Exploring Architecture All Over the World with Lucas Gray

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On today’s episode of the Young Architect Podcast, Michael’s good friend, Lucas Gray, spoke about how he began his career in architecture as a Designer in both Asia and Europe, created his own online platform for Talkitect.com, and the path that led him to become the Co-Owner of Propel Studio Architecture.

You can also listen to this podcast on YouTube by clicking here!

Designer, Firm Co-Owner, and Talkitect Founder Lucas Gray  

Throughout his career in architecture, it has certainly been quite the adventure for Propel Studio Architecture Co-Owner and Designer, Lucas Gray.

After receiving his Bachelor of Science in Architecture at McGill University in Montreal, Canada, Lucas made the decision not to follow the traditional path to becoming a licensed architect with the AREs, but instead decided to travel.

Lucas’ first foreign experience took place in Thailand before turning his focus back on architecture by working for the American company, CH2M Hill, in project management.

Later on, Lucas returned back to the USA to complete a graduate program in architecture at the University of Oregon before setting off to travel and work abroad again. After school, Lucas attended the Glenn Murcutt International Master Class in Australia. After backpacking from Japan to Germany, he eventually settled down for a bit and worked in Berlin for two years before moving back to the USA.

Not only has living and working abroad positively influenced Lucas’ career as Designer, but he’s learned a great deal about business development, marketing, and communication skills through the American Institute of Architects, NAC Architecture, and his website, Talkitect.

Today, Lucas is now both the Co-Owner and Designer at Propel Studio Architecture. From college to working abroad and now co-owning his own firm, Lucas has a lot of great insight and experience to share with us all.

What You’ll Hear on This Episode

  • Lucas’ experience attending McGill University which also has a lot of international students.
  • Why Lucas decided to live abroad in Thailand after his finished school and before he began his architecture career.
  • Lucas’ experience working in project management for CH2M Hill in Bangkok, Thailand and Shanghai, China.
  • Challenges and experiences that Lucas faced living in a country where he didn’t speak the local language.
  • Why Lucas decided to return to the US for graduate school at the University of Oregon.
  • Lucas’ new adventures and how a travel scholarship helped him to go back to Shanghai and also attend the Glenn Murcutt International Master Class in Australia.
  • His travel experience backpacking from Japan to Germany and eventually settling in Berlin to practice architecture for two years.
  • All of the different areas of architecture that Lucas has been able to experience from practicing to managing to writing.
  • What it was like to come back to the USA and work in Portland during the 2010 recession.
  • How Lucas used his website, Talkitect, as a means to reach out and connect with fellow architects and designers plus how it helped him get offered several jobs.
  • What Lucas did to start his own firm with two other colleagues
  • How Lucas has been the force behind the marketing, public relations, and the business side of Propel Studio Architecture and why he enjoys it so much.
  • Lucas’ advice for starting your own business.
  • Why you don’t necessarily need to be a licensed architect to have a career in architecture.
  • Lucas’ experience with the AIA and NAC Architecture.

Top 3 Takeaways from This Episode

  1. You can still have a productive career as an architect or in the field of architecture in a foreign country. There are many American based businesses abroad that will hire translators to help with the language barrier if you need it. Living and working abroad can be a wonderful experience and open up so many new doors.
  2. Especially when you’re brand new to a city, networking is the best way to find a new job. It allows you to personally connect and build trust with other people so that someone will be willing to take a chance on you.
  3. If you’re thinking of starting your own firm or taking on a new project, the best thing to do is to just begin. If you have a clear idea of what you want as your own firm and where you want to go with your career, don’t hold yourself back. You will learn so much more about business development as well as build new skills such as marketing, communications, and more.

Lucas Gray’s Advice for Aspiring Architects

“Set some time aside to think about what you’re good at and what your interests are. Once you’ve identified those, find ways to make that part of your career and how you can grow in your field. There are a million different ways to practice architecture and there are a million more different ways to contribute to the profession of architecture. So, find what you’re good at, what you want to do and there will always be opportunities to do it.”

Favorite Quotes  

“Living and working abroad is not that hard. I would recommend to everybody to try it out. The USA is great, but there’s so much else in the world and so many things that you can learn. There are so many different ways to practice architecture and develop projects in various styles based on the history of the foreign country.” – Lucas Gray on how working abroad really changed and enhanced his architecture career.

“My experience is that the only way to find work is to network. You need a personal connection in order to have someone really take a chance on you.” – Lucas Gray on how networking was a helpful way for him to find a job in Portland, OR during the 2010 recession when he came back to the USA from Europe.

“With every city that I’ve moved to without a job, it’s always taken me three months to find one. What’s helped to make that transition easier is to network, meet people, get referrals, go out and do interviews in order to find someone who’s willing to take a chance on you.” – Lucas Gray on his experience finding work in brand new city.

“It’s relatively simple to begin your own business. The hardest part is working up the courage to take the risk. I was lucky enough to be in a situation in which I didn’t have too many crippling financial commitments and I have to this day a very supportive girlfriend who kind of allowed me to take that first leap.” – Lucas Gray’s advice and personal experience starting his own business, Propel Studio Architecture.

“I’ve learned more about running a business by starting Propel Studio than I ever would have by working in a firm. Most people that work at firms and who are early on in their careers aren’t necessarily exposed to contracts, negotiation, communication with clients, marketing, PR, or business development. My experience is that the only way to learn all of that information is to jump in the deep end and start doing it.”– Lucas Gray on why it’s such as good idea to start your own firm if you know what you want to do with it and what you will learn from it.

“When you start your own firm, you’re also building a lot of skills that other firms value. So, if you fail, you’ll always have a new set of skills, a story, or a perspective to share with future employers when you go back to the work force. You can say, ‘Well, I started this and these are the success that I had with my own firm. This is what I learned, and this is the experience I have that I can now bring to your firm.’ There’s not a lot to lose by trying and the worst that can happen from starting your own firm is that you learn something.” – Lucas Gray on the benefit of starting your own firm, even if you fail.

Resources Mentioned in the Show

Connect with Lucas Gray and Propel Studio Architecture via:


Michael Riscica

Michael Riscica is a Licensed Architect, and the creator of Young Architect, an online platform and community dedicated to helping the next generation of Architects become the most successful generation of Architects. 
Connect: Linkedin / Facebook / Instagram

Hi there!

I’m Michael Riscica, the guy behind Young Architect. I write to help Architecture Students, ARE Candidates and Young Architecture Professionals be more successful at school, work and life!


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