Student Spotlight: Bill Smarzewski

Bill Smarzewski

Bill Smarzewski
Architecture

Bill Smarzewski enjoyed the art and construction courses that he took in high school. But he wasn’t sure if they could lead to a career and, if so, what that career would be.

Then he signed up for an engineering class, in which he and his classmates created a house that could exist off of the power grid. The design process sparked his interest, and upon enrolling at College of DuPage, Smarzewski began taking architecture classes.

“The professors do such a great job of inspiring their students,” he said. “My passion for architecture grew with each class I took.”

Smarzewski earned his Associate in Applied Science degree in Pre-Architecture Technology and transferred to the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign. He spent his junior year in the prestigious Study Abroad program in Versailles, France (now offered as a senior year of study in Barcelona, Spain).

“The intense program takes full advantage of site learning and experiences,” he said. “I had the opportunity to visit many acclaimed pieces of architecture throughout Europe. Upon returning, I immediately felt prepared for the pace and rigor of working with my colleagues from Illinois.”

Smarzewski immersed himself at the University of Illinois by joining academic clubs, taking classes outside his major and becoming involved in programs such as Global Architecture Brigades, through which he traveled to Honduras to design and build housing in impoverished rural neighborhoods.

After earning his bachelor’s degree and weighing graduate schools, he received a Teaching Assistantship to continue his studies at Illinois, which provided an opportunity to teach Building Tectonics and Structures. During the second year of his master’s degree program, Smarzewski received the Fred and Thomas Berger Fellowship to participate in the School of Architecture’s Chicago Studio, a semester-long program that explores urban and architectural issues in the city. His work also received Honorable Mention in the Graduate Excellence Prize.

“As I neared completion of my Master of Architecture, my notion of architecture began to expand,” he said. “We need to think of architecture and urbanity as a means to explore the influence of designed objects and discover ways of redesigning the sometimes-invisible infrastructures and interfaces within which buildings and urbanism reside.”

Smarzewski decided to apply to – and was accepted into – the Post-Professional Masters of Architecture in Urban Design Program at Harvard University Graduate School of Design. At the same time, he received an offer to work at KieranTimberlake, an award-winning design firm specializing in research and architecture. After an agonizing two weeks, he decided to accept the job offer in order to be at a firm he believes is changing the way architecture as an industry functions.

“By exploring new means of project delivery, digital fabrication, life-cycle analysis software and data collection, the firm is leading the industry on a path toward a more responsive and collaborative architecture,” he said. “Ironically, it is at College of DuPage where I first discovered KieranTimberlake. The same design thinking that is leading the architecture discourse can be found at DuPage.”

Since joining the KT team, Smarzewski is working on a large campus extension and redevelopment for the University of Washington in Seattle. The project, which will encompass five new dormitory buildings and more than 700,000 square feet, is intensively phased for quick construction and LEED certification. He also is pursuing an Architecture License and is beginning his Architecture Registration Exams.

Smarzewski credits College of DuPage’s Architecture program for giving him the necessary skills for his career.

“Beginning at DuPage, I was always encouraged to look for diverse solutions to problems and collaboration. Without this guidance at the outset of my education, I would not be where I am,” he said. “This allowed me to work on publications in the field of urban design and exhibits, like the partially university-sponsored exhibit 5x5: Participatory Provocations, where I worked on a team for submission and assisted with curation.

“I could always look back to my advisers at DuPage when I needed guidance, further expanding my reach. They encouraged me to go after every opportunity. For example, I applied and participated in the Volterra International Design Workshop in Volterra, Italy, sponsored by the Volterra-Detroit Foundation, the University of Illinois and the University of Detroit-Mercy. This two-week workshop brought students from Italy, Poland and the U.S. together to explore contemporary opportunities in technology and sustainable design. This also exposed me to some of the most current thinking in the industry.

“I would not be where I am today without the amazing program and educators at College of DuPage. They expose you to not just the pragmatic concerns of architecture but also the abstract theoretical concepts that allow us to innovate. This method is critical to an architect’s approach to design in a rapidly changing future.”

More about the Architecture program