BUILDING BETTER ARCHITECTS
Andrew Caruso, AIA, NCARB, LEED AP BD + C, CDT
Director, Strategy & Operations
London, United Kingdom
What degree(s) do you possess?
I completed the five-year professional Bachelor of Architecture (B. Arch.). Many students ask me whether they should pursue the B. Arch or the 2-3 year Master of Architecture (following a four-year undergraduate degree). There is no right or wrong answer, but the five-year B. Arch allowed me to pursue licensure as quickly as possible while preserving my ability to study other fields during graduate study. Since I knew I wanted to be an architect, but ultimately wanted to build a career outside of traditional practice, this was the best option.
As Firmwide Head of Intern Development and Academic Outreach what are your primary responsibilities and duties in your firm?
Gensler believes that having the industry’s best talent is central to creating work that redefines what is possible through the power of design. As part of the firm’s Talent Development team, I provide leadership, strategy and oversight for early-career talent initiatives across global footprint of Gensler. This includes developing and leading a program portfolio focused on early-career talent acquisition, professional development and licensure, academic outreach, student internships, scholarships and global talent exchange programs.
You recently relocated to Shanghai, China for an assignment abroad. What were your responsibilities while there?
The industry is rapidly globalizing. Gensler is regularly engaged with clients and communities around the world, working in over 90 countries across six continents every year. As part of serving our global community of clients, we are developing offices and teams in multiple locations who can respond to the needs of developing markets.
In 2012, I was asked to relocate to our Asia market to provide specialized focus on the development of talent strategies across our offices in Japan, China, Singapore, South Korea, Thailand and India. Through an immersive experience with our staff in these locations, we were able to build an infrastructure to support talent recruitment, retention, assessment, professional development and licensure, leadership development, talent exchange, and cross-cultural training. These issues will be key to the future growth of our Asia region.
Given your position at Gensler, please provide insight on how emerging professionals (interns) can best take advantage of their early years in the profession.
First, every day presents a learning opportunity. Making the most of your early years in the profession is a careful balance of being open to new experiences, but also clearly communicating your interests and passions. All firms are not equal; be sure to find the company that best fits your unique design point of view. This makes it much easier to align your own professional development goals with the goals of the company, the key to creating career-changing opportunities.
Second, get involved in your community. There are many opportunities to give back as an emerging architect to the place in which you are building your career. Engaging your community will enrich the skills and perspective you bring to your firm and allow you to build relationships that one day may lead to new clients and design opportunities for your design practice.
Third, get licensed! The road to registration is long and challenging. It is never too early to start, and it’s important to capture every possible opportunity and training hour as part of your progress toward fulfilling your licensure requirements. Focusing on a plan to pace yourself through the internship and examination experience will help you be successful and will also positively contribute to building your level of expertise in the workplace.
In addition, you are a featured contributor to Inside the Design Mind, a column of the National Building Museum and Metropolis magazine. How did you obtain this opportunity and why is it important in your career?
I enjoy writing, and actively look for ways to maintain that practice within the industry. During the early years of my career, I delivered a large amount of public speaking and publishing about issues in the industry. These opportunities allowed me to frame a point of view about our profession, and more broadly, about talent in the creative industries. This point of view ultimately inspired Inside the Design Mind.
Simultaneous to developing the framework for the column, I recognized an opportunity for the content I was generating to advance the mission and reach of my colleagues’ businesses. It was a natural fit for the National Building Museum and Metropolis Magazine to partner on this project, and in fact it was the first time they had entered a media partnership. The column now reaches thousands of readers each time it’s published, and has been reprinted around the world by ArchDaily, World Architecture News and even the Huffington Post.
What I have taken away from this experience is that it’s important to develop and maintain a unique perspective in our industry, and to actively seek out opportunities where a point of view can enrich the efforts of others. That’s when industry-changing collaborations begin.
What has been your greatest challenge as an architect?
My greatest challenge as an architect has been helping the profession to move and change at pace with contemporary society. Much of traditional practice focuses on a delivery model rooted in the early 20th century American context. Clients, projects and cities have radically changed, and the profession is trying to adapt. Great clients help to push us in new directions and modes of practice. But architects must also take hold of reframing the value of design thinking to a broader array of today’s issues. Entering the profession at this particular moment – a time of great change and uncertainty – is both a tremendous challenge and opportunity.
What are career goals for the next 5 to 10 years?
Clearly, the challenges of the built environment are growing. Whether it is the unprecedented urbanization of the world’s population, global environmental imperatives, or the call to make our cities more adaptive and inclusive, there are significant opportunities to make positive change as an architect. My passions and interests have always been at a scale larger than specific buildings. I like to explore the economic, social and political systems that drive the built environment. Integrating and innovating these key factors -- ecology, transportation, public health, tourism and other major urban drivers -- will likely be my future focus.
What is the most satisfying part of being an architect?
You never forget the experience of stepping into a space that you’ve designed for the first time. Seeing and feeling a building come to life from lines on paper to steel beams and walls is life changing. It makes you realize how much responsibility you have as an architect, but how rewarding it can be to create space for people. And, construction always has its fair share of surprises. The collaborative process of putting buildings together and tackling unforeseen challenges underscores the team-oriented approach required for successful architecture. It’s these moments when creativity meets reality that I always find the most interesting.
Who or what experience has been a major influence on your career?
Design education truly reoriented the way I saw the world. It provided a new framework to explore, question and hypothesize about the environment around me. This encouragement to ask questions, challenge perspectives and find comfort in uncertainty have developed into life skills that apply to more than just design exercises.
These skills came into sharp focus during my time spent living and working in Asia. While I have had previous experience working with cultures around the world, the opportunity to live and work in an emerging market for an extended period of time has given me new insights on the true challenges of globalization. Whether understanding the realities of practice in a developing country or trying to provide training that bridges cultural and educational differences, each experience has added depth and dimension to my view of the profession’s future. The opportunities and needs for cross-cultural partnerships are abundant