PRP Now! Kerry Frank // Wheeler Kearns Architects

October 12, 2017
PRP Now! is a series of interviews that highlight a current UTSOA Professional Residency Program student every few weeks.
prpnow_wheeler Kearns_kerry

PRP Now! aims to showcase the great experiences students encounter within the Professional Residency Program. PRP offers upper-level architecture students a unique opportunity to expand their education through work experience in the architectural profession. Over the past twenty years, our students have been linked with 260 firms in 29 countries. We will feature a handful of students within each session, graduate and undergrad, domestic and international firms. PRP staff most recently had the pleasure to speak with Kerry Frank [B.Arch. '19] about his experience. 

PRP: Tell us about your PRP firm. Where are you working?
 I am working at Wheeler Kearns Architects in Chicago. WKA is the 2016 AIA Chicago Firm of the Year, a collaborative firm of 20 architects that focuses on projects with ambitious social goals. The firm’s work varies largely in scale, budget, and program.

PRP: Do you enjoy the city you’re working in? Favorite aspects?
I moved back to my home city of Chicago. I love the culture of the city, both socially and professionally. The Midwest demeanor is something I miss a lot in Texas. I am also a huge fan of the weather and all the things there are to do in and around the city. I’m able to be close to family in Illinois and Wisconsin as well as friends in the city.

PRP: What is currently on your desk? What are you working on?
Currently, my desk is covered in trace sketches, coffee mugs, pencils, pens, redlines, submittals, samples, and a construction set. The work table I share with Larry Kearns is a heap of his experiments and mockups, and assorted drawings and documents from all the projects we are working on together; our messy working style has proven quite compatible.

I am currently working on multiple charter schools in early SD and feasibility stages, SD for a corporate campus expansion, CA for a Chicago charter school, DD for the new Crystal Bridges museum, and have a RFQ out for a small scale multifamily affordable housing project.

PRP: Describe the firm culture? The office atmosphere?
The firm culture is collaborative, social, familial, and young. Each project has one to five architects working with multiple consultants, and input is sought from everyone in the office, there are no hierarchical limitations. We work in a small, open office space in the historic Federal Building. Every other week we have full office meetings where each architect runs the whole office down on their progress, successes, and potential needs for assistance. We also conclude the week with Friday design meetings, where we stop working at 3:30, pin up our progress with projects and present each project over beer and snacks, getting feedback on areas that need improvement.

PRP: What is the first thing you'll tell your classmates upon your return to UT? 
I’m most excited to have seen a firm in the real world that is working on the types of socially and culturally driven projects that we idealistically pursue in academia, with a proven success rate. To be able to urge friends to find these types of firms is exciting.

PRP: As you’re finishing up the week, what are your plans for this weekend?
This weekend I’m going to a Lady Gaga concert at Wrigleyville with Marriene Ondo, another UTSOA student on PRP at Perkins and Will in Chicago, and hopefully shopping for more work clothes in between working a few hours to make a DD set deadline.