough now, but has the ability to be flexible and change and evolve in the future, whether it’s a school environment that, has a long way of growth and, you know, really old, good school buildings from the early 20th century, they’re still around and you can renovate those and turn them in and adapt them for today pretty easily. Uand they’re still elegant, beautiful structures. I’d like to think that we can make architecture that has that same sort of sensibility, both across all the different areas, where we practice, that essentially give people the ability to have great experiences within them and to have that continued through time.
Speaker 3 (41:22):
I like that vision. Chip, if somebody wants to know more about the Virginia Tech Chicago Studio,how can they get in touch or where can they go?
Well, they can, they can look, they can go to the Virginia Tech website. There’s a small board for for the Chicago studio travel programs where you can go to VonWeiseAssociates.com and then reach out and you send a question to the dialog box on the website, and then we’ll get back to you. And that’s probably, that’s probably the best way to do it. We keep talking about having a Chicago studio website, but I’ve never gotten around to that. Probably we’ll see a lot of Chicago studio stuff on the Von Weise Associate’s site and Virginia Tech, obviously in their newsletters.
Chip, listen, I think we’ll wrap it up there. Thank you so much for the conversation. I really want to acknowledge you for your commitment and your leadership and your integrity in working with these students and within your own firm to make better spaces for all of us. I’m really impressed with your commitment to expanding and improving architectural education. I think it’s the type of experience that you’ve created here in Chicago for students is sorely lacking in a lot of architectural education that sort of hands on immersion experience. That’s going to make better architects of those people. So thank you!
Thanks, David. Thanks very much. You know, we’re having fun doing it.
Chip von Weise from Von Weise Associates here in Chicago. I appreciate your time, my friend. Thanks a lot and well, have a great day.
Thank you, you too.
Thanks for joining us this week on the Architects Possibility Podcast with architect and executive coach David Bradley produced by Blueprint for Living Coaching. Make sure to visit our website where you can subscribe to the show in iTunes, Stitcher, or via RSS so you’ll never miss a show. And be sure to tune in next week for our next episode of the Architects Possibility Podcast. Until then, keep celebrating the possibility in your life and make it a wonderful today.