Planting Your Roots in a New City with Kurt Neiswender

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On today’s episode of the Young Architect Podcast, Michael spoke with fellow architect and the former AIA Young Architects Regional Director, Kurt Neiswender, about all of his experiences. From graduating with a Bachelor of Architecture from the University to Southern California, experiencing the effects of the 2008 recession, to moving his family to Flint, Michigan and becoming part of its community, Kurt has a lot of great insight to share with all of us.

Architect and Former AIA Young Architects Regional Director Kurt Neiswender 

Originally from Stamford, Connecticut, Kurt Neiswender has left quite a mark in the world of architecture throughout the US. Sharing similar interests with his twin, Kurt developed an interest for both comic book art and the TV show, This Old House. With his talented hand-eye coordination, Kurt realized he could have a shot at pursuing a career in architecture.

After attending architecture school at University of Southern California, Kurt went on to participate in the New York – Paris Program at Columbia University before going back to California to launch his architecture career.
However, once the 2008 recession rocked the industry, Kurt and his wife decided to make a collective decision to leave Los Angeles and move to her home state of Michigan. There, Kurt decided to join the Master’s Program of Urban Design at Lawrence Tech University.

Since moving to Flint, Michigan, Kurt has made the most of the transition by becoming heavily involved in the local community as well as with the local AIA Flint chapter. Recently, he was named a 2017 AIA Young Architects Award Recipient. Today, he continues to work hard to help build a better community for the city.

 What You’ll Hear on This Episode

  • Why he decided to pursue a career in architecture by studying Urban Design.
  • Comparing drafting to CAD.
  • How Kurt decided which college he would attend.
  • What ultimately led him to attend the University of Southern California.
  • The ups and downs of finding a job that’s right for you.
  • His experience working in Los Angeles during the 2008 recession and being let go with the rest of his co-workers.
  • The joint decision between him and his wife to move to her home state of Michigan.
  • Why he decided to get a Master’s in Urban Design rather than a Master’s in Architecture at Lawrence Tech University.
  • His experiencing freelancing and networking in Flint, Michigan
  • The experience of attending local AIA Flint chapter meetings at Lunch and Learn to meet people in his community.
  • His experiencing teaching as an adjunct professor at the University of Michigan – Flint
  • How Flint has changed: How it’s doing now as a city and what Kurt’s role is in helping it grow.


Top 3 Takeaways from This Episode

  1. Get to know the city you live in. If you’re going to live somewhere new, you should get to know it the best that you can. Discover new places, live as the locals do, and cherish your new home.
  2. Life can go crazy and might not always go like you planned it to happen. Be patient, don’t give up hope, and seek help if you need it. The answer to your questions can come from anywhere and anyone.
  3. It’s okay if you’re starting from the bottom and making your way up in the office. That’s normal and it’s all part of the career experience. No one begins a job by taking on a major project right away.

Kurt Neiswender’s Advice for Aspiring Architects

“As a recent graduate, be patient. Try to listen, but also ask questions. The phrase, “There is no such thing as a dumb question,” is very true. Don’t be afraid to ask something. Architecture is a profession that is also a life-long learning experience so try and be patient through the process.”

Favorite Quotes

“There are different kinds of employees. Those who stick with a job for a long time and others who move around a little bit. The latter was me for a bit of my career. I felt that there were a lot of opportunities to try out working in different sized offices with varied projects. I didn’t really think about how it would look on a resume. I was more interested in the experiencing a variety of practice models.” – Kurt Neiswender on why he was interested in working at several different offices.  

 “There’s no one perfect job. Each one has different pros, cons, and all of that balances out so people can decide what suites them the best.” – Kurt Neiswender’s advice on finding a job.  

“I don’t regret going back to school at all. Even if I did take on a little more student loan debt, I really enjoyed the classes I took and the professors that I got to know better. Having such a long span between my undergraduate and graduate education, I felt like I was a much different student.” – Kurt Neiswender on the benefits and difference in getting a graduate degree.

“Get to know the city that you live and work in as well as you can on your own terms. You can learn about a city through books, newspapers, and other media, but I think the best way to do it for me and maybe for other architects is through personal experience.” – Kurt Neiswender on the impact of getting to know the city that you live in.

“This profession is a marathon, not a sprint. When I graduated with my BARC, I thought I knew everything and wanted to do everything at my new job. However, I had to start my career from the very bottom. It reminded that like everyone else before me, I had to start at the same place too. If you keep that in mind, you’ll be able to really enjoy the process.” – Kurt Neiswender the biggest lesson he learned when he graduated.

Resources Mentioned in the Show

About the author

Michael Riscica

Michael Riscica is a Licensed Architect who lives in beautiful Portland, Oregon, with his Labrador Retriever. He is passionate about helping Young Architects change the world. In his free time, Michael likes to take very long bicycle rides across America. Learn more about him here and connect with him on Twitter, Facebook, Instagram and Linked In.

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