Architect’s Newspaper – “A look at Ross Barney Architects”

The Architect’s Newspaper editor Matthew Messner visits the studio.

“‘I want you to give me the problem that you think does not have a reasonable solution,’ quipped Carol Ross Barney in her bright, two-story lofted space in Chicago’s River North neighborhood. No list of influential Chicago architects is complete without Barney’s name. The head of the eponymous Ross Barney Architects, Barney has become the go-to for civic projects throughout Chicago and the Midwest. In the past forty-plus years she has gathered over 100 design awards, including national and local AIA honor awards, the AIA Illinois Gold Medal, and most recently AIA Chicago’s highest honor, the 2017 Lifetime Achievement Award. Her office is filled with models and one-to-one mock-ups of projects ranging from public transit stations to million-square-foot airport facilities.

At around 25 employees, the studio is very hands-on. ‘I just love the idea of making ideas and sharing them, and that extends to the studio,’ Barney said. ‘In the past, we would trade concepts, you would work on a concept for a few weeks, and then we would trade projects.’

The office is, unsurprisingly, filled with young architects, considering Barney has taught at either IIT or the University of Illinois Chicago consistently since the late- 1970s. She has also taken part in the AIA Chicago Bridge Program, which provides young ambitious architects with AIA fellows as direct mentors.

‘I was born into this role. I’m the oldest of eight children. I had a built-in responsibility,’ Barney joked. ‘It has always been something that is very rewarding, but also fascinating to see the choices people make and why they make them.’”

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