Spring 2014 Magazine

Synthetic Biology

Finding His Sense of Place

Tony Vasquez (’13) draws on his McCormick experience to meet tough challenges at a premier Chicago architectural firm.


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As a Chicago area native, Tony Vasquez gained an early appreciation for the city’s architectural splendor, admiring its skyscrapers and bridges during school field trips and family outings.

Tony Vasquez '13Today, Vasquez, who majored in civil engineering and earned an Architectural Engineering & Design Certificate, helps sustain the city’s dynamic architectural tradition as an associate at Chicago’s awardwinning architectural firm, Booth Hansen.

“Chicago is the epicenter of architecture, and I’m thrilled to be part of this world,” Vasquez says.

At Booth Hansen, where he interned prior to his senior year, Vasquez builds physical and computer generated 3D models, produces energy studies, and draws buildings, occasionally working alongside the company’s founder and principal, Larry Booth, who also serves as the Richard C. Halpern/Rise International Distinguished Architect in Residence at Northwestern.

Vasquez has quickly made his mark.

In the fall of 2013, Vasquez and a trio of colleagues captured the Professional Merit Award at Architecture at Zero 2013. The international design competition, sponsored by the American Institute of Architects’ San Francisco chapter, challenged participants to develop a zero-net-energy, 150- unit, mixed-use residential building in San Francisco’s Tenderloin neighborhood.

With only a basic understanding of zeronet construction prior to the competition, Vasquez approached the challenge the way McCormick teaches, by defining the problem, uncovering solutions, and collaborating with others. Over the course of four months, he studied zero-net projects and developed the theoretical relationship of systems that would allow the building to reach its ambitious energy target.

For Vasquez, the project provided a valuable opportunity to better understand the environment’s role in design. His team’s 14-story project, CatalystSF, married architectural integrity with energy performance and boasts energy-efficient features such as rooftop, façade, and brise soleil (sunshade) integrated photovoltaic arrays; rain and gray water harvesting; hydrogen catalytic converters and co-heat and power fuel cell generators that work in unison to create a hybridized power generation matrix; and natural cross-ventilation and geothermal radiant heat in lieu of forced air systems.

By: Daniel P. Smith