Experienced architects understand the importance of mentoring emerging design professionals. In New England, architect Katelyn Chapin, AIA, of Svigals + Partners is leading the way.
Chapin was recently appointed to serve as Young Architect Regional Director (YARD) of New England for the Young Architects Forum, a program of the American Institute of Architects (AIA). In this critical regional role, Chapin will work closely with the Emerging Professional Committees of each AIA New England component and act as a liaison to AIA National’s Young Architects Forum (YAF).
With three main goals in mind — leadership, mentorship, and fellowship — Chapin will gather insight from her peers in the region and communicate that information nationally. The Young Architect Regional Director also sits on the AIA New England Council, and works closely with the regional representatives from the College of Fellows and the National Associates Committee.
Find out Chapin’s visions for the future and how she plans on using her new advocacy position to better her region in our Q&A below.
interiors+sources: How do you see Svigals + Partners utilizing and helping lead design as it evolves today?
Katelyn Chapin: At Svigals + Partners, we value community involvement and engagement. We believe our clients and community groups can unlock their creative potential with strategic questions and playful exercises during the design process to contribute to projects in meaningful ways. As an extension of this idea, Svigals + Partners began the KidsBuild! program about 20 years ago, to include and educate school children about the design, construction, and maintenance of their new school buildings through hands-on activities in collaboration with fellow students and the project team. This program has continued to gain popularity and I am thrilled to be a part of it. By extending the invitation to key stakeholders from young to old, Svigals + Partners continues to lead the industry in designing spaces with meaning and purpose.
i+s: How do you plan on using your position as a platform in the A+D community?
KC: Representing New England as Young Architects Regional Director (YARD) to AIA National's Young Architects Forum (YAF), I look forward to opportunities to connect with my peers from across the country as well as working with the emerging professional groups in the Northeast. In this position, I will act as liaison between the local AIA components and to AIA National's YAF Committee, sharing conversations that are taking place locally and nationally while serving as a mentor to aspiring architects.
Read This Next: Sandy Hook Memorial Finalists Interviews
i+s: What are some of your goals with Svigals + Partners?
KC: My goal is to become part of the firm’s leadership team here at Svigals + Partners. I think it is critical to see women in leadership positions, specifically in the AEC industry where historically women have been underrepresented. Serving as YARD in my region is creating this path and connecting me to some of the most influential young leaders in our industry. It's great to work side by side with these individuals, to share experiences with each other, and to make the biggest impact possible, together. Offering myself as a mentor and possible role model to other young women in the AEC field, I hope to inspire them to continue to advance in this rewarding profession.
i+s: Any particular projects on the horizon you’re excited about?
KC: For the past two and a half years, I have been the project architect for a new academic building at the University of New Haven. It's an exciting project with programs and spaces tailored to the challenges facing 21st-century students. The project began construction this summer and I'm looking forward to working through construction administration, to see a vision and sketches realized as a physical built space that is sure to have a large impact on the campus.
i+s: What’s different about your new position?
KC: As part of the leadership team of the Young Architects Forum, I’ve learned that design firm leadership value the opinions of young architects. These individuals understand that emerging professionals are the future of the profession. Now I have a bigger platform to become involved and meet other emerging professionals with the same view and energy to shape the future of the architecture profession.
i+s: What were you most eager about within your first few weeks as YARD?
KC: Within the first few weeks, the 19 YARDs from across the nation came together with our advisory committee in Phoenix for leadership training. There was so much energy and excitement from the conversations taking place about the work that was slated for the year. It is amazing to see such positivity around the future of our profession.
i+s: Name a must-have or your favorite item(s) in your office.
KC: A few favorite items: my personalized coffee cup from a friend, a few tokens from my travels, artifacts from KidsBuild! activities (a birdhouse, for example), and a handful of flair marker pens — I love the way they write on trace and notebook paper.
i+s: How will this position vary from those you’ve previously held?
KC: While actively involved in my local AIA Emerging Professionals group since 2011, I now can interact meaningfully not only with my peers from across the Northeast region but from across the country as well. Also, because the YARD position offers the opportunity to serve on the AIA New England Council, I'm making a direct impact in my region.
i+s: What do you like most about Svigals + Partners' culture and your work environment?
KC: Svigals + Partners' culture is dynamic, motivating, and collaborative. The firm’s leadership opens opportunities for professional and personal advancement to all the staff.
i+s: Do you have a personal mantra or motto that you apply to your work?
KC: Never shy away from opportunity. Every experience is a chance to learn something new or improve your skills.
With Svigals + Partners for seven years, Chapin has contributed to such notable projects as the Sandy Hook School in Newtown, CT; the Engineering and Science University Magnet School in West Haven, CT; and the Bergami Center for Science, Technology, and Innovation at the University of New Haven, West Haven, CT. She has also served as coordinator for the firm’s KidsBuild! program, working with children in the communities these schools serve and involving them directly in the design process while imparting knowledge about architecture, design and construction.
Next For You: Beverly Willis' Legacy Rewrites Architecture