John Maternoski: Building the Design Community


Since I began Young Architect almost 3 years ago, lots of incredible things have happened along the way. I quit my day job, started my own architecture business, wrote a book, and founded a program that has helped a lot of people pass their Architect exams.

But quite frankly, the most amazing thing that’s happened is that I’ve had the opportunity to meet lots of really inspiring people—who do unbelievable things for the profession and community.

It’s no secret that I have a soft spot for people who give unconditionally (without being asked to). My biggest pieces of advice to anyone who hopes to have any success in the profession of architecture has always been to volunteer and start finding ways that you can help others.

The people I have met have become a huge source of inspiration for me. I’ve started working on a series of blog posts that profile many of them and highlight the work they’re doing. I want to tell the world why I think they’re inspiring.

Then you can see what they’re doing. And hopefully, that’ll bring you inspiration, towards being of service or giving unconditionally.


John Maternoski

It’s hard not to know who John Maternoski is if you live in Portland, OR, and work in Architecture.  John is deeply passionate about building the Portland Design Community.  I met him through some architecture friends, and we’ve became good friends.

He’s heavily involved with several organizations, including Portland’s Center for Architecture, and he Co-Chairs the AIA Portland Emerging Professionals Committee (EPC.) In the past year, I’ve watched him intensely focus on two projects: Portland Design Events and The EPC Happy Hour.  The intention of both is to help build the Architecture and Design Community here in Portland.


Portland Design Events

When John moved to Portland for graduate school in 2012, he quickly realized that there are lectures, design conferences, tours, exhibitions, art shows, and seemingly millions of architecture and design events going on all over town.

Portland has a very active architecture and design community, 2 accredited architecture schools, several colleges with humanities programs and many active non-profit design organizations including AIA, CSI, and The Architecture Foundation of Oregon, to name a few.  This is a great thing and a huge perk of living in a city.

However, John quickly became frustrated because it often became impossible to keep track of when and where things were happening. To keep your calendar straight, you really had to look at all the newsletters and visit about 10 different websites. He paid pretty close attention, but he’d still find out about a lecture, event, or something awesome that’d happened that he’d missed—just because it wasn’t on his radar.

He was also organizing events for the Emerging Professionals Committee and was frequently frustrated by the lack of turnout, due to it being hard for the community to figure out what was happening around town.

John came up with the idea of creating one master calendar for all the events related to art, architecture, and design taking place in Portland. He pitched his idea to the Center for Architecture, but was quickly shot down, given several reasons why they did not want to get involved.


Still feeling very passionate about it, John decided he was going to do it anyway, so on Thanksgiving Day of 2015 he purchased the domain Like a true aspiring Architect, he hashed out the basic layout of the website on a series of napkins. He learned how to code and build websites, and on January 10, 2016, he launched Portland Design Events.


To keep the site maintained, John has developed several systems for him to simplify getting event information onto the website, making it hard for an event to go unnoticed. He subscribes to a ton of newsletters, pays close attention to event listings on social media, and has fostered personal individual connections with the staff of many Portland design organizations, which is his favorite way to stay in the loop.  People or organizations hosting events can also enter their own events onto the site to be included in the calendar.


Since its launch, Portland Design Events has become a huge asset to the Portland Design Community. It helps us stay more connected about what’s happening around town. Everyone is using it, and attendance at events has noticeably gone up, with several people telling John about events they heard about exclusively through his website.


When I asked John if he had any advice for someone thinking about starting a similar project, he said, “Just do it! Stop waiting for permission or for someone to ask you to. My idea didn’t make sense to everyone else, and now it’s getting a really positive response.”

You can learn more and connect with Portland Design Events at:


Emerging Professional Committee (EPC) Happy Hour

John’s second passion project is the AIA Portland EPC Happy Hours. He is the co-chair of the Emerging Professional Committee and as a group, they organize a Happy Hour hosted by  a different Portland firm each month.

It’s an opportunity for each firm to have an open house, showcase some of their work, and speak about who they are. More importantly, it’s become a huge networking event for the design community.

Many friendships have been made at the monthly happy hour, and a few people have even landed new jobs because of it. I think my favorite thing about it is that it’s really helped me understand who all the firms in town are and put faces to the names I’ve been hearing for years.


The happy hour idea began about 3 years ago by someone else who could no longer run it and passed the torch onto John, who began his work on the program 2 years ago. Since then, attendance at the events has doubled and in some cases even tripled, with really positive responses from each event.


The EPC is working on several ideas to mix up the happy hours a little. In July, they partnered with The Architecture Foundation of Oregon (not a firm) event, hosted at a historic building that had recently been renovated, and the EPC hosted a napkin-sketch contest. Ironically, John Maternoski won, beating out several prestigious Portland Architects.


This spring, they’re doing a pub crawl led by a local historian, who’ll discuss the background of each historic pub. They’re also talking to other Portland organizations—such as The Construction Specifications Institute (CSI), American Society of Landscape Architects (ASLA), and several engineering organizations—to find ways to collaborate and comingle the groups.

You can learn more about the EPC Happy Hour at:

The EPC Facebook Group
The AIA Portland Website
Linked In:
Center For Emerging Professionals: 

Photo by Justin Stubleski

Who is John Maternoski?

John grew up in Denmark, Wisconsin. As a kid, he always thought he wanted to be a meteorologist. But the older he got, the less interested he became in that field.  Growing up, he spent a lot of time with his grandfather, a retired homebuilder, who inspired John and fostered his love of woodworking and construction.

In high school, he studied art, drafting and architecture, before completing a two year drafting program at Northeast Wisconsin Technical College. He then enrolled in an undergrad program at the University of Minnesota, where he earned his Bachelor of Science in Architecture Degree. After graduation in 2012, he moved to Portland for grad school and earned his M.ARCH from the University of Oregon in 2014.

At the time of this writing, John is 3 exams away from completing his ARE, and he has some experience requirements to fulfill before he can become licensed.


John is deeply passionate about the Green Bay Packers, Minnesota Twins, and he loves to travel around America to watch major league baseball games and view architecture exhibits.  He also loves to sketch buildings and urban spaces in Portland and all around the country

He believes that a big part of his success comes from surrounding himself with people who inspire and believe in all the work he’s doing.

He also believes that setting 1, 5, and 10-year goals has been really valuable for him. However, he remains flexible when making plans, keeping in mind that they inevitably change over time – often leading to incredible things that he never could have imagined even just a few years ago.

You can connect with John Maternoski on:

Linked in:


Michael Riscica

Michael Riscica is a Licensed Architect, Founder and Head Coach of the ARE Boot Camp Coaching Program & Online Study Group.

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