In today’s episode, Illya Azaroff joins the podcast to talk about his background, his work, and the projects he’s excited about now.
Illya Azaroff grew up watching his father, a systems engineer, work at his drafting table. Illya was interested in the work that his father id but soon discovered that the engineering aspect was only part of what interested – Illya also had a strong interest in the arts. These combined interests are what led Illya to consider architecture as a career. He explains that he had some support of this goal during high school, in the form of architecture classes, and when he toured an architecture school he felt instinctively that it was the right place for him. He enrolled in college with a double major.
When Illya graduated from college, the US economy was in a bad place and there weren’t as many jobs as he might have hoped for. However, Illya had kept in touch with friends in Germany that he made through an exchange program, and they suggested that he apply for jobs there. Before too long, Illya had secured a job and was moving to Germany. He spent several years living in Europe and working in Germany, Italy, and Holland.
However, Illya had always planned on eventually returning to school for a Master’s degree. Illya said that he’d always most admired professors that had one foot in the practice of architecture and one foot in academia, and he wanted to straddle those worlds himself. So he returned to the United States to enroll in a Master's program.
In today’s interview, Illya describes the kind of projects that he worked on in grad school, as well as his experiences after grad school. He describes the huge disparity between the job compensation and benefits that were available to him as a newly-graduated, unlicensed architect in Europe and the much less lucrative options available as an experienced architect with multiple degrees in the United States. He worked as a bartender for a while before joining a firm part-time. Then eventually, he teamed up with a colleague to create his own firm.
Illya and his partner worked hard to expand and grow their firm, but 9/11 threw a wrench into the works. The work dried up for a while and he ended up buying out his partner. He rebranded the firm and began creating the business that he has today. In today’s interview, Illya talks about the types of projects that he’s passionate about and the work that his firm is doing in disaster recovery and resiliency. Illya believes that it is the responsibility of today's Architects to recognize the extreme climate change and how communities around the world are at risk. An architects goal should be to write a new story for these communities.
What You’ll Hear on This Episode
- How Illya became interested in architecture
- What solidified Illya’s decision to go to architecture school
- Illya’s architecture school experience
- The job environment when Illya graduated from architecture school
- How Illya ended up working in Germany
- Why Illya decided to return to the US
- What kinds of projects Illya worked on in grad school
- What it was like to find work after grad school
- How Illya decided to strike out and start his own firm
- How 9/11 affected Illya’s firm
- Where Illya’s firm is now
- The kinds of projects that Illya’s firm works on
- Illya’s experience training people in disaster response and resilience
Top 3 Takeaways from This Episode
- Architects have a responsibility to their communities
- Your passion projects are important, so follow your dreams
- Don’t settle for conformity
Illya Azaroff’s Advice for Aspiring Architects
“Do what you’re passionately geared towards, and don’t settle for conformity.”
“The building is just a piece – like a small piece of what an architect does. The value of us is so much more.” Illya Azaroff on what he knows today that he didn’t know back then
“Architecture, to me, is one of the slowest-moving art forms there is.”– Illya Azaroff on the book that changed everything
“I’m a list person.” – Illya Azaroff on the resource he can’t live without
“Because we’re working in so many time zones, whoever we’re working with on the other end, we hammer out and leverage the time difference.” – Illya Azaroff on his best timesaving trick
Resources Mentioned in the Show: