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years. Her first boss out of college was John Holabird, a Chicago architectural legend. “His company had more than 200 employees at the time and I was one of two women,” she says. “He trusted me and he also told me when he thought I was wrong. We remained friends until he passed away.” Two other mentors that Ross Barney cites for having a great effect on her were Natalie de Blois and Ken Groggs. De Blois founded the group “Chicago Women in Architecture” and Ross Barney and she became friends. Groggs was the first African American person to serve as Illinois State Architect and Ross Barney says he was always so open with sharing his knowledge as well as his contacts. “I recall going into his office one day and he opened up his Rolodex – just like that,” she says. “He was always so helpful.” When it comes to communicating with the younger generation of architects, she says there are a few things she wants them to know:

Authority to design 20 stations, including the tubular Green Line station on Cermak Road near McCormick Place. “Some of our projects may not even be considered architecture, but they’re spaces and that defines them as problems we should undertake. We’ve done parks and transit, and each of these is as important as a building.” Completed in 2021, another project – the Railyard Park in Rogers, Arkansas – re- centered the downtown area with a new park that enhances economic development, spurs placemaking, and improves connectivity. The new park now has the potential to capitalize on recent public space investments and help to make downtown Rogers a regional destination. It’s been met with celebration and embraced from neighbors and residents across Northwest Arkansas. “These are the types of projects that improve people’s lives,” she says. And, she wants the younger generation of leaders to know that “design always matters,” and that they have superpowers – the ability to solve problems for people. “We’re currently in the process of revising the organization to allow younger architects to join ownership and management,” she says. “We’ve never really had a formal program –we have an intimate culture and a lot of collaboration happens.” She says it’s not good to work alone. “I can’t do it,” she says. “I’m a collaborator. I want people to participate and to hear their ideas. I guess I buy talent. No one has all the tools in their toolbox.” That’s likely why she outsources certain things like firm valuations. “I’m not a big manager,” she says. “I like to think of myself as a spiritual leader or visionary and see my main management role as keeping the firm on track.” MENTORSHIP MATTERS. Ross Barney shares that teaching and mentorship are so important to the future of the industry. And she’s had many of her own mentors over the


Community buildings

Academic institutions

■ Transit SERVICES:

You have to be in it for the long haul. It takes determination and staying power – never give up. When failures happen, ignore them and move on. You can’t let them kill you. Get on with it.

Urban design

Landscape architecture

STUDIO RECOGNITION: Ross Barney Architects’ ideas and projects have been recognized by organizations from around the world:

So, what is she doing to attract the younger set to her company? She believes that it’s the company culture that draws them in. “The challenge of sustainability is real. When people say, ‘We can’t afford sustainability when it comes to design,’ I tell them we have to afford everything – or there will be no future to worry about.” “I hire people to think,” she says. “I have to trust them. People like that.” She shares that they’re also having fun. Some current projects include working on an airport expansion at O’Hare along with a city park project at the mouth of the Chicago River.

National Design Award for Architecture and Interior Design, Coop­ er Hewitt, Smithsonian Design Museum, 2021 World’s Most Innovative Companies, Fast Com­ pany, 2022, 2019 Best Large Midwest Architecture Firm, The Architect’s Newspaper . 2022 Firm Award, American Institute of Architects Illinois, 2000 Firm Award, Ame rican Institute of Architects Chicago, 1995


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ARCH 13, 2023, ISSUE 1480

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