Experiential Learning & Co-op   |   Featured   |   Featured Alumni   |   Graduate News   |   News

Architecture Alumna Juliet Chun Strives for Equity in the Design Profession

Juliet Chun, AMD’10

School of Architecture alumna Juliet Chun, who graduated with both a BS in Architecture and M.Arch in 2010, is striving to make the culture of the design profession more equitable. Post graduation, Juliet joined Leers Weinzapfel Associates, where she had worked on her third co-op, as a full-time designer. Now, established as a designer within the firm, Juliet has worked on a variety of projects including the Ohio State University East Regional Chilled Water Plant and the UMass Design Building. Beyond that, she has also taught at the Boston Architectural College as a studio instructor and thesis advisor, as well as been a guest critic for institutions such as Wentworth Institute of Technology and Mass Art. Most recently, to bring her passions and interests together, Juliet has co-founded the Girl UNinterrupted project as a means to bridge the gap between young women designers and experienced leaders in architecture.

Learn more about her journey as a designer and how she founded the Girl UNinterrupted project below!

Tell us about what you do as a designer at Leers Weinzapfel Associates (LWA).

We work on a variety of projects, and I’ve been lucky enough to work on a wide range of project types from courthouses, university buildings, to even chiller plants. Typically, I work on a project from pre-design/schematic design through construction documents and construction administration with tasks including: looking at various design options, building physical and digital models, coordination between consultants, drawing details, and some project management. It really depends on the phase of the project, but LWA does a great job of keeping you involved throughout the entire design process.

What projects are you particularly proud of?

A recent project that I’ve been involved with is the University of Massachusetts Design Building. That project integrates three departments, Architecture and Design, Landscape Architecture and Regional Planning, and Building Construction Technology, into one building. It is the first US Academic Building using cross laminated timber as its main structure. It was extremely exciting to work on from its early development in predesign through construction.

University of Massachusetts, Design Building. Architect: Leers Weinzapfel Associates. Photo by: Albert Vercerka.

Another project that I’m proud of is the Ohio State University East Regional Chilled Water Plant. The challenge for this project was how to take a large building that houses a lot of machines and make it look light while highlighting the work inside. We didn’t want to mask the equipment but we also wanted it to blend into the existing context. To do this, we designed the building into two offset volumes: a glowing, translucent rectangular glass volume at the bottom and a square perforated metal volume on top that screens the cooling towers behind.

Ohio University East Regional Chilled Water Plant. Architect: Leers Weinzapfel Associates. Photo by: Brad Feinknopf.

How did your classes at Northeastern prepare you for your work post-graduation?

The classes at Northeastern prepared me in a multitude of ways. Studio projects not only had a conceptual focus, but also required real world application. Group projects and partnerships taught me how to work in large groups, understanding that a collaborative process is much better and more fulfilling than an individual one. And, the instructors taught me that there is much more to architecture than just conceptual design. There is a much larger, sometimes unseen, part of architecture that is necessary to get a building built, and all of those aspects are important.

How did the co-op program help prepare you for your work?

The co-op program prepared me by giving me a preview of what life after college meant. Architecture school is very different from practice, but the co-op program allowed me to understand that at an early phase of my education. It also gave me connections that I still benefit from today. In fact, Leers Weinzapfel Associates hired me for my third co-op, and I’m very fortunate to still be there!

You launched a project with Zhanina Boyadzhieva called Girl UNinterrupted recently. How did you two meet and how did the idea start?

Zhanina and I met at LWA and are lucky enough to work in a supportive environment where equity is not an issue. The project arose from a lunch that my office hosted after the Women’s Issue of the Architectural Review came out. We realized that although we work in a positive environment, that may not be the case in other offices where mentorship and growth are lacking.

So, the question arose: how can we bridge the gap between young women designers and top leaders in the profession? That is exactly what we are setting out to discover.

What is the mission of the project?

The mission of the project is to further enhance equity within the profession, while connecting knowledge between young designers and experienced leaders. What can younger staff do to jump start their careers? What kind of mentorship do they need? And on the flip side, what can leaders do in their office to cultivate their staff and take advantage of the talent and skills in emerging professionals? These are the kinds of topics we are interested in discovering.

What is the Designers Data 2017 survey and how does it fit into Girl UNinterrupted?

The Designers Data 2017 survey is the first phase in this research project. We are collecting information from young designers/architects, both female and male, to get an understanding of the current culture for these professionals. Information that we will gather will relate to negotiation and self-confidence, career growth, and work/life balance. During the second phase of this project, we will interview top leaders in the field to get tips on how to jump start careers. This is followed by the third phase where we will present this information at an ABX workshop and have a panel discussion with Meejin Yoon, Beth Whittaker, Tamara Roy, and Mia Scharphie.

How can young designers/architects reach out and participate in Girl UNinterrupted?

Please check out our website: Girl UNinterrupted and our survey linkDesigners Data 2017 survey. Every piece of data we collect will provide a better representation of the current environment for young designers/architects. The first step to change the culture for equity and emerging professionals is to know what exists right now, and that is what we are trying to achieve with the Designers Data Survey. Responses are completely anonymous, and your feedback will truly make a difference.

What do you love most about architecture?

What I love most about architecture is the way it can shape and influence lives. The design world is present everywhere and it is constantly evolving, but the need for the built environment will always be there. New technologies, design trends, program types, etc. are always emerging; there is always something new and exciting to learn.