Archinect — “Want to Join Studio Gang? Design Principals Share How Top Job Applicants Made a Strong First Impression”

“With a staff of just over 100 people in their Chicago, New York, and San Francisco offices, Studio Gang is on the lookout for new talent. So what should job candidates hoping to join the Gang do to stand out in the application process? ... Design Principals Weston Walker and Juliane Wolf ... share some tips and offer a glimpse into office life at the firm. ...

What do you want to learn most about the candidate during the interview?

We want to learn about a candidate’s investment in us and our work, why they want to work here, and how their values align with ours. We look for people who believe that architecture can improve the world we live in, and we’re curious to understand how they hope to contribute to and grow at the Studio.

How important is an applicant’s educational background?

Details of the candidate’s education and experience are of course important for us to learn, but it’s essential that a candidate is passionate about our work and approach to design, that their values mirror ours, and that they can offer a fresh perspective and strengthen the Studio as a whole. Our team is made up of people with diverse backgrounds, interests, skills, and education, and we look for candidates who can contribute to and appreciate the diversity of our team. That said, a design background—whether architecture, interior design, urban design, engineering, landscape architecture, graphic design, or another related discipline—is definitely an asset, even for positions that may not be entirely design-focused. ...

You describe your Model Shops as “the heart of the studio.” Can you expand on why these spaces are crucial to your firm's work culture? What makes them unique spaces?

Physical models and mock-ups are an essential part of our design process that allow us to explore each project’s material, spatial, and formal qualities. Models are especially important during the conceptual and schematic design phases of our projects and are primarily crafted by hand, which is our preferred method, in tandem with digital techniques, often incorporating diverse mediums and emerging technologies to help us better understand the spaces we are designing. Rather than viewing models as static, finished products for presentation, we consider them design tools. Our designs thrive by iteration and material experimentation, and modeling, especially by hand, allows us to explore and iterate different concepts and push and elevate our designs. Everyone in the Studio, from interns to principals, is trained to explore and experiment through modeling, which makes the Model Shops very social spaces that bring the whole Studio together. There are always multiple teams building models simultaneously, so it allows for an exchange of ideas and knowledge that makes the individual projects stronger. ...

How do you encourage a work-life balance for your employees? What are some of Studio Gang's fun, longtime office traditions?

In practicing architecture, there will of course be deadlines that require some late nights, but we work hard to achieve a work-life balance. Parents, for instance, have a degree of flexibility with their schedules, and we provide maternal, paternal, family, and medical leave. In addition to paid time off, we offer compensation days following big deadlines, as well as summer hours, which are designed to encourage team members to get out of the office and enjoy the city. We organize various events like weekly yoga classes, studio-wide lunches, baseball games, canoe and camping trips, construction tours, and visits to material manufacturers, and each Friday we gather together prior to the end of the work day to relax, eat snacks, and socialize. We also have several all-studio retreats each year where we bring all three offices together and discuss the future of the Studio.

One of our longest-standing office traditions is our annual retreat to Camp Wandawega in Elkhorn, Wisconsin, where we camp, canoe, kayak, swim, learn new skills like weaving and whittling, cook, play, and relax together. We always invite a few guests to teach us about their field of expertise, for instance, ecology, physics, astronomy, foraging, baking, art, and literature, and we all gather together around the bonfire and just enjoy each other’s company. ...”

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Photo: Tom Harris Photography

Chicago Model Shop

Camp Wandawega

Annual Canoeing Trip