A licensed architect and design principal at Antunovich Associates, Patrick Cusack has experience in the planning of large-scale, mixed-use retail and residential projects, the design of low- and mid-rise residential projects, office, hospitality and institutional buildings, as well as investigating development alternatives regarding entitlements and local zoning practices.
Tell us about your background. Where did you grow up, where did you go to school?
I grew up in a tight-knit family in the southwest suburbs of Chicago. My parents both come from artistic backrounds which very much led to my interest in the arts, my older brother and I are close and were each other’s best men at our weddings, and my wife’s family is from the same area so I have been close with them since we were young as well. I attended the University of Illinois, where I earned a bachelor of science in architectural studies and a master of architecture degree.
When you were young, what did you aspire to be?
I have always been interested in drawing—many of the earliest photos I have of my childhood are of myself drawing. From a very early age, I wanted to be the next illustrator for Calvin and Hobbes. When I was old enough to realize that wasn’t an option, and I recognized that I enjoyed math class as much as art class, I knew my future was in architecture.
How did you get your start in the industry?
While I was at the University of Illinois studying architecture, I gravitated towards certain professors and studio projects that had an urban planning / master planning component. I enjoyed learning how planning buildings intelligently within their larger community can create healthier environments and promote the building’s users to participate in civic life. That interest lead me in the direction of Antunovich Associates, an architecture firm in Chicago which does a great deal of master planning work, and I have worked for them since 2007. While not every project we work on is part of a master plan, we approach every project by embracing the building’s context, often working with neighborhood groups on realizing our client and the neighborhood’s vision for a building that will best serve its community.
Did you have a mentor who helped you get on your feet, or is there someone you turn to now for support?
Joe Antunovich and I have traveled the country collaborating with our clients, learning from each locality and designing buildings we believe best strengthen the project’s unique environment. We pride ourselves on designing people spaces which activate the street and enhance the public domain. He, and senior design principal, Greg Gorski, have significantly contributed to my growth in the field of architecture.
What does a day in the life of Patrick Cusack look like?
I have a one-year-old at home, so I wake up very early, brew the strongest coffee I can, and spend some time with my family before heading in to work. Architects tend to work relatively long hours—we need to be available early morning hours to match up with general contractor’s working hours, but also open late to work with our client’s business hours, and often attend public meetings in the evening where we present buildings to the community they will be built in. The hours spent at work are enjoyable though—our offices are wide open and active—this promotes collaboration between different teams of people throughout the office to make sure communication is at its best.
Throughout the day architects regularly meet with clients and general contractors to make sure everything in a project is fully coordinated, and spend time on site to review construction progress. In my role with the company, I spend a significant amount of my time visiting potential building sites and working with our clients to research a property and its context, examining its underlying zoning and any other regulations a municipality may place over a property and then envision what can be built there. My day ends with spending as much time with my son as I can before he falls asleep.
What do you like most about your job?
The “envision” I just mentioned starts with hand drawing ideas on paper. Fortunately, the initial reason I went in to the field of architecture—my interests in the arts and the creative process—is what I spend a great deal of my time at work doing. Watching those drawings evolve into construction documents and a fully realized building is very rewarding—it makes you feel like an active participant in urban America.
Looking to the future, what do you hope to achieve/work on that you haven’t already?
I hope my work continues to bring me to new and interesting places throughout my career.
How do you spend your time away from the office?
My wife is a social studies teacher, so she has a passion for history and geography. We spend as much of our time as we are able traveling to places steeped in history. Coincidentally, what defines most historic places tends to be their art and architecture, so we both love to travel. When we aren’t traveling, we are spending time with family and friends, with most of our time now devoted to introducing our son to our favorite things.
What is your favorite place that you have traveled to? Where do you hope to go next?
We have been fortunate to have family living throughout the country and the world. Every hopeful-next-trip is to visit a new place to see a different family member and to experience a new and unique place.
Who would you like to see answer these questions?
Mike Naponelli at Klein & Hoffman.