Under40 Leadership Summit draws 71 young leaders to Chicago

More than 70 young—that is, under age 40—architects, engineers, and construction professionals descended on Chicago in early October with one thought in mind: to learn how to “create with clarity.”

November 12, 2012 |
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More than 70 young—that is, under age 40—architects, engineers, and construction professionals descended on Chicago in early October with one thought in mind: to learn how to “create with clarity.”

That was the theme of Building Design+Construction’s Second Annual “Under40 Leadership Summit,” held October 3-5 in partnership with AIA Chicago. The program brought together past honorees in BD+C’s “40 Under 40” program with under-40 AEC professionals nominated by their respective firms for networking and interactive leadership development.

The two-and-a-half-day program got started Wednesday afternoon, October 3, with a two-hour tour of Chicago’s architectural heritage along the Chicago River. A docent from the Chicago Architecture Foundation provided an articulate commentary on more than 50 architectural treasures, including works by Harry Weese, Bertrand Goldberg, SOM, and Perkins+Will.

Later that evening, the U40 attendees assembled at the Hotel Monaco, where Autodesk Fellow Tom Wujec, the Summit’s principal facilitator, led them in “The Great Chicago Marshmallow Challenge.” Teams of three or four were given 20 sticks of spaghetti, a yard of tape, a yard of string, and a marshmallow. They had 18 minutes to erect the tallest structure they could, with the stipulation that the marshmallow had to be on top.

Several structures collapsed. Participants were surprised by how much the marshmallow weighed. The winning structure measured 29½ inches in height—about average, according to Wujec, but well short of the record (more than 50 inches). No marshmallows were eaten during the competition (it happens, Wujec says).

Thursday, October 4, was devoted entirely to Wujec’s “Create with Clarity” mobile workshop. Wujec started the group off with what seemed to be a simple exercise: without using words, visualize—through drawing—how to make toast.

Where they came from

The following organizations were represented at the U40 Leadership Summit:

Adrian Smith + Gordon Gill, Argonne National Laboratory, Arquitectonica, BSA LifeStructures, Contract Management Inc. Dewberry, DLR Group, Enclos – Advanced Technology Studio, G3 Construction Group, Gensler, Harley Ellis Devereaux, HDR Architecture, Heery International, Hill International, HKS Architects, HMC Architects, Hoar Program Management, HOK, Johnson Controls, KJWW Engineering Consultants, KLMK Group, Legat Architects, Montalba Architects, Mortenson, Niles Bolton Associates, Norcon Inc., O’Brien Construction, Pepper Construction, Perkins+Will, Playground Ideas, Reichgott Engineering, Rogers Krajnak Architects, roomTEN Design, Ryan Companies US, School of the Art Institute of Chicago, SmithGroupJJR, Solomon Cordwell Buenz, Swinerton Builders, Syska Hennessy Group, Tarlton Corporation, Tilton Kelly + Bell, TLC Engineering for Architecture, University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, UrbanWorks, Valerio Dewalt Train Associates, VOA Associates, Walker Parking Consultants, Walter P Moore & Associates, and Wight & Co.

Teams of six to eight then each took on a specific question related to their professional or personal lives. Among the topics: How do we grow our firm? How do we use technology more wisely? How do we balance the demands of work with the needs of our personal lives and families?

The teams then went out into the city—to the North Michigan Avenue “Magnificent Mile,” to the Lake Michigan lakefront, to Millennium Park. Their mission: to find inspiration that would help them present a visual representation of their question—and even a solution.

Upon their return, the teams engaged in extensive development of the oversize posters for their visual presentations, a couple of which also took the form of a skit. Final presentations were made in rapid order,

Wujec then led the entire group in a discussion of the meaning of the visualizations and how to apply the process and concepts learned in their daily work and personal lives.

To the Friendly Confines

Friday, October 5, opened with an early morning bus ride to Wrigley Field, home of the Chicago Cubs, where the group was greeted by Tom Ricketts, the team chairman, Steven J. Jacobsen, SCDP, President of Jacobsen Development Advisors, and Carl Rice, Vice President of Baseball Operations for the Cubs.

Jacobsen, who has been retained by the Cubs to create the business plan and high-level concepts for the renovation of the nearly century-old sports facility, and Rice, who has worked for the Cubs since his high school days, provided an in-depth discussion of the history and evolution of the ballpark, from its days as Weeghman Park (1914) to the installation of lights (1988) and up to current plans for improvements to the electrical and structural systems.

They then led U40 participants on an hour-long tour of the park, from the bowels of the locker room to the heights of the upper deck.

The U40 Leadership Summit ended with a hot dog lunch at the Cubby Bear, a Wrigleyville sports and entertainment landmark.

Participants earned up to 11.0 AIA/CES Discovery learning units for attending all sessions.

Sponsors for the U40 Summit: Andersen Windows and Doors, the Vinyl Institute, SAGE Electrochromics, Georgia-Pacific, the American Institute of Steel Construction, and Sprint. +

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